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.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Obituary - Mike Hudson

On Friday 27 October 2017, Mike Hudson, author, journalist and most notably, vocalist of THE PAGANS, passed away at his Los Angeles home, due to sepsis from a recently lacerated bowel. He was aged 61.
Hudson was born in Collinwood, Ohio before moving at an early age to Wickliffe, Ohio, about 30 minutes from Cleveland. He quit school in his sophomore year and hitched around the country, but always returned to Cleveland. Along with his brother, Brian, he acquired an extensive juvenile record, ranging from underage drinking, pot possession, carrying a weapon and assaulting a police officer.
In 1974, along with Brian on drums and himself on guitar, he formed the garage rock band, MAD STAGGERS, which mutated into VENUS IN FURS and then THE PAWNS. Come 1977, they added vocalist Robert Conn and formed the band that Hudson would become most infamous for - THE PAGANS. A single ‘Six Of Change’ was issued before Hudson took over vocal duties in 1978, with Mike Metoff joining on guitar. What followed were three classic singles - ‘Street Where Nobody Lives’, ‘Dead End America’ and ‘Not Now No Way’ before the band split up in 1979 after a failed album session.
The split didn’t last long however as in 1982, Hudson and Metoff reunited to start Terminal Records and form LES RAVING SOUNDS which morphed into a new line-up of THE PAGANS. After releasing what became known as ‘The Pink Album’, the band split-up, once again, the following year.
1986 saw another line-up, resulting in the live ‘The Godlike Power Of The Pagans Live’ in 1987. This line-up split in 1989, although numerous recordings have appeared on compilations.
The 90s became a bit of a lost decade for Hudson musically. He played briefly with GG ALLIN AND THE MURDER JUNKIES and recorded his solo album, ‘Unmedicated’, which remained unreleased until 2006. He also sang for THE HIGHROLLERS and the avant-garde band THE STYRENES.
In 1991, his brother Brian died. At this stage, Hudson, who had always been a heavy drinker, hit the bottle harder than ever. He moved to New York in a state of depression, but got a job at the Irish Echo. It was also here, in the East Village along with DEAD BOYS’ Cheetah Chrome, where the ‘Unmedicated’ tracks were recorded.
2011 saw him reform THE PAGANS again, this time as a legacy band and toured Europe and America, with an offer of Japan arriving just before his passing.
Besides THE PAGANS, Hudson had a career as a journalist having worked as
editor for the Cleveland Sun, crime reporter at the Corry Evening Journal, and literary critic at the Irish Echo. Further work appeared in Rolling Stone, Hustler, and the New York Post among others.
In 1998, a move to Niagara Falls marked what he would be most remembered for in journalistic terms. After scoring a reporting job at the Niagara Gazette, he was fired in 2000 for, allegedly, arriving drunk - which he disputed. So, in true DIY spirit, he created the Niagara Falls Reporter. He remained editor-in-chief through to 2012 when he sold his shares to move to Los Angeles.
His journalistic style was hard-hitting - the term muckraking has even been used. It was this hard-hitting style that resulted in him receiving a beating by three members of a local labour union.
He was also a noted author, having written six books including the biography of THE PAGANS, Diary Of A Punk.
In 2004, his son Ritchie died, leading to a further alcohol dependency.
In 2005, he was hospitalised and given last rites. He survived but after only a few months of sobriety, he returned to the bottle. 2007 saw him in hospital again, this time with liver failure - and was again given last rites.
In Los Angeles, he spent his time writing articles, books and songs and got heavily involved in a dog rescue programme.
In 2016, he made it back to Cleveland to do one final PAGANS show.
On the afternoon of 26 October, and following intense abdominal pain, he was admitted to the emergency room of a local hospital. A physician reportedly told him he needed immediate surgery or death would ensue from sepsis, plus he appeared to have advanced colon cancer. Even if the operation were successful, he was told he might have only two months to live.
Mike declined surgery, saying he did not want to die on the operating table, and chose to return home. He was given pain medication; hospice was called, and within 24 hours he succumbed, surrounded by several friends and his two dogs. 

At the time of Mike’s passing, I was on vacation in Australia. Being someone who tries to avoid all things computers while on holiday, the news of his death completely bypassed me. Since I interviewed him, we had remained in touch via Facebook conversations and he always forwarded me an autographed copy of his latest book. I now treasure the Diary Of A Punk book greatly.
I have to confess, I had not noticed a lack of correspondence with him since returning from Australia. Christmas appeared, then New Year, other stuff happened - you know, life in general. It was via a post from Stefan at Just4Fun Records that sent alarm bells to me. A brief follow-up message to him confirmed that Hudson had indeed passed away.
It still feels odd; a genuine Punk icon, who I was in contact with has now passed. Not really a surprise I concur, but my listening to tracks like ‘No Now No Way’, ‘Dead End America’, ‘Downtown Beirut’, ‘Wall Of Shame’, ‘I Juvenile’, ‘She’s A Cadaver’ and ‘Brian Always Said’ - tracks that have lived with me for many years (decades) - are now seen in a new light.
RIP Mike - you lived a life on the edge and I am forever grateful.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Show Time

