Friday, November 9, 2018

Show Time

Roxy Theatre, Los Angeles, USA - 7th October 2018
By Matt Powell - Photos by Dianne Carter
This is no place
To be addicted
To another pace

Only the occasional green-haired weirdo or leather dominatrix crawls along the Sunset Strip and into the Roxy Theatre this night, their scant numbers a faint reminder of a time when the streets of Hollywood were flooded with freaks peacocking their membership in a special, sacred order.
A glorious sunset sprawls across the October sky, orange and pink and baby blue, so clean and bright. Like the emerging poshness of the new Sunset Strip itself, it is almost too pretty for tonight.
Such is the modern world.
And in some ways the modern world hovered over the event held within the Roxy’s black walls Sunday evening. War Stories is just as described: "Tales of ‘70s and ‘80s punk mayhem told by the perpetrators themselves." Seated across the Roxy stage where so much sweat and blood and beer was spilled, eight seminal musicians and documentarians sat on folding chairs (the audience did as well — folding chairs in the Roxy!) and shared tales of the vibrancy and debauchery of Los Angeles’ brief but bright punk days.
This was the second War Stories evening, following a February appearance at El Cid featuring a slightly different lineup. The ringleaders are Pleasant Gehman and Theresa Kereakes, who co-founded the punk fanzine Lobotomy in 1978 combining Kereakes’ photography, Gehman’s high school typing class skills, and a shared limitless lust for punk life.   
Sunday’s Roxy show featured Gehman, Kereakes, Abby Travis (THE GO-GO'S, THE LOVEDOLLS, KFMDM) Chip Kinman (THE DILS, RANK AND FILE), Dave Catching (THE MODIFIERS, TEX & THE HORSEHEADS, EAGLES OF DEATH METAL), Jennifer Finch (L7), Mike Watt (MINUTEMEN), and Flea. 
It was an event steeped in nostalgia and remembrance of a movement born from a rejection of traditional norms. Yet there was a pervading reminder that this could simply never happen again.
As with all scenes (musical, artistic or otherwise) you had to be there. War Stories was designed to celebrate a vibrant and now-dead scene that took place in a particular window of time in a particular place among a nebulous but ultimately limited group of participants.
In a tradition as old as recorded history, one purpose of such remembrances is the passing on of what once was for those who weren’t there, in the hopes that some part of the way the people on this stage and their cohorts lived their lives and made their art can seep a little into the consciousness of younger generations.
The crowd, mostly, seemed to have been there, peppered with a few of the young and hip and curious: those who can never know the feeling of sneaking into a club with a bad ID, or no ID (barcode technology makes that impossible now. Travis observed how the crackdown on underage club-going in Los Angeles really began in earnest with the arrival of the 1984 Olympics, a seminal moment that split Los Angeles into the clearly defined pre and post), or of wandering rows of cars in Hollywood parking lots looking for an unlocked Cadillac in which to fornicate, fog the windows for a few minutes, and be gone before the owner, none the wiser, returned (everything is locked today and cameras capture all). There were stories of crash pads like Gehman’s infamous Disgraceland left unlocked for days or weeks on end, or landlords removing apartment doors altogether in a futile attempt to get Flea and his deadbeat degenerate cohorts to vacate.
Before technology and ubiquitous surveillance, one could get away with all manner of crazy shit.
Kereakes, who self-identified as "punk rock’s designated driver," pulled these seemingly hedonistic remembrances together into a poignant observation: her and her merry band were virtually, if not literally, unemployable. While many see punk as a movement of destruction, in Los Angeles’ first wave at least, it was an artistic movement of creation and, perhaps unintentionally to some, of entrepreneurship.

"We had to rely on word-of-mouth, calling people on the phone, talking to them at social gatherings and making the commitment to be somewhere at a given time and place," says Kereakes. "Once you left the house, you expected someone to show up. Your only recourse was to find a payphone. We were analog and happily so. We were entrepreneurs and didn't realize it. We invented a new way of doing business."

