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.

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***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.




4 comments:

  1. Awesome interview. Answered many questions I've had for decades about the origins of WY and Allen's background. Thank you.

    As I've told my son (14) and a drummer) for years - Allen was a huge influence on my own drumming and inspired me to play a style I heard nowhere else at the time; powerful, precise and fast.

    So yeah, I got the same buzz seeing WY play the first time, too. You before me, but soon we were treated to the mayhem and chaos they brought to SF's Bleak's Hall w/the Circle Jerks. And the next summer again at the Eastern Front where I happened to be snapping pictures of WY when a beer bottle shot through air and ripped into the back of Allen's head. Ugh. Perhaps, he'll share some of those pics with you all (there's a great shot before the chaos of Allen, Bentley and Scranny in the hot Nor Cal sun.)

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  2. I was at the Florentine Gardens and Godzilla's shows and they were both epic, especially Florentine Gardens (2nd punk show ever) it never ceases to amaze me how many shows we attended together without knowing each other

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  3. Yes, solid shows!! WY was a favorite, for sure. I believe the Whisky gig he spoke of was with the CJ's... a great one!

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