Saturday, July 13, 2019

Allen Stiritz: Q and A with former Wasted Youth drummer

Allen Stiritz drumming in Germany. (Courtesy of  Jason Cook)

By Andy

As a wide-eyed teenage punk in the early '80s in the Los Angeles area, whenever attending gigs, I always soaked up the whole experience. I usually wedged my way up to the front of the stage with my brother and friends to survey the scene, intensely watching each musician and singer while batting away stage divers and errant microphone stands.

Bumps and bruises came with the territory, but so did witnessing a sterling drummer like Allen Stiritz of Wasted Youth. The scowling skinsman had his stuff down at the gigs we attended at Godzillas, Whisky a Go Go, Florentine Gardens, The Barn at Alpine Village and more.

So, here we've got an email Q and A with Stiritz, touching upon his Wasted Youth days and so much more. Enjoy.


***Tell me about your background. You grew up in Hawthorne, right? What schools did you attend and what was your childhood like in the South Bay area?

Yes, I grew up in Hawthorne. I went to grade school at Juan De Anza, junior high at Richard Henry Dana and then Hawthorne High School and El Camino Junior College. As a kid, growing up in the South Bay was great. We had a big house with a pool, we had a huge yard, we had mini bikes and skateboards, bicycles, surfboards, Big Wheels. We lived close to the beach also, so it was out the door in the morning with a couple of bucks in your pocket, and home when the street lights came on. No cell phones, no computer games, no Playstations, just kids running around the neighborhood all day long.

***How were you first introduced to music? From your family, the radio, seeking it out yourself?

I first was introduced to music, not quite sure, I guess radio or church choir. Our parents took us to church every Sunday.

***Who were some of your favorite bands/musicians/songs early on? 

My favorites back as a kid were The Partridge Family, then I got a drum set and started to get into Led Zeppelin, Bad Company, KISS, Van Halen, etc. Stuff like that.

***When did punk come onto your radar? Were there punks in school that you befriended? At my high school, Bishop Montgomery in Torrance, we only had a handful of punks when I started there in 1980, but your history would go earlier than mine. On that note, what year did you graduate high school?

I got into punk actually in the summer before 12th grade, I was 17 years old. Bob turned me on to the Sex Pistols, I was listening to DEVO, Oingo Boingo, but Pistols caught my ear. Greg Hetson and I actually sat next to each other in history of aerospace. And Jeff and Steve McDonald of Redd Kross and Ron Cordy of Overkill. We all went to school together. I graduated with the Class of '81.

***When did you first start seeing live punk bands? Backyard parties, Hollywood clubs? What was your first show and what kind of an effect did it have on you?

I first started seeing punk bands in Hollywood at the Starwood. My first punk show I believe was The Smog Marines, heck, I really can't think back exactly, it was always a drunken bash. lol.

***When did drumming come into the picture? School band or listening to music? I played trumpet in grade school at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hermosa Beach, but that didn't last long.

I actually started  drumming around 8 years old. I was a hyper kid, so my mom bought me a drum set and put me in lessons. My first set was the first set I played in our first punk gig. I was in a rock band in high school called Scatter Brains. My idols back then were John H. Bonham, Stewart Copeland and Peter Criss.

***How did you hook up with the guys that would become Wasted Youth? What were those early days like in forming the band and jumping onto the punk scene?

One day I was practicing with Scatter Brains in Mike's garage, and all of a sudden the garage door opened and there were two guys standing there. It was Chett Lehrer and Dave Mitchell. Chett was a guitarist, he happened to be driving to a Redd Kross rehearsal with Dave, apparently. Dave was our first singer. We talked and they said you gotta be our drummer in our punk band. We started the band called The Runs, that's the original name. I don't know why, but Dave left and Chett got Danny Scranny (Daniel Spira) to sing and we changed the name to LA's Wasted Youth.