Who were these punks? Some were freaks and wannabes and hangers on, for sure. There were drunks and junkies and dropouts and dealers. There were musicians foremost. And there were scribes and photographers, or fans and scenesters who were addicted to the energy and had access to a Xerox machine. It didn’t matter; collectively they built an infrastructure faced with the dual rejection of and rejection by mainstream society. They built their own magazines, record labels, bands, and even venues (Many punk clubs began as Chinese restaurants. Chip Kinman recalled an early DILS gig at a pizza parlor in Garden Grove). "If you’re in a band you’re an entrepreneur whether you like it or not," Kereakes observed.
It was a time of total freedom and lack of judgement, of unfettered creativity born from the cultural desert of 1970s Los Angeles. Bands as seemingly disparate as THE GERMS, THE BLASTERS and BLACK FLAG shared bills and, eventually, fans. There was diversity of style, of presentation, and of influence. "I think that without being the ‘politically correct police’ we were a much more accepting group," says Kereakes. "We were misfits and outcasts to begin with and that was our bond. We appreciated other weirdos and their output, their lifestyle, their fashion. Although, if someone was displaying bonafide unacceptable behavior, we would most definitely call them out."
Flea, the baby of the group (along with Finch), recalled his initial disinterest in the punk scene that was flowering in Hollywood. Flea explained that, although he was a troubled kid with a drug problem, musically he was into jazz and classical at the time, and punk seemed to him like "another thing with an arbitrary set of rules." But then he saw a FEAR show while on acid, and shortly thereafter auditioned for the band when it was announced they had fired bassist Derf Scratch. Flea got the FEAR gig and his friends, including many sharing the stage this night, celebrated with an 18-day party because one of their own had actually joined a "real band."
As with Angeleno R and B, blues, jazz and, to a certain extent, country music, Los Angeles’ indigenous punk music has always been given short shrift by unapologetically ignorant eastern critics. (This phenomenon continues into the present day with regular, unintentionally hilarious articles from New York based writers failing, or even trying, to grasp Angeleno culture.) London claimed punk’s origins and New York claimed the higher artistic ground. What did a bunch of pretty kids in the land of sunshine railing against their perceived petty problems have to say?
But to dismiss Los Angeles punk is to miss the point of Los Angeles altogether, ground zero of the detective novel and film noir — a bright and guilty place where dark things happen in harsh light. Gehman has written about the two Hollywoods that existed at the time, one of the Tinsel Town Dream Factory, and the other of her Hollywood Boulevard: "a seedy carnival midway... its pink-and-black granite "Walk of Fame" was dull and littered with beer cans, used condoms, and fast-food wrappers and dotted with spit and chewing gum."
There is a kind of surrealism in the juxtaposition of these outcasts carving their way in a company town where Old Hollywood was ageing but still very much alive. Gehman recalled smoking a joint with Tony Curtis. Catching, who briefly held a legitimate vocation as a pizza delivery driver, recalled delivering pizzas to stars like Anthony Perkins.
The very unique nature of Los Angeles, and Hollywood specifically, helped shape and fuel the theatrics and debauchery and tone of the scene. "The intersection of Old Hollywood, film noir, bright sunshine and punk rock is what gave L.A. punk and new wave its distinctive personality," says Kereakes, "just as every town imprints itself on its art."
So what if L.A.’s punk scene was born from relatively harmless kids making noise from no deeper motivation than their own boredom and an urge to party until the days change at night, change in an instant. Surely there is no more noble a deed than creating something from nothing. Locked out of the stale Hollywood establishment, these latchkey kids chose to build their own empire out of nothing more than their energy, some safety pins, and rudimentary typesetting skills as a testament to the great Angeleno tradition of invention and reinvention.
Sunshine be damned.
The prevailing theme of the night, reinforced from all who spoke, was the sense of true community. The community was healthier, more vibrant and robust in a time before social media. Camping out for concert tickets was social media. The level of superficial connectivity in the 21st century has killed the ability of true local scenes to develop.
"You had to be engaged in real life, not virtual life, on an interpersonal level, face to face," says Kereakes. "Scenes could grow and develop in their own world on their own timeline, organically."

