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."



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.

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Southern California punk recalls epic gig with Black Flaggers Rollins, Morris and Dukowski

Henry Rollins revs up the crowd at Amoeba Records Hollywood in 2002. (Chris Berry photo)

By Chris Berry

Growing up in the South Bay, I’d hear so many great stories by South Bay locals of the punk scene that occurred back in the '70s and '80s.

But being born in 1978 meant that I was 8 years old when Black Flag broke up and I had no chance to see them when they were around. By 6th-7th grade, I had discovered punk from my older sister and my friends’ older siblings. I started going to shows around the same time, worked at the Bijou Theater in high school and Scooter’s Records in college (both in Hermosa Beach). I witnessed some of the South Bay punk mayhem in the '90s, like when Pennywise would play backyard parties on the Fourth of July and destroy the house they played at, but those stories of the original scene seemed so much more legendary.

In December of 2002, about six months after I graduated from college, I saw that Rollins Band was performing Black Flag songs along with Keith Morris and Chuck Dukowski. I knew that this was going to be the closest that I’d get to see an original line up of Black Flag (even without Greg Ginn involved). The show was a benefit for the West Memphis Three and was going to be held at the massive record store, Amoeba Records. I was curious how a record store was going to handle the first “Black Flag” show since 1986.

Anyways, my friend Tom Dunbabin and I drove out to Hollywood from Hermosa Beach and there was a line already around the block to get in and it was still 2-3 hours before the show was going to start. When we got inside Amoeba, we tried to get as far forward as we could. There were what seemed like hundreds of people crowded in the aisles in between record racks waiting for the show to start. By random chance, we ended up standing a few record rows back from the stage next to Martin Sorrondeguy (the singer for Los Crudos and Limp Wrist). We chatted with Martin a little bit and he was a really nice guy.

Then Morris went on first and played all of the "Nervous Breakdown" 7" and some others from “Everything Went Black,” which was so amazing and intense to see. He was awesome! There were kids pogoing up front, but nothing too crazy, partly because there just wasn't much room for the kids to go nuts up there. Again, this was in a record store, not at the Fleetwood.

Henry Rollins came on and was also extremely intense. Even in his 40s at the time, he blew away most of the younger hardcore bands that I had seen up to that point. The crowd was still pretty tame and I kind of felt like I was getting possessed, especially after he performed “Rise Above,” so during "Six Pack" I asked Tom and Martin to help lift me up and they did. I flipped over a couple record aisles and got floated, Rollins gave me the mic and then I was quickly grabbed by security. This all happened in like 15 seconds! This big security dude with purple hair had me in a headlock and dragged me out of the store, told me I was "86'd." I stood outside for a bit, but it was very crowded there and they could not keep track of me so a few minutes later I walked right back in and got to see the rest of the set (from further back), including Dukowski's performance.

Rollins raging. (Chris Berry photo)

Even though this was not the real Black Flag, I felt like it was the closest thing for a kid who grew up in Black Flag’s neighborhood and never got to see them live. Rollins played some more "Black Flag" shows later on in other cities in early 2003 (but I'm not sure if Keith and Chuck performed with Rollins in those other cities). Morris wrote a little bit about this show in "My Damage" and Rollins in "Broken Summers." This was also before those Ginn “Black Flag” shows at the Hollywood Palladium the following year…

For Amoeba-Hollywood's 10-year anniversary in 2011, they had this online competition to tell the best story you had of being at Amoeba Hollywood and the top three stories would get a prize, so I wrote about this story. I came in third place and they sent me a $50 gift certificate! I think first place went to someone who ran into Morrissey there (meh). That's got to be one of the only times someone has been rewarded for getting kicked out of a place without a lawsuit ha ha. Fun times!

***Below is the video of the Amoeba gig. Look for Berry's flip at around the 15:30 mark.

Berry is one of the guys compiling a book in progress, "I Want To Be Stereotyped: An Oral History of South Bay Punk, 1975 - 1991." People with stories and photos can email Berry at or visit them on Instagram at