Stiritz with Wasted Youth in the early days. (Alison Braun Photography)

***What was your first gig drumming with WY and how did it go?

Our very first gig was as The Runs at the Polish Auditorium... went ballistic, turned into a riot. LAPD showed up and all hell broke loose.

***What was your most memorable gig where you realized that you guys were making a mark on the scene?

My favorite gig when I thought we were going to get large was Florentine Gardens with 999 and the Circle Jerks, or the Whisky a Go Go gig.

Wasted Youth setlist from Florentine Gardens. (There's Something Hard in There archives)

***What was your most chaotic gig? 

Most chaotic was probably The Country Club in the Valley. We got tossed out like bums, we fucked up the place. Punks went nuts every time we played. We were actually on the LAPD's blacklist. They started shutting down all our shows.

***What was your practice regimen like, since I always regarded you as one of the most talented drummers that I'd seen.

My practice regimen wasn't much, really, we had band practice like almost every day, so my training and practicing was about three hours a day in Canoga Park in the warehouse from a company called Atlantic Optical.

***Were you friends with other drummers on the scene and did you guys share tips and stories regarding your craft?

I was friends with other drummers, of course. Peter Finestone from Bad Religion, Lucky Lehrer from Circle Jerks, Bill Stevenson from Descendents, Robo from Black Flag. We never gave tips, we all had our own styles and loved to watch each other's shows.

***You played on just the "Reagan's In" LP, what are your thoughts on writing and recording that album? There's some pretty rad stuff on there music-wise. How did you feel about yours and the band's performances on that album these days?

"Reagan's In" was our first. We were tight, so it was pretty easy and saved money on studio time. The second album, "Get Out Of My Yard," was mine also, but I quit the band before we recorded, but the music was ours. Chett had to get new musicians to finish it.

(There's Something Hard in There archives)

***Why did you leave Wasted Youth and when? What did you do afterward, did you remain on the music scene?

I left Wasted Youth in '86. I was actually modeling in Europe and the USA since '84, so I was slowly getting out of the punk scene. Chett was starting to turn the band metal -- speed metal. Scranny Danny quit, Jeff Long went off to college, and Jay Bentley went back to Bad Religion. We had Tim Gallegos and Danny Dormann on bass, Jeff Dahlgren on vocals, then Paolo Rossi. It all went to shit, so I quit. I joined the US Army and was gone to Germany from '86-'93.

***What's your life like now and your age? Where do you live and do you still play drums?

Today I am 56, I work for UPS Europe and live in Germany, and yes, I still drum. You can see me on YouTube: Wasted Youth Live in Koln (video at end of story), or Don't Touch Missy -- "Time."

***Do you still keep in touch with others involved in the early LA punk scene? What are the conversations like? Good memories to share?

I still have a lot of contacts with the guys in Bad Religion, Lagwagon, Dr. Know, Scheisse Minnelli, DI, Descendents, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, NOFX. Lots of memories,  also talk about everything, actually.

(There's Something Hard in There archives)

***If you could go to dinner with one drummer of any era living or dead, who would that be? What would you discuss?

I would love to go to dinner with Jason Bonham and hear what it was like for him growing up as the son of John H. Bonham.

***Are there any lessons learned from being involved in WY that you would tell drummers today? Any dos or don'ts of etching a life in drumming to pass on?

Lessons learned, lol. Don't take drugs, and when you start a band, stick to it. Most times, it's a long road to success. If we were still together today, and survived the drugs and were straight like we are now, we would have been very successful.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Jawbox unleashed at Neumos in Seattle / Interview, review

J. Robbins in Seattle. (All Cat Rose photos)

Text Andy; Cat Rose photos

At moments, it seemed like the members of Jawbox would rip themselves out of their own skin. From ferocious to somewhat tame and back again -- with melodies wedging their way into the fray -- the foursome of J. Robbins (guitar/vocals), Kim Coletta (bass), Bill Barbot (guitar/vocals) and Zach Barocas (drums) unleashed an 80-minute set of blistering proportions on July 9 at Neumos in Seattle.