Another theme that emerged is that the participants, despite the blur of endless parties and mayhem, knew at the time that they were a part of something special. Even as it was unfolding, musicians and scenesters alike were cognizant of which bands were "first wave," (Flea mentioned the SCREAMERS, an early L.A. punk band who never made an official recording, calling them "the Buddy Bolden of punk rock," a reference to the pioneering New Orleans jazz cornetist whose music was never captured on wax) versus "second wave," (quintessential L.A. punk band, X) and the skeptical "new wave" (Mike Watt recalled an existential crisis on a pivotal night when he was forced to choose between X opening for DEVO in Long Beach or the GERMS at the Masque. He chose the GERMS).  
Despite the name of the event, and the accessory baggage that comes with the term "punk," the war stories this evening weren't especially deranged. Some petty crime, sure. Lots of booze and drugs and public sex. But these hi-jinx seem almost quaint from today’s vantage.
The evening was nostalgic, but it was funny, charming and in some ways inspiring. Perspective is a funny thing. Looking back at a wild burst of energy and art, of the perfect people in the perfect place at the perfect time, one is faced with both the thought that it can never be duplicated and the thought that it should never be. It is up to the artists of today to make their own way. The eight people on the Roxy stage this night proved you can build anything you want, so long as there is a will. Skills are helpful but not required. Don’t ask for permission. Don’t give anyone the opportunity to stand in your way. Just roll right through the noise and do your thing, and do it righteously. 
War Stories will continue, incorporating themed nights (the all-women "L.A. Woman" panel is in the works now) and the show plans to hit the road, featuring a regular lineup augmented by local punks wherever the stories may take them. While War Stories focus on the L.A. scene, punk was a universal explosion.
"Scenes developed a personality and identity that gave all the bands strength and power once one of them broke through," says Kereakes. "It gave long-time local fans of these bands ownership and a sense of family and community pride."

Friday, October 26, 2018

Show Time

Peter Murphy
PETER MURPHY - DAFFODILS - Powerstation, Auckland, New Zealand - 20th October 2018
Way back in early 1983, BAUHAUS played the Gaumont, a theatre in my old home town of Ipswich, England. I really enjoyed the songs I had heard by the band (ie: the singles) and wanted to go. However, aged just 13, my folks wouldn’t let me. I think the fact they looked a ‘bit scary’ was the reason as, within six months, I got to see THIN LIZZY and soon after that, HAWKWIND. Let’s face it, with the amount of drugs in the air at a HAWKWIND gig, my 13 year old frame was rendered a tad stoned just by breathing! Ha!! Anyway, I always had a grudge about not seeing BAUHAUS, a band I got into more as I got older.
Several years later, BAUHAUS vocalist PETER MURPHY announces some New Zealand dates. Snag was, I was in Melbourne, Australia where he was also playing - but not while I was there. Everything conspired once again to miss a live BAUHAUS set.
That is, until August this year when I heard that MURPHY was returning to New Zealand not only to play a set celebrating the 40th anniversary of BAUHAUS with a full rendering of the debut album, ‘In A Flat Field’, but he’d have original bassist David J in the band. Tickets booked for this one - third time lucky!
The Powerstation is a great venue, among the best I have ever been to in fact. Always good sound, good atmosphere and the procession of black-clad individuals certainly seemed comfortable as we awaited the arrival of the headline act.
First up however was a local band named, DAFFODILS. They played about half-a-dozen numbers and got a decent response. Think a fusion of jingle-jangle a’la THE SMITHS (maybe that’s where the band’s name came from as Morrissey always had daffodils hanging out of his arse) with the more boisterous pop dynamics of ICICLE WORKS. They didn’t do much for me, although the drummer was very good. Of the songs, the only one I can recall is the band’s latest single, ‘A Leo Underwater’.
As promised, PETER MURPHY delivered the entire ‘In A Flat Field’ album from start to finish, naturally kicking off with ‘Double Dare’ - and that thunderous, distorted bass sound of David J’s was stunning at such a volume. I’ve always heard a great deal of violence in the music of BAUHAUS - something that is frequently overlooked due to the minimalist (pre)Goth stylings. This was the proof I needed - a stunning sound aided by guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite doing a decent job of Daniel Ash guitar noise and a stunning drummer in Marc Slutsky.
Peter Murphy band
‘In A Flat Field’ itself followed, keeping the intensity levels at a peak. MURPHY himself was in great form, that rich baritone loud and dominant. Now sporting a greying beard and balding pate, he looked a bit of a cat weasel-style character but still had a sense of intensity and regality about him. ‘The Spy In The Cab’ leaned on that stunning voice and MURPHY’s theatrical presence while the double hit of ‘St Vitus Dance’ and ‘Stigmata Martyr’ was one of the set’s highlights.
From there, it was one classic after another - ‘Burning From The Inside’, ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ (which received the biggest cheer of the evening - although given Murphy's appearance, it could've been retitled 'Vincent Price's Dead'!), ‘She’s In Parties’ and a stunning, brutal finale of ‘Passion Of Lovers’ and ‘Dark Entries’.
David J
As good as the band and MURPHY himself was, it was David J, with those sublime bass lines that are so pivotal to the success of these songs, who made the show for me. MURPHY was also in very jovial form, stating that he was, "Harder than any man there, and more beautiful than any woman," and taking the piss out of the New Zealand "blokes".
Of course, given the level of performance and the rapturous crowd, an encore was inevitable. I wasn’t expecting a take on DEAD CAN DANCE’s ‘Severance’ however - as good as it was. Sensing the show was over, several made for the exit - big mistake! Returning again, MURPHY announced a Glam double header in the form of T.REX’s ‘Telegram Sam’ and DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Ziggy Stardust’ which was uplifting and laden with genuine emotion.
Quite an exceptional gig it has to be said - and way better than I thought it would be. I feared MURPHY maybe over weight (as opposed to his rather lithe physique) and worse, have a broken voice whilst trying to revisit himself from 40 years ago. Not so; instead we got a theatrical, witty performance that still had combustible, violent streaks about it and a voice that still senders shivers down the spine.
OK parents - you can now rest easy - my grudge is over!