The Stranglers
THE STRANGLERS - RUTS DC - Town Hall, Auckland, New Zealand - 2nd February 2018
It’s been 31 years (yep - thirty one!!) since I last saw THE STRANGLERS - and that wasn’t even the first time! It was on the ‘Dream Time’ tour and they stopped in Ipswich. That was back when Hugh Cornwall was still in them. Hugh actually jumped in the crowd that night to pull a guy outta the audience who had been spitting at them. The guy had had a warning before letting another big greeny go, so Hugh jumped into the throng at the front of the stage at the Ipswich Gaumont and hauled the gobber onto the stage. The band then proceeded to take said gobber’s trousers and undies down, exposing his weener to all of us laughing and shouting Ipswich Punks! Then a banana was produced, peeled and stuffed on the gobber’s gonads, undies and trousers very roughly pulled up squishing the ‘nana and skin in his undies, before Mr. Gobber was given to the roadies!! That remains one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever seen at a show.
Anyway, I lost interest in the band after Hugh left; to me he was very intrinsic to the make-up of the band, even though musically they always pivoted around Dave Greenfield’s keyboards and that monstrous, pounding bass of JJ Burnel. This show was billed as the ‘Classic Collection’, which is pretty self-explanatory. So, with the added bonus of RUTS DC, I got my ticket and headed to a rain-soaked Auckland to see THE STRANGLERS for, what I had and still have no doubts about, the last time.
Ruts DC
I’d never been to Auckland Town Hall before. It’s a typical town hall theatre complete with balcony (which spans round virtually to the stage), good sound and over-priced beer. I mean, $9 for a bottle of fucking Heineken??!! Thankfully I managed to squeeze in a good few pints of Guinness in the pub beforehand, so the Heinie topped things off nicely.
All too soon, RUTS DC came on looking very dapper for a bunch of fellas who are probably very close to drawing their pension! The band’s last album, ‘Music Must Destroy’ is a total cracker and they launched with a track from that - ‘Surprise’. From there it was a totally classy performance of classic RUTS and tracks from that new album. It’d be pretty pointless saying what the highlights were as every track, ummm,... Destroyed. ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’, ‘West One’, ‘Music Must Destroy’, ‘Kill The Pain’, ‘Jah War’, ‘In A Rut’, ‘Babylon’s Burning’ and closer ‘Psychic Attack’. The only fault was the set was way too short.
These guys are seasoned, quality musicians. Drummer Dave Ruffy in particular didn’t drop a beat and played those old, complicated RUTS rhythms without fault. Both guitarist Leigh Heggarty and bassist Segs looked great too, often drawing in tight around the drum kit to really lock in. Segs also made the comment of the evening asking, with a distinct smirk, who was going to see the Foo Fighters the following night in some hideous stadium. Surprisingly, a lot (too many?) of the crowd were... “I shouldn’t be so cheeky should I?” was his reply!!
I was hoping for an encore - but alas no....
Ruts DC
So it was left to the other set of near-pensioners to try and follow that. Kicking off with the moody and magnificent ‘WaltzInBlack’, I had high hopes. Then I got the first of many songs during the night that I didn’t know. ‘Was It You’ appeared third from the ‘Dream Time’ album. It’s a track I always liked and was pleased to see its inclusion here - particularly with JJ sounding so impressive. The first real hit of the night though (and I mean sonic hit as well as hit single) was ‘(Get A) Grip (On Yourself)’ that saw that bass simply pound out and made all that went before it seem rather tame. From there we got a good number of the Classic Collection - ‘Hanging Around’, ‘Golden Brown’, ‘Walk On By’, ‘Always The Sun’, ‘Nice ‘n Sleazy’, ‘Nuclear Device’, ‘Tank’, ‘Go Buddy Go’ and most surprisingly, ‘Just Like Nothing On Earth’.
Hugh’s latest replacement, Baz Warne, did a fair sounding impression of him I concur, but that sense of intimidation that I’d always experienced at previous STRANGLERS gigs was noticeably lacking. Maybe it’s cuz I’m 31 years older too!! Dave did a stunning one-handed keyboard solo (I think during ‘Walk On By’) while drinking a beer (or water) before scrunching the cup and heading it away. It got one of the biggest cheers of the night and seemed to put the biggest of smiles on the collective face of the band. Incidentally, I didn’t realise drummer Jet Black had left the fold either.
My own personal favourite, ‘Duchess’ got aired (first STRANGLERS record I ever bought dontcha know!), ‘No More Heroes’ was part of the encore - and then they were gone.
The Stranglers
Classic Collection?? My arse was it!! No ‘Peaches’, no ‘Straighten Out’, no ‘Five Minutes’, no ‘Strange Little Girl’, no ‘Skin Deep’, no ‘Something Better Change’ let alone ‘Death And Night And Blood’ or ‘Dagenham Dave’. There were about 10 songs I didn’t know and while both ‘15 Steps’ and ‘Norfolk Coast’ were good (the former in particular), neither are ‘Peaches’.
I felt a bit unfulfilled on leaving. While the good bits were great (let’s face it, the good songs are fucking classics and they were played well), there’s no denying my attention wandered and that tension I always associated with the band had gone.
Yep, this was definitely the last time I’ll see THE STRANGLERS - unless, maybe, Hugh rejoins.