Victory was theirs, even when Barocas' drum pedal lost the fight about midway through the gig. While Robbins continued to lightly strum his guitar, another pedal was put into place. Coletta snatched the fallen pedal and hoisted it above her head like a trophy and smiled at the cheering crowd. When the song kicked back into gear, Barocas' drumming was even more searing than before as the band locked into place and gutted it out.

It was good to witness the band back in action again after many years and they were enjoying the shit out of the show. Amid the musical barrage, there were plenty of smiles and laughs all around -- from both band and crowd. Exactly the way it should go down.

Following is a phone interview I conducted with Robbins on July 3:

*** How have the gigs been going since you’ve been back in action?

It’s been going really great. It’s been super super fun and positive. Things that are occasionally problematic, like the other night in DC, Bill broke, I think he broke eight strings. I’m not even exaggerating. It was like every other song it seemed like he broke a string, but, you know, there are times in bands when that sort of thing happens, and there’s acrimony or people just get mad at themselves or it just derails a show or whatever, and I feel like our solidarity is very strong. Which is a really high priority of doing this again is to come back and really have a strong teamwork kind of vibe. Everybody is psyched and having fun and it seems to be well received. I feel like we are in some regards a better band than when we were actually a band, so that’s a pretty great feeling to have. To feel like we know a little better what we’re trying to execute and we’re a little better at executing it and we’re better at listening to each other, ‘cause we have 20 years of continuous friendship to fuel the effort.

*** The bonds are key, and that was something I was gonna flow into here a little later, but we’ll do it now… What did you miss the most about playing with the band that you’re getting back into here as you go?

I do think that the No. 1 thing that I’m really loving and that I probably didn’t even realize that I missed was just a sort of social aspect of it… just banter, you know? We’re good at making each other laugh, and I like that, a little like repartee (laughs).

***If you’re not having a good time and bouncing jokes and cracks off each other, it’s tough to withstand a tour.

Yeah. Every band that I’ve been in has had a good kind of social glue. It’s not to imply that I’ve been in other bands where it didn’t feel like that, but it’s just that with this particular band, 23 years later, it’s nice that we’ve all had this continuous connection. Everybody has been in touch or been in a fairly, at times, close association. These are some of my closest friends. It’s cool to come back to this in that context.

Kim Coletta

***When you’re playing these songs live, do any of these songs in particular maybe bring out some emotions that you didn’t see coming?  

Unexpected feeling? Maybe. I’ll tell you something that probably sounds ridiculous. So we have this song called “Chinese Fork Tie,” it’s our noisiest and most brutal song in a lot of ways. The name came from this absurd tour joke that Zach came up with where it was like an execution method that you would do. You’d invite the victim out to dinner and when they’d least expect it, you’ve bent the tines of the fork under the table and then you’d stick it in their neck. It was just a tour riff. But then when we were writing the song, without going too specifically into where the lyrics came from, it became much more about like taking the wind out of a self-aggrandizing person. That was sort of the theme of that song. Take the big man down. And I find myself thinking about Donald Trump when I sing that song (laughs). I don’t wanna be thinking about Donald Trump at any time. For me, it’s become a bit of a voodoo doll of Trump. Every time we play this song, I’m just like, ‘Yeah, take the fucking big man down.’

***That’s perfect. It’s interesting how songs can kind of fit into different realms, I guess, as we go along.

I didn’t anticipate having that particular use for this song — but I do (laughs). It’s a different catharsis that I expected to have.

*** Are you guys gonna write new material? What's gonna happen when you complete the dates?

We don't really know. I think it all remains to be seen. Writing music together, that's a pretty significant hurdle. I think the main hurdle that we've been trying to get over is just to sort of get our 50ish brains and bodies to sort of meet our 20-something inspiration half way and see what they can do for each other. Really, it's just been about trying to inhabit these songs and play them as well as we can and be a band.