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Obituary - Steve Soto

On Wednesday 27 June 2018, Steve Soto, founder and bassist for both AGENT ORANGE and ADOLESCENTS passed away in his sleep; the coroner’s office has stated that this was due to natural causes. He was aged 54.
Soto was born on 23 August 1963, the son of Mexican parents. His first foray into music was in 1979 with the formation of legendary Surf-Punk band, AGENT ORANGE. His tenure in the band was shortlived, as the following year he formed the band with which he would be most associated: ADOLESCENTS.
Releasing the self-titled debut album in 1981, it would go onto be considered a classic of the genre and was among the very first Hardcore records to be distributed throughout the USA. Soto went onto become the only constant member of the band.
Besides ADOLESCENTS, he was also a member of LEGAL WEAPON (1981-’82), JOYRIDE (1989-’94), MANIC HISPANIC (1992-2017), the supergroup 22 JACKS, his own solo project which he fronted - STEVE SOTO AND THE TWISTED HEARTS and BLACK DIAMOND RIDERS.
Other musical projects included being a member of PUNK ROCK KARAOKE with members of NOFX and BAD RELIGION, an 80s cover band FLOCK OF GOO GOO, and being part of CJ RAMONE’s touring band. It is with CJ that I caught him live in New Zealand back in 2015.
Besides being infamous in the history of Southern California Punk Rock as a musician - and gaining the reputation as ‘the nicest guy in Punk’ - he also spent time in the 90s booking bands at the well-known Anaheim venue, Linda’s Doll Hut. His bookings would include the famous (OFFSPRING, BAD RELIGION), through to the unknown.
Although suffering with weight and health problems, he quit drinking at the age of 31 and is quoted in interview as saying, "Sobriety is good, I get more accomplished."
Just prior to Soto’s passing, on 24 June, he played with ADOLESCENTS in Boston, MA. This would be his last live performance before he travelled back home. On 26 June, he got together with JOYRIDE friend, Greg Antista and producer Jim Monroe where talk was positive about life and future musical endeavors - including the imminent ADOLESCENTS album, ‘Cropduster’. Antista dropped Soto off at his parent’s house in Placenita, CA where he fell asleep for the final time.
A memorial service was held on Saturday 7 July at Richfield Community Church, Yorba Linda, California - the church he attended weekly with his girlfriend, Stephanie Hough. Antista coordinated the service with Soto’s immediate family.
A much louder celebration of his life was held the following evening at Alex’s Bar, Long Beach, where numerous friends performed Soto songs acoustically and culminated with a performance by CJ RAMONE.
Although having been married twice, Soto had no children. He is survived by his parents and immediate family.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Obituary - Nick Knox