Writing is a totally different animal, particularly in Jawbox. It's highly collaborative by necessity, by virtue of the personalities involved, it's not a dictatorial effort, and it's hard to just jump into a collaboration, particularly when the people live in different places. I thank that's something that we're taking the whole idea very slowly, but we're certainly enjoying playing shows. We're definitely open to the idea that we could play more shows.

We're not saying we're not gonna write new material, but we also all have a lot of other things going on, and that includes musical endeavors that we're already in the middle of, like Bill has his band Foxhall Stacks, in which he's the main songwriter, and I have my solo record that I've just put out, and which I wanna play those songs for people, and I have another band Channels that is working on material. We've all got a lot to sift through, but I think the No. 1 thing is to enjoy doing this on its own merits.

---More Cat Rose photos below:

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Messthetics team up with Time Pieces in Seattle / Cat Rose photos

Messthetics' Joe Lally. (All Cat Rose photos)

Half of Fugazi and a guitar virtuoso unleashed their instrumental jazz-rock amalgamation on Seattle music fans June 23 at the Vera Project. Messthetics -- Brendan Canty on drums, Joe Lally on bass and Anthony Pirog on the six string -- delivered songs from their Dischord Records debut LP and more during an hour-long set.

Canty discussed the band in a pre-gig interview:

"In Messthetics, we've been able to come up with things very quickly (snaps his fingers) and that's a real key -- not just the writing, but you can improvise together. Everybody's excited about it equally, everybody (has) a different but equal job to do in that band. And that makes it really balanced and lovely. So yeah, it's been nice. I really cherish this group for that reason."

Time Pieces, an instrumental prog rock n' roll outfit featuring members of Band of Horses, Minus the Bear, Six Part Seven and Wild Arms, opened the gig.

Cat Rose photos within:


Lally introduced the set discussing Black Lives Matter and its importance. 


Monday, July 1, 2019

'The main thing, try to be honest with yourself': Brendan Canty discusses drumming and life / Interview

Brendan Canty with The Messthetics in Seattle. (Cat Rose photo)

By Andy

A seemingly endless arsenal of drumming components.

Brendan Canty's got his familiar Fugazi farmer's bell to go along with regular sticks, brushes, mallets and sleigh bells.

And there's his intense glare at his kit that turns into a beaming smile. At points, he'll unleash a yell to emphasize a crucial part of a song. He's as entertaining a drummer you'll ever find, and you'd be missing out on the full experience if you didn't exit the gig with a greater appreciation for drumming. Enlightenment supreme.

I sat down with Canty for a chat prior to his gig with the instrumental Messthetics -- a jazz-rock amalgamation also featuring Joe Lally on bass and Anthony Pirog on guitar -- on June 23 at the Vera Project in Seattle.

*** You've played with everyone from from Ian (MacKaye) to Bob Mould to (Wayne) Kramer, Joe Lally, different people, Anthony now as well. What are some of the major takeaways you've come out of this with, what are some of the most important kind of things you've learned from playing with all these different people? 'Cause they all bring something different to the table.

The spirit of collaboration is what it's all about. Not just the spirit but the practice of collaboration is a huge aspect of what I'm always looking for. It's funny because when, with Ian, I had a very long relationship with him and that was like a proper band where we were actually writing songs together, as is this band where you actually go through the process of establishing what you're gonna be playing, every night for the next however many years, and that's a really distinctive criteria. So being there has the inception of those songs, (and) means you have to make some really tough choices about what you're going to be able to withstand night after night after night. You can feel it. If you start writing a song and you're just going to get sick of it in five minutes, you know... so it's important that you spend the time to write a song that you are eventually going to be attached to and want to deliver with passion to people and give a shit about every night.

Playing in somebody else's band like Wayne Kramer or Bob Mould is really different. So those are things I come with as a fan. So that's a totally different process. I just plug myself into it. I pretend like I'm in the audience and I just do the thing.