On Thursday 14 June 2018, Nick Knox - best known as the definitive drummer for THE CRAMPS - passed away. According to his sister, Jeanne Goldberg, the cause was cardiogenic shock. He was aged 65.
Knox, whose real name was Nicholas George Stephanoff, was born on 26 March 1958, the only son of Boris and Virginia Stephanoff.He first found notoriety in Cleveland proto-punks, THE ELECTRIC EELS when he joined the band as drummer in 1975. Although this line-up with Knox recorded a series of demos, which included the posthumous 1978 released single ‘Agitated’ on Rough Trade, it was to prove short-lived as they performed just the one gig before splitting up.
In 1977, he joined THE CRAMPS, replacing original drummer Miriam Linna. His tenure with the legendary Rockabilly/ Garage/ Punk band would last through to 1991 and saw him perform on many of the band’s most popular records including the four studio albums: 1980’s Alex Chilton-produced ‘Songs the Lord Taught Us’, 1981’s ‘Psychedelic Jungle’, 1986’s ‘A Date With Elvis’ and 1990’s ‘Stay Sick!’ - along with 1987's live 'Rockin n Reelin In Auckland, New Zealand'.
His stoic demeanour, quiffed jet black hair and shades added to the cool appearance the band had already created. He can be seen drumming with the band in the 1980 film, URGH!, A Music War, cranking out ‘Tear It Up’, which culminates with a flying cymbal and again on the infamous ‘Live At Napa State Mental Hospital’ performance recorded in 1978.
On leaving the band, Knox largely retreated from the music world, returning to Garfield Heights, Ohio. In 2003, he made his last live appearance, this time with Cleveland legends THE PAGANS. Although he did occasionally do some Djing, his next notable music venture was working with CLEVELAND STEAMERS, playing drums on three tracks from the band’s 2013 debut album and being credited as ‘Senior Advisor’ on the band’s recently released ‘Best Record Ever’ album. He filled the ‘Senior Advisor’ role for ARCHIE AND THE BUNKERS also, who lovingly referred to him as ‘Grandpa Nick’.
Linna wrote the following in a Facebook post: "I last saw Nicky – Nick Knox – who most you know as the drummer of note for 70s bands the Electric Eels and The Cramps, last weekend, in intensive care at the Cleveland Clinic. It was heartbreaking, as I had spent a few great days with him at the end of April."
A service was held on Wednesday 20 June at 11:00 AM. Interment was at St. Theodosius Cemetery, Cleveland Ohio.
Knox is survived, in addition to his sister, by nephews, a niece and cousins.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Obituary - Tony Kinman

On Friday 4 May 2018, Tony Kinman, bassist and co-founder of THE DILS and RANK AND FILE, passed away due to a particularly aggressive form of pancreatic cancer. He was aged 62.
Born in 1956, he grew up with his family - which included brother Chip - in Carlsbad, San Diego, where the brothers formed a few bands, including THE NEGROES and THE DUDS. Come 1976, the brothers formed THE DILS, an overtly political Punk band, playing many of the city’s first Punk shows, often alongside THE ZEROS.
They decamped briefly to the more vibrant, and Punk-friendly city of San Francisco, before moving again, this time to Los Angeles. September 1977 saw the band release its first single, ‘I Hate The Rich’/ ‘You’re Not Blank’ on What? Records which was followed just two months later by the classic ‘Class War’/ ‘Mr. Big’ single on the infamous Dangerhouse Records. The band also landed a part in the film, Cheech And Chong’s Up In Smoke performing ‘You’re Not Blank’ in the Battle Of The Bands scene.
The Kinman brothers then moved back to San Francisco only to record their final EP, ‘Made In Canada’ in Vancouver, Canada. Although the band secured a supporting slot with THE CLASH and were in discussion with John Cale (of the VELVET UNDERGROUND) about a collaboration, the band split in 1979, before the ‘Made In Canada’ EP had even been release. Tony then had a brief spell with San Fran band, THE AVENGERS.
Following the break-up of THE DILS, the brothers relocated again, this time to Austin, Texas and continued to work together in RANK AND FILE - a Roots Rock/ Cowpunk band. They landed music in the film, To Live And Die In L.A while their 1982 album, ‘Sundown’, earned them the title of Country Band Of The Year from The Austin Chronicle. The band split in 1987 after the hard-rock driven self-titled third album.
Following RANK AND FILE, there were various music collaborations including a Techno-Metal deal in BLACKBIRD and Country and Western influenced (with emphasis on the Western) COWBOY NATION. 
More recently, Tony worked behind the scenes on the new FORD MADOX FORD album, ‘This American Blues’, which also features Chip's son, guitarist Dewey Peek and was released in February.
In March, Tony was diagnosed with cancer and began what was expected to be a six-month program of chemotherapy, according Chip's wife, Lisa Kinman. However, the cancer turned out to be extremely aggressive.
On Thursday 3 May, Chip Kinman's Facebook page alerted fans of his brother's condition: "Tony is home with his family. He is no longer receiving treatment and is comfortable and at peace. I have read him everything that people are posting and he is very moved. I will let everyone know when it is done. I love you all. Thank you, Chip."
The following day, Tony Kinman passed away. Besides his brother Chip, he is survived by his wife, Kristie.