*** You're a fan on stage from behind, playing these great songs that you grew up with.

I enjoy it immensely and especially those two guys. And Wayne Kramer specifically, because I really, honestly, grew. I mean, he was one of the first things that I found on my own. Maybe I got to him through the Damned or something, and I was like, "Oh."

*** When they covered "Looking At You."

But then I really got into them. Initially, I was like, "That was my band," and I collected everything. I read John Sinclair's book and I was like, "This is it." And just listening to that live record and knowing that it was like, the whole world was: your job, and then night is to blow up the room -- fucking make it happen. So to me, that was the main goal and that all came from Wayne Kramer. Or MC5 in general, everybody in that band. Dennis (Thompson) is a huge influence, so that band to me was everything. And then you mix it with...

*** All those guys that you were playing with.

Coming to it from different angles. But one thing I will say of playing with Fugazi and when I finally figured out how to play drums relatively acceptably, I was like, I love playing with musicians who are really good.

When Bob Mould and I first sat down to play, we went in the studio and we must have played for six hours straight. I mean, it was just, "I'm like, holy shit." Everybody knows Bob Mould can play guitar, but you don't know that he can rip it and jam like Hendrix for six hours at a time, and he's hearing you and you're hearing him and he's a big jazz head. You know all these things are coming up and I knew as soon as we did that first jamming period that we were gonna be able to do something together. So yeah. I kind of wish we were able to write more with each other at some point.

*** I just find it interesting kind of your trajectory going. You've been with a lot of the top dogs, so to speak, and you've got to glean some of that knowledge and everything from those guys along the way.

Yeah, well most of it is just about communicating, right? If you're in a moment, if there's non-verbal musical communication, and so Wayne is great at it, Bob Mould's great at it. And Anthony is fucking great at it, so is Joe. So being able to do stuff on the fly, very fluidly. In Messthetics, we've been able to come up with things very quickly (snaps his fingers) and that's a real key -- not just the writing, but you can improvise together. Everybody's excited about it equally, everybody (has) a different but equal job to do in that band. And that makes it really balanced and lovely. So yeah, it's been nice. I really cherish this group for that reason.

*** From Deadline to Rites of Spring and all the way through, what's kind of got you from there to here. You know, in your drumming life and in your life in general? It's been a journey I would imagine. 

The last 15 years has been piecing together a bunch of different things. I was playing with Bob and I was doing a lot of soundtrack stuff, then I put together a band called Deathfix, which I was singing and playing guitar. You know, in Fugazi and Rites of Spring and in this band, I write stuff. It's not easy to always make somebody play your part. I just don't like singing. I like writing the songs, I like writing the guitar parts and the bass parts. I like everything about it except I don't like being a front man, you know?, and singing in front of people, it's really fucking hard. So that's something that I learned along the way, and so when this band happened, I was like, there was no need for vocals, I was pleased as punch.

Throughout the years, mostly it's just been about a series of daily collaborations with people, whether it be musical or film or whatever it is. For me, the excitement is getting the fuck out of the house and off the computer and meeting with people and having a real experience outside in the world.

Cat Rose photo

*** What's been your proudest moment? You've had quite a lot on the table. 

My kids and my family are my proudest moments. They're amazing. And the fact that I'm still married after being with the same woman for 30 years and have four kids, two of which are grown and two of which are still in school. They are amazing kids and we have a very healthy family group chat going on that we talk to each other 20 times a day when I'm on the road.

*** That begs the question, what do they think about about you and your musical journey and your producing and your writing and everything?

They dig it. They took a while to contextualize it and understand it, but they like it. They're all musicians. My oldest is a filmmaker and a musician. The second one is in school still up in Manhattan. He plays. He writes music. The oldest one's in a band called Young June. Second one is a band called Humor that's mostly electronic stuff, it's like textural, but you'd love it. The third one's a cook at home. That's his passion. And then the fourth one is a 12-year-old girl, and she's totally brilliant in her singing and performing and her songwriting. They all do it. They dig it. I don't think anybody likes the fact that I'm gone as much as I am these days. And that sort of started up when Messthetics and MC5 started playing. All of a sudden it was like, "Oh shit like I'm gone a lot."

*** Feeding off that through all your experiences, what's some good words of advice that you have for them in their musical lives that you've learned over the years. 

I just try to give an example that they see what I do makes me really happy. And then they should try to do something that makes them happy. And if they do something, it makes me happy -- it's not work. The main thing, try to be honest with yourself. Don't lie to yourself.

*** If you had a choice of any drummer, who would you want to have a dinner with and kind of pick their brain about stuff? 

That's a good one. I think (the one) that would be of all time is not alive. Nobody is alive anymore. It might be Elvin Jones. It might be Tony Williams. He's kind of my guy. So if I could, if he would really answer any question that I posited to him, then I would say Tony Williams. I doubt people can answer the questions I wanna know (laughs).

*** What was it about him that go you going?

His relationship with space, with silence. Part of it was that band with Miles (Davis) with him and Herbie Hancock. Wayne Shorter. That  band is really particularly special for me, exhibited on like "Miles Smiles," "ESP" and those records. Those were the first time I really tried to understand what the band should be. Which is like a dialogue, you know? Tony's my main, lifelong inspiration.

Album cover. Courtesy of Dischord Records

*** What's been your biggest challenge throughout the years, whether it was something that maybe happened with the band, maybe a song that you weren't really sure what you were going to do with it that you kind of turned into a positive?

Interesting. That's a good question. Persistence is part of it. Maintaining and getting through bad shows is really hard. After a bad show, it's like debilitating. And then I'm sure you'll see me after the show miserable. No no I don't (laughs). There are some nights where you're just like, "Man, that's just not happening. I'm not feeling it." You're trying to sell something to somebody and they're not buying it. And then the whole thing didn't sound good, or whatever it is.

*** What do you do to get through that? What's the key to not let that linger?

When you're in the middle of it, you're just trying to turn it around every single second you're on stage. And if it's not working for yourself... physically what I do is find a relationship with my body and my drums -- that changes every day. Sometimes you just show up and your drum set... not just sometimes, every day you show up at them and talk to them. You're like: There's so many pieces up there in front of you and they're a little bit different. They're set up a little bit different, your seat's a little off or whatever the fuck it is. Drives you crazy, that shit drives you crazy. But mostly, the hardest part I think is having a bad show and feeling like you're not meant to do this. And then the next time you a great show and feeling like you're on top of the world. It's really crazy.

*** Feeding off that is when you guys, at least when you guys played here in Seattle with MC50, you had (Matt) Cameron drumming right next to you the whole time, the whole set. What was that like? That had to have been kind of a trip. We were looking over there and you guys were doing it the whole time. 

It's great. We played really well together. Just as soon as we did it once, we were like, "Oh, let's do this as much as we can." So it was nice. I really love Matt. He's a great, beautiful person and he's a great fuckin' drummer.  Playing with him is a total utter blast.

*** Did you learn anything from him or vice versa that maybe you guys kind of fed off each other?

I learned Keplinger makes really loud snares (laughs).

*** He hammers it. 

He does, yeah. It's a blast, you know, playing with two drummers. I wouldn't want to do it every day. Because it's sort of like wearing training wheels. You're just like, you can't fuck up that much. I saw King Crimson with three drummers. And I was like, "Oh this is so not working."

*** It was a treat that was fun to watch.

The show was great. That was a great crowd. They were all in from the first note. And if you do that, anything can happen. Every night, the crowd is half the show. For real. It's just like you can't differentiate the two. It's a symbiotic relationship. A great show is a great crowd.

*** You know that through your whole career with all your variations of different bands that the crowd is part of the show. It's where it's gonna take the gig to a special place.


*** See Canty and Cameron team up on the MC50 video clip at the following link: