Tag Archives: Justin Maurer

Interview in Razorcake Magazine

5 May
A couple of months ago, Martin Wong and Todd Taylor interviewed me for Razorcake 
about our play “Falling On Deaf Eyes” our upcoming punk rock/deaf community documentary “Live At The Deaf Club”, and balancing being an ASL Interpreter with being a musician. The interview is now available online, below and on Razorcake’s Website Thanks again to Martin and Todd for taking the time to do this interview.

When Justin Maurer introduced himself to me at a Save Music in Chinatown benefit show last winter, I was already a big fan of his garage punk band Maniac and knew a little about Clorox Girls and Suspect Parts, too. But it was news to me that he and his Deaf filmmaker pal Delbert Whetter whom he also introduced, were making a documentary about the San Francisco Deaf Club. Like everyone else, they were excited about seeing The Dils play their first show in four decades, adding that they wanted to interview Chip Kinman for the movie, too. The Dils had played the social club for Deaf people with Catholic Discipline during the first wave of West Coast punk. Wow!

Not more than a few minutes later, my wife and sister were excited to tell me  they just spotted the guy who was all over the news doing American Sign Language interpretation at the LAUSD teacher strike rallies. To us parents of elementary school students and supporters of public education, he was a big deal. And he turned out to be Justin!

We became friends. Over time, I’d notice Justin signing at appearances by big-time speakers like Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders, as well as local concerts by punk legends like Alice Bag and The Avengers. It was sort of a combination of the two worlds when he signed for my daughter’s band The Linda Lindas at a benefit gig my family helped organize to get educator and activist Jackie Goldberg elected to our school board. That’s when Justin told me he was going to make a play about his life as a punker and a Child of a Deaf Adult (CODA) and bringing the subcultures together.

Sure enough, just a few months later, my family attended the premiere engagement of Falling on Deaf Eyes at the Hollywood Fringe Festival. The totally DIY production told his life story with punk rock, signing, and incorporated a Deaf director, a Deaf producer, and a Deaf actress who played his mom. I loved how the piece showed underdog cultures overlapping and supporting each other in unexpected and wonderful ways, and I thought it was too good and too important to reach just the handful of people who caught performances in the shoebox-sized theater in East Hollywood. So I brought Justin to Razorcake HQ for a chat.

Introduction by Martin Wong

A quick note from Justin: Someone who identifies as culturally Deaf (big “D” Deaf) stems from Deaf cultural traditions: story telling, values, literature, and theatre. These capital “D” Deaf folks consider American Sign Language their native language. Big “D” Deaf is more Deaf-friendly. Medically—but not culturally—deaf folks when discussing purely medical hearing loss usually spell deaf with a lowercase “d.” It’s a political thing or a personal preference.

Martin: Justin, your life seems pretty random, but even crazier is the fact that you wrote and acted in a play about being a punker and a child of Deaf adults that ties the two subcultures and makes sense of them. Can you tell us about that?

Justin: Well, I was born in L.A. and went to high school and middle school on Bainbridge Island, Wash. I’m what you call a CODA: a Child of a Deaf Adult. My mom is deaf and my aunt and stepdad are also Deaf, so I grew up with sign language. And, being the oldest in my family, it was my job to interpret for my mom.

Fast forward many years later through punk rock bands and touring and everything, and I started working as a sign language interpreter. I started in Long Beach, and now I work all over L.A., Orange County, and Ventura County.

I met Delbert Whetter last year, and Delbert is a deaf filmmaker. I found out he‘’s doing a documentary on the San Francisco Deaf Club. What a lot of people don’t realize is that it was actually a hangout for the deaf. This was before the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA, passed, and before technology. So if deaf people wanted to meet up, they would just go there and hope their friends would be there.

To pay for the club, you’d have to have a membership card and pay your dues, but they were running low on money and—at the time in the late ’70s—there were hardly any clubs for punk bands to play. The Mabuhay Gardens and Dirk Dirksen kind of had a lock on the early San Francisco punk scene, so the manager of The Offs, whose name was Robert Hanrahan, went to Taqueria La Cumbre on Valencia and saw across the street a sign that said “hall for rent.” He went in, found out it was the Deaf Club, and communicated by writing on a piece of paper back and forth with the deaf people. They said, “Fifty bucks a night and it’s yours.”

So he started throwing shows at the Deaf Club, where the deaf people ran the bar and the door. He booked pretty much every single major West Coast punk band—The Bags, The Germs, The Dils, D.O.A., The Zeros—’78 to ’79 played the Deaf Club.

It was two marginalized communities that somehow came together and, even though they wouldn’t normally be in the same room, the deaf people liked the punks and their strange clothes. And the swearing didn’t bother them.

Todd: You told me before that they could touch the speakers and feel the volume of the punk rock in their bodies.

Justin: They would hold their hands on top of wooden tables or go right up to the PA speakers or sometimes hold a balloon in the air to feel the vibrations. The Deaf people at the bar who weren’t interested in the music could talk through it because sign language is their mode of communication.

Martin: They’re reading lips and saying, “Stop yelling at me! I got your order!”

Todd: “Rum and Coke, I got it!”

Justin: The punks would order Budweiser because it was the easiest thing to lipread. And maybe for the price: I think it was a buck a beer or something. But they would write it down on a piece of paper or say “Bud” really clearly to be lipread or make the sign for beer, which is just a “B” up to your chin.

Anyway, Deaf folks at the time were marginalized. They weren’t required an interpreter by law. For example some landlords wouldn’t rent them apartments—discriminating against their disability. It was fairly common that employers wouldn’t hire Deaf people, thinking that it’d be too hard to deal with their disability in the workplace. The ADA didn’t exist yet, so this was their sacred space and the fact they invited the punks in was a big deal. This went on for about a year. Last year I met Delbert and he said, “I’m doing a documentary about the Deaf Club. I’m like, ‘No way!’”

Todd: A dream job!

Justin: Afterward, I took him aside and said, “My background is playing in punk rock bands, and if you need help with the documentary, a lot of these people are still around.” So we did the first round of interviews.

He also wants to show it half from the deaf perspective, but the deaf people were ten to fifteen years older at the time so a lot of them have died off. And because of the pricing in the Bay Area, a lot of them have moved. It’s hard to track a lot of them down because this was pre-social media, so it’s all word of mouth.

Martin: That’s why you gotta do it now.

Justin: We did the first round of interviews: Penelope Houston from The Avengers, Chip Kinman from The Dils, and Hector Peñalosa from The Zeros. So we’re on our way.

Martin: What an amazing soundtrack it will have, whether you hear it or hold your hand up to the speakers!

Justin: And so, fast-forwarding a tiny bit, I was the sign language interpreter for the L.A. teachers strike.

Todd: And how did that happen?

Justin: I had interpreted for the teachers union before because there are probably one hundred deaf teachers in L.A. and each division—they call them chapters—has a chapter chair. One of the public schools has two Deaf chapter chairs and for the union meetings, they needed sign language interpreters. I met them by interpreting a few of their meetings. I was interpreting at a funeral—and I’m the worst person to do that—when I got the call.

Todd: Why is that?

Justin: I’ll just burst into tears because I’m facing the audience and every single person is crying—and it’s probably the Deaf client’s family members who passed away. So I got a message asking if I could be in Downtown L.A. by 5 PM and I said, “Sure, I can do it.” And it was them announcing their strike. I got along well with them and they found out that I understand Spanish, too, and that I could do Spanish to ASL, so they wanted me for the duration of the strike for that reason.

So I was doing press conferences in the morning and afternoon, marches in the rain, and the rallies with musical guests: Wayne Kramer from the MC5, Tom Morello from Rage Against The Machine, and Latin hip-hop guys like Ozomatli. I was thrown into the fray and it was like interpreter boot camp!

But Delbert’s brother Jevon was a teacher on strike. He’s a teacher at CSUN and also at East Valley High School. I met him there, and we got along. Then I found out he had a background in theatre. He had been on tour with the National Theatre of the Deaf and Deaf West Theatre out here in L.A., and had been involved in all these productions. Now he’s a filmmaker with his brother.

So working every day with the Deaf community, I realized that none of my events are deaf accessible. If I do a book reading, it’s in a bookstore, and there’s twenty people. There’s no interpreter and there’s no way a deaf person could come and enjoy it. If I play a punk rock show, sure, deaf people could come and probably enjoy it, but there’s nothing to really invite them in and no interpreter provided, if anyone would want one. So I wanted to put on a show that could bring in the deaf community and the hearing community.

Martin: Did you have any theatre background going into this?

Justin: I hadn’t done theatre since high school, but I had done a lot of writing and written a lot of autobiographical stuff, and wanted to do a show. I noticed one-man shows, like right now in L.A. John Leguizamo is doing his Latin History for Morons. It’s possible to write something and you don’t have to rely on these flakes who you play music with. And maybe you can tour and maybe there’s some kind of future for it, and I love storytelling.

A friend of mine said, “Deaf people aren’t going to be interested unless there’s a deaf person on stage.” I said, “Good point.” So we got a deaf actress to play my mother and two sign language interpreters. One is to sign for me when I was voicing and then for the other half of the show when I’m talking with mother, I sign and talk at the same time, which is called sim-com. And then there’s another interpreter for the deaf actress. It became a whole production—a clusterfuck.

Martin: It sounds complicated, but it all really works like a well-oiled machine. At first you’re figuring out that this person is signing for that person, but then you don’t even think about it and it becomes natural after a couple minutes. It’s ingenious. How many months did it take to put this together?

Justin: It was my new year’s resolution to do the show, and I wrote the first draft in probably a day. I figured I wanted it to be sixty minutes…

Todd: Sixty pages…

Justin: So I banged it out in a day and then I bugged Jevon Whetter. “Will you please direct this?” Because I really wanted to have a pair of Deaf eyes on the play, which I ended up calling Falling on Deaf Eyes, which is based on something my mom used to say. She’d be able to know if I came into the room. I’d say, “Mom, you didn’t hear us walk in. How did you know?” And she’d say, “I saw the curtain move just a little bit. Be careful, I have Deaf eyes.” She could always tell if I’d been somewhere where there was cigarette smoke or if there had been drinking—she could smell it. All of her other senses were just honed.

Martin: Like Daredevil!

Justin: When I was growing up, my friends’ parents wouldn’t want their kids to ride in the car with my mom because they’d say, “Oh, she can’t hear sirens. It’s dangerous. Or “Don’t go over there because she won’t be able to hear the smoke alarm.” “She won’t be able to hear you guys getting into trouble.” I don’t think they notice that Deaf people use their other senses, and my mom would be the first one to pull over because she could see the sirens coming from a mile away.

Todd: She could see flashing lights, reflections…

Martin: Everyone else is blasting music and can’t hear anyway!

Todd: Or just completely distracted: “I’m just driving my road couch…”

Justin: Which was a benefit, when my mom was driving. I could play Minor Threat’s discography at full blast at twelve years old and it didn’t bug her.

Martin: That’s one of my favorite parts of the play, where you talk about turning it up when you were practicing and how you could do that because your mom was Deaf.

Justin: She started to get upset when the neighbors were calling the police and the cops were showing up once or twice a week.

Martin: So was the crowd at your play as divided like you hoped it would be, with a lot of Deaf people and a lot of punks?

Justin: It really was! I really made a point to have interpreters, and I think we had interpreters for four out of the seven shows. And we really tried to promote it to the deaf community as much as we could. In Southern California I think there’s from 800,000 to one million Deaf and hard of hearing people, most of them in L.A. County. And, Jevon, being well connected, and our actress, Lisa Hermatz being well connected, she teaches at Pierce College and Glendale College—the Deaf community is small so they spread the word. I’d say we had some nights with a 50/50 audience. In the end, I’d say we did the show for almost four hundred people.

Todd: That’s fantastic.

Justin: It was a small theatre, but we packed it on most nights, which was cool.

Martin: It was the size of the Anti-Club or something. It was pretty small, and it felt like you were going to a punk rock show because you’re waiting outside and then sitting on wooden benches in a room with no air conditioning. And then there was loud music!

Justin: We actually found the air conditioning switch around halfway through the performances. And, like a real show, I almost smacked some people in the front row with my guitar kind of like I was actually playing!

Martin: Do you feel like you got a lot of press? Did people talk about it as much as you hoped?

Justin: We were part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival and they had almost three hundred shows this year, which was a lot of really stiff competition. Even though, I think our show was unique. We were the only show that had interpreters and a Deaf actor, Deaf director, Deaf producer, and sign language as part of the show rather than as an afterthought.

Martin: I liked seeing wheat-pasted posters around the neighborhood, too. It felt like a show!

Justin: One of the guys from Form Rank did that. I won’t say whom, but he asked me if I wanted that done. I was like, “Well, I don’t really want to get fined.” He ended up doing it, but he was smart because he left off the name of the theatre, so it was just the name of the show. That was right off in Hollywood on Highland, where you see all these “Post No Bills” signs and they’re cracking down on that.

Martin: So around four hundred people got to see it, including me, and we’re pretty stoked on it—enough that I want to talk to you about it here. So who gets to see it next?

Justin: I want it to go on tour, but it was such an expensive show to do because of everybody involved and hiring interpreters. I paid for it and maxed out all my credit cards. It really screwed me up financially but, in the end, I was glad I did it. It was my first time producing a play.

Martin: We were still talking about it a week later, and there are so many things you can get out of it. The use of DIY to support deaf people—no one would imagine that! So after the play, it’s not like you’ve discovered there’s this scene of punks and deaf people, is it? Did you discover there are more people like this or is it just one crazy unicorn wandering around the forest?

Justin: We’re in L.A. so there are pockets of everything. People will travel across L.A. County to go to a destination to see a band play. I think Deaf people, too, have their little pockets and they’re spread out. Because this was one of the few events that had sign language in it that was part of the show and had deaf actors and a deaf director, it was something special. So deaf people traveled. One person was from Minnesota. Someone else came from Oregon. People came from Riverside and San Bernardino and the Valley. People made the trek to check out the show, which is really cool. Whereas L.A. people, they’re like, “Hollywood? That’s too far!’

Todd: Did you tone down any of the punk rock stuff for the deaf community?

Justin: What I was worried about was knowing there were a lot of kids coming. Even Martin’s kid. I thought, “Should I take out the swearing?” And I was like, “No! It needs to be in there.” I was trying to make it authentic to how I would have talked as a teenager because I’m a teenager in the play. It’s weird because I’m in my thirties playing a teenage version of myself, and I found my old punk clothes from that era: the same leather jacket, the same denim vest that says The Jerk-Offs with the sleeves cut off…

Martin: How about the flyers on the wall?

Justin: Those were actual flyers off my teenage bedroom that I happened to find in a box.

Martin: What were some of the bands on them?

Justin: Mostly local bands. I went to high school on Bainbridge Island, Wash., so the bands were like The Rickets, Pud, The Scandals, The Unabombers, The Cleavers, and my high school band was called Maurice’s Little Bastards.

Todd: So I have some questions going back to your personal history. Did you ever feel like you have to separate punk and the Deaf community? Growing up around  Deaf people and being around Deaf people, did you feel you needed to take a break? Was that one of the things you rebelled against when you were growing up?

Justin: I think the experiences of a lot of children of Deaf adults and first-generation immigrants are probably very similar. Like a letter may come in the mail: “Hey, this letter is important. Tell me what it means.” And they’re asking a six-year-old kid. “Hey, there’s a meeting at my work and they can’t find an interpreter. You’re coming with me.” When my parents got divorced I had to interpret for my mom’s lawyer, and I was like nine years old or something.

I started playing in bands and went on tour with people ten years older when I was fifteen, and it was something where I was able to have my own voice, rather than being the voice for my mom.

Todd: Being the interpreter.

Justin: Yes, exactly. So I didn’t really think of it as rebelling, it was just an outlet that I needed to have. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties when I thought maybe I can bring them together onto one stage where both parties can enjoy it.

Martin: I don’t want to spoil the play for people who haven’t seen it, but there’s this part where you have a series of crappy jobs and then you realize you can be an interpreter—that you are an interpreter. And it just kind of happens naturally where you see that it’s a tool. It’s a gift.

Justin: When you do your whole life in sixty minutes, it’s an abbreviated version. But I was a traveling dental supply salesman. I was a graveyard shift delivery driver. For a lot of people in L.A. now, you almost have to have a side gig or second or third job just to survive. That’s almost everyone I know, and it isn’t just for musicians. And you don’t even think about music as something that brings in money because it probably doesn’t.

Martin: Multiple jobs used to be poor people coming over or people without a lot of dough or connections, and now it’s normalized. It’s so crazy.

Justin: I live south of Koreatown, so my neighborhood is mostly people from El Salvador, and everyone in my building wakes up at five in the morning and works two or three jobs. And on the weekend they’ll set up a shop in the doorways of their houses to sell clothes and shoes. And anyone who says that immigrants are not hard working… {shakes head}.

People are hustling hard.

Martin: It’s really interesting how you compare being a child of Deaf adults to being a child or immigrants. I never thought of that.

Justin: I grew up with a lot of people whose parents came from Mexico or Central America and it was them who had to interpret the phone calls, letters that came in the mail, and stuff from bill collectors and banks that maybe kids shouldn’t be involved in. And, to me, growing up with a Deaf mom it was the same thing. She was like, “What is this letter?” “It says they’re going to repossess your car, mom.” Or, “You’re three months late on this bill” or “They’re going to turn off your electricity.” Then it becomes your problem.

Martin: How many bands have you been in? I’ve heard maybe three, but I know there are way more.

Justin: Maybe ten?

Todd: I first saw you in the Clorox Girls at Juvee. That was a fun show… So your dad was in a punk band, too.

Justin: They were called The Defenders. Yeah, I guess more like new wave. They’d play clubs where the skinny tie bands would play like Madame Wong’s West and places like that.

Todd: Are there any legacies, besides the Deaf Club, of Deaf folks playing in bands or has it just not happened?

Justin: There’s been a few. Most famously, there’s a band called Beethoven’s Nightmare. They were in a documentary that came out recently.

Todd: Wow. It just seems that most music is played on the radio or podcasts. And that’s terra incognita for Deaf people.

Justin: There are also different levels of hearing loss. It’s not one-size-fits-all. I’m sure there are people who are Deaf in one ear or people like Beethoven who became deaf at a later age. The bass player in my dad’s band The Defenders became deaf at a late age and they started the band after he was diagnosed as more deaf than hearing.

Martin: But if you turn it up loud enough, he could still totally play?

Justin: Well, as a bass player, you can feel the low end. My mom liked feeling the low end. We used to go to a Deaf church in South L.A. They had the speakers for the organ underneath the wooden pews and they would completely vibrate. It was a crazy feeling, and I’m sure multiple women got orgasms from it.

Todd: Or were creeped out.

Martin: Men, too.

Justin: Deaf people absolutely loved it. Now they have a lot more interpreters doing shows, so Deaf people feel like that can be part of the experience.

Martin: Tell me about doing translating for The Avengers and Alice Bag.

Todd: Did you know the lyrics ahead of time or were you just riffing?

Justin: I was at the show at Alex’s Bar, and Alice Bag was like, “So, when are you going to interpret for me?” I was like, “I don’t know. Tonight?” So she wrote out the lyrics for “Gluttony” on this tiny piece of paper and said, “Okay, it’s going to be the last song.” I did the best I could.

Usually, you’d need to prep. For Martin’s daughter’s band, The Linda Lindas, I got to go to practice and know the set list beforehand. When you see interpreters just killing it, they probably prepped for at least a week and practiced at home and became familiar with it.

Todd: Almost like a conductor, emoting and knowing what’s happening?

Justin: Well, it’s an actual translation because ASL doesn’t have a written form. It’s usually written to English but it doesn’t follow English word order. If you’re doing that on the fly, the quality will suffer if it’s music because it’s usually a little more artful.

Martin: Usually you have to do a GoFundMe to get lyrics from an artist like Alice, so I hope you kept that…

Justin: I did! I have “Gluttony” on that little piece of paper.

Martin: I also love how some of the words are your call. Like for “I Wanna Be Sedated” with The Linda Lindas, you had a choice of how to sign for “sedated.”

Justin: Sure. “Sedated” could be taking a pill or having something injected into you or just calming down. I chose the injections sign, so it was eleven-year-old girls playing and I was signing “I want to be on drugs.” But I thought that was the best translation because he’s not talking about being given a pill; I’m imagining him in a straightjacket getting the injection to calm him down.

Martin: It must be a different sort of energy signing at a concert than… well, you’ve signed at some pretty big speaking engagements for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren recently.

Todd: How are you on their radar?

Justin: I’m freelance, so when there’s an event where there’s a sign language interpreter requested each agency has contracts. It’s the organization renting the hall or maybe something like that.

Todd: And do you get their speech prior? Or do you read off the teleprompter and interpret?

Justin: In those two cases it was just on the fly.

Todd: Has anyone ever come up and said, “You killed it,” or, “You got a couple of things wrong there, buddy.”

Justin: Um, my mom.

Todd: [laughs]

Justin: And that’s why a lot of interpreters don’t want to be on TV because you can be picked apart because you’re doing multiple voices, it’s live, it’s on the fly, there are TV cameras on your face, and you just have to go, so there will be some mistakes.

Todd: I think just doing a language translation is hard enough because you’re hearing in one ear and talking simultaneously.

Justin: And it’s quick or you might hear something wrong or there’s ambient noise. After doing it for a while, if you want me to do this, I need a binder with laminated speeches on a music stand with a light clip. I need a headset monitor or floor monitor, just like if you were performing, so you can hear everything and know what’s going on. It’s like your set list when you’re in a band.

Todd: So you are in your thirties and you’ve been around the Deaf community for your entire life. What are some advances in technology that have really changed or improved the quality of life for Deaf people?

Justin: Well, think about something like Facetime. Deaf people can Facetime each other on their smart phones and sign language live in the moment. There’s something called the Video Relay Service. For a Deaf person to make a call, an interpreter will pop up on their computer screen and make the call for them. They’re on a headset and they’ll speak for the deaf person and sign directly back to them.

Before, the technology was called TTY and it was a relay service, so you’d call up and they’d say [in a slow robotic voice], “This is relay operator 5414 with the call.” And then there would be a long delay. And then you’d hear [in a slow robotic voice], “Hi, Justin, this is your mom. How have you been?” It would drive me insane. “Mom, mom, I’ll see you later,” and just hang up.

It was below phone booths in train stations and airports, and it was phone book-sized. It would pop out and you’d set the phone on it and it would make noises like a fax machine.

Martin: Like an old modem.

Justin: Yes, and it would convert the sounds into letters and there would be tons of typos. It was really hard for deaf people to make phone calls, and—the Americans with Disabilities Act, in the early ’90s with George Bush I, finally started to be enforced—so deaf people had to have professional sign language interpreters for job interviews, work meetings, and all of the above. But before that, it was just deaf people mainly using their  kids friends and neighbors who were hearing to interpret for them.

Martin: We see pictures of you signing for Michelle Obama, but aren’t most of your jobs for employee meetings at Kaiser and stuff like that?

Justin: Yeah, anywhere a deaf person has a meeting, an event, a workshop, training, or a lecture: government meetings, Social Security, doctor appointments, dental appointments, hospital ER—all of the above. We take our ability to communicate for granted, and that’s the limitation for deaf people: communication. Interpreters bridge that gap and provide equal access.

Martin: Suspect Parts is your most active band now. Earlier you mentioned that you’re in bands and you have shows, but there’s not a lot of access. Since this play, have you thought of ways to change that?

Justin: Sure, but the amount of money a band gets paid isn’t even enough to cover one interpreter for their half an hour set! Unless they’re volunteering, and  Deaf people are into the visceral experience, too. Delbert grew up in Oregon but went to college in D.C. at Gallaudet—one of the only four-year liberal arts colleges for deaf people in the world—and would go to shows at the 9:30 Club. I think the first or second time he went, the friend he went with got a black eye, and they both said, “This is the best thing ever!”

Todd: “We’re going next week!”

Justin: Exactly, and he was hooked for life. That’s how Delbert got into punk, and he was one of the  few deaf people from Gallaudet who would go to the 9:30 Club and check out all these bands. How to bridge that gap? I think the key is that if deaf people go, they just have to let people know. Then you can arrange the interpreter.

Todd: I feel the same way. With the punk rock that we’re involved in, it’s limited in financial resources, period. If somebody expresses a need and it’s reasonable—you’re in a wheelchair, we’ll try to get you in—we got it. That makes sense. So I’m sympathetic to both sides, and the big thing is people wanting to work with each other. Everybody should have equal access.

Justin: Absolutely. If it’s a venue like the Echoplex or even Alex’s Bar, if they send an email and say, “Hey, there’s going to be a few Deaf people showing up, can we provide interpreters?” Then it is on them, legally, to provide it. Under the ADA, they have to. Whether a lawsuit will be filed is another story. But they should, and probably could, find a volunteer or something. If someone said, “Hey, Justin. We don’t have a budget for this but would you mind interpreting for this event?” I’m more than happy to do it, but for music it takes preparation. For Penelope Houston, I know “We Are the One.” I’ll do that one, okay? And she says, “Okay, it’s the first song.”

Martin: Not many people can say they’ve been onstage with Alice and The Avengers. That’s really cool.

Justin: It’s really cool. As a teenager, I never thought I’d be up there doing sign language for The Avengers or Alice Bag. No way. But if someone asked me to do rap or something, nah.

Martin: Although you’ve done standup.

Justin: Yes, I’ve signed for standup comedians.

Todd: How did the jokes land?

Justin: Unfortunately, no Deaf people showed up! I was hoping they would. It was rough, and I was wondering if some of the humor would translate, like any language, like Spanish to English or Japanese.

Todd: For people who have mobility issues, a large thing that has happened in the last twenty years or so is doing curb cuts in sidewalks so people in wheelchairs can go all over the city. And when we look at it, people don’t know that’s the reason why it happened. They’re like, “Oh, I get to pull my luggage over that thing,” or “Oh, I get to push my shopping cart over the curb now.” Is there something the Deaf community pushed for and everyone benefits from now, like having closed captioning.

Justin: Yeah! That would be one example—closed captioning or subtitles.

Todd: I prefer watching TV with the subtitles, reading along.

Justin: And feel like you don’t miss something. Or Americans watching British TV. I need it but also I want to know what they’re saying.

Martin: Or some of us go to a lot of shows and our hearing sucks now.The Razorcake community, right there, benefits.

Justin: One thing I’ve really noticed is that you can say about twenty-five percent of Americans have some kind of disability, whether it’s dyslexia, ADHD, or visible or invisible disabilities, which includes deafness. And it’s now becoming part of the diversity conversation.

Here in L.A., every single film studio now has a diversity and inclusion department, and now they’re finally starting to consider the twenty-five percent of Americans with disabilities. Why not have an accurate portrayal of that on camera and behind the camera working on the set? Steps are being made to employ people with disabilities, including deaf people, and I think deaf people have been a vocal part of that, saying, “Hey, you need to make stories about us. Show us on screen. We want to see ourselves.” The next Avatar has CJ Jones, a deaf actor, who is creating a type of sign language for that planet and he’s in the movie as well. And Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actress, is going to star again in a sequel to A Quiet Place.

Martin: Spoiler alert! So Suspect Parts has a new 7”and some of you are in the U.S. and some of you are in Europe?

Justin: Well, when Clorox Girls fell apart, we were really badly in debt. So rather than go back to no job, no girlfriend, and no place to stay Portland, Ore., where I lived at the time, I went to Madrid for a couple of years and taught English and deejayed. I started this band when I was living over there because Chris from The Briefs had moved to Germany, and so we ended up getting together and recording a 7”. Later, we recruited Sulli, the guitarist who lives in London, and Andru, who lives in Berlin.

Martin: So three of you are in Europe, but not even in the same city.

Justin: Chris was in Berlin before, but now he’s in Munich. For a while, we were getting together once a year to record and tour, and this was our last recording. This year, because of the play and the Maniac tour, which lost a bunch of money, I’m not able to go back and do that again. I’m nose to the grindstone right now.

Todd: Are you fully employed signing now?

Justin: Yeah, I interpret five to six days a week.

Martin: And took a night off to do this interview. You could be out there right now.

Justin: There was a request from a hospital in Glendale.

Todd: Is there anything you say no to?

Justin: Interpreting math classes isn’t my favorite thing, although I just said yes to one.

Todd: That’s interesting because a lot of math is so visual.

Justin: But I just struggle with it myself. Plus my back is to the board, so when the teacher’s saying something I have to crane around to interpret it correctly. And if it’s a concept I’m really terrible with, like advanced, college-level math… But the rudimentary stuff is okay.

It all depends on the personality of the interpreter. Some don’t want to see blood, so they don’t want to go to the hospital or dental office. That doesn’t bother me, and I actually find medical interpreting to be rewarding because if you tell someone the wrong thing, it could literally be a life-or-death situation. You can’t be shy. You’ve got to get in there, and you can be in some gnarly situations sometimes.

Martin: That’s okay. Some interpreters don’t want to go to punk rock shows, so it all balances out. In a strange way, do you feel more whole than ever before? Because all these parts of your world are connecting now and there’s a narrative to it—one that you’ve even shared.

Justin: In screenwriting, they say, “Find your authentic voice.” Well, my authentic voice coming from a Deaf mom but growing up with punk rock, too, and to be able to bring both of those worlds together in some way. I’m still figuring it out, but I’m thinking about adapting the play into an episodic miniseries. From the stage to the screen, doing something like that could be really interesting. I’m thinking about writing a book, which is the extended version of the play but it’s different formatting and tweaking things. What can you do on the page that you can’t do on the stage? What can you do on screen?

Martin: And out of all these options, you have to think about the one that loses the least amount of money.

Justin: Right.

Todd: Start with that one first.

Justin: I think the fact that Hollywood is starting to tell Deaf stories from a Deaf perspective is really exciting. And I’m excited to be a part of that in a small way, whether it’s being an interpreter on set, writing something original that gets made, or being part of production with a Deaf director or producer like Jevon or Delbert is really cool.

Todd: Or all of the above. So I have a question: What can we do as an organization to be more Deaf-friendly?

Justin: I think just printing interviews online. It’s that simple.

Todd: Why online versus print?

Justin: Just because someone who is in Northridge or Riverside may not have access to a print version. And they might see a band on the cover of the magazine and have no idea about them. But online, there’s access to everybody. Not only Deaf people but international people.

There are so many apps now that it’s a pain, and I struggle, too, but once you figure them out, add subtitles to YouTube or Instagram videos. And if you’re a band, just putting the lyrics on videos makes a big difference to deaf people. On the Suspect Parts music video I made sure we had lyrics as subtitles so it’s not just a talking face. You know what I mean?

Martin: But bands out there should probably work on having good lyrics before putting them out there!

Justin: [laughs]

Todd: And some bands are intentionally cryptic and don’t want their lyrics out there.

Justin: Sometimes direct is good. Rock’n’roll has a lot of dunderhead lyrics that are sometimes great and then you realize, “That’s what they’ve been saying the whole time?”

Todd: The entire Ramones catalog.

Justin: I was listening to Tom Petty on the way here and he’s very straightforward. If it were said out loud, it would sound stupid. But because it’s to the tune of the song, it just makes sense.

Martin: The difference between poetry and a song, pretty much. I don’t know what else to say, but what you’ve been doing blows my mind.

Todd: I really appreciate you coming in. I think that a lot of doors are opening right now, and people are going to have a lot of conversations and share things. And making a living off these things is very important because we don’t want to fetishize people or tokenize people. But I want this to be a larger conversation for the entire culture—recognizing other people and taking steps to being more open.

Justin: Sign language is being offered in more schools than ever before and popularity is so high they can’t keep up with the demand. In Southern California, a lot of the high schools now offer ASL as part of their foreign language credit. A lot of community colleges are offering it. Cal State Northridge is the school with the third largest Deaf population in the U.S. So it’s an exciting time.

And for people who are interested in learning sign language, it’s possible to learn for free off of the Gallaudet University website, off of YouTube, or a cheap or free class from GLAD, the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness.

Martin: I also think it’s cool how punk rock was a way to rebel when you were a kid, and now you can use it to rebel against this other hierarchy. As an adult, you can use it to address this huge problem we have where people assume that everyone is the same, hears the same, and listens the same.

Justin: I think the good I can do—especially working with people like Jevon and Del as filmmakers—if they go to an event, how do they network if there’s not an interpreter there? Everyone’s talking and meeting people: “Oh, what are you working on?” Communication’s a real pain in the ass. Being able to help out really  talented filmmakers like that and getting their dream told…

I think I’m allowed to say this, but they’re making a feature film right now about Jevon, who was on the Oregon School For The Deaf’s track team who won the state track and field championship in 1986. I’ve been interpreting for a lot of the meetings and events. The momentum is going very well for them and hopefully that will be made. If so, it will be the first Hollywood movie with a Deaf director and a Deaf ensemble cast.

Todd: Again, thank you so much, that was really interesting.

Justin: Hopefully, people will like it and won’t be bored.


Tacos, Tequila, and Spider Bites. Cezar & Justin Tour Diary 2019.

3 Jan
cezar j 1

Korean Friendship Bell, San Pedro. Photo by Andrew Zappin

Tacos, Tequila, and Spider Bites.

Cezar & Justin Tour Diary 2019.

I first met Cezar Mora about ten years ago in Long Beach, California. We had a mutual Canadian friend, Vancouver artist and musician Justin Gradin. This creative Canuck introduced us.  Justin Gradin would eat a California Burrito (carne asada with french fries) from Burrito King in Echo Park daily, but that’s beside the point. 

burrito king

Burrito King, Echo Park.

Cezar told me that we could make a lot of money playing low rider car shows as a Beach Boys cover band singing in Spanish. We called ourselves Los Long Beach Boys and attempted our first song “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” in Spanish.  The translation was difficult, the rhymes were difficult, we were both frustrated.  After a couple sessions of attempting to kick off Los Long Beach Boys, we scrapped the idea and formed a band that played original songs instead.  We called ourselves LA Drugz because our drummer James Carman said that the best music is like a drug. 
LA Drugz

LA Drugz outside of Harold’s Place, San Pedro. Photo by Emilio Venegas, Jr.

There was already a band called LA Drugs from Boston, so we called our selves LA Drugz with a Z. It was partially a tribute to The Plugz, and also LA Guns.   LA Drugz recorded some fantastic material, released a 12″ EP and a digital EP and toured the west coast of America, but we were ultimately short lived.  We reformed to tour from Texas to San Francisco with England’s Fat White Family, and that tour ended with our tour van being broken into, all of Fat White’s equipment, suitcases, and guitars stolen, and those guys basically left in windy freezing cold San Francisco all wearing their only item of clothing which were matching LA Drugz T-shirts.

Fat White Family on the first date of their UK tour, the only clothing not stolen out of their suitcases in SF being their matching LA Drugz T-shirts. Photo by Polly Braithwaite.

When  I was a teenager, my Dad had a friend from Morro Bay, California named Fran.  He was belligerent and a drunk and he would frequently get into fistfights with surfers on the beach. He would only date black women, citing his preference for their shapely asses.  Fran loved blues and country music and when I told him I liked it too, he would tape me this radio show from one of his local stations.   The cassette tapes that would arrive weekly in the mail would have stuff on them like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Lefty Frizzell.   To me, blues and country were just as honest as punk rock.  Country music was American rural storytelling, songs about all night drunks, failed marriages, lost jobs, broken hearts. It was a truly adult form of music as opposed to a teenage type of music like rock and roll or punk rock.  I didn’t truly understand it until I was divorced in my early 30s.
I played in touring punk rock bands from 1998 til 2018.   In my mind I wanted to play punk rock when I was young and country music when I was old.  A few years ago I went to the White Horse in Austin, Texas and saw young guys with long hair and feathers in their hats playing real country music. I thought, “Jesus, if these guys can do it, then I can too.” What am I waiting for?  It turned out these long haired guys were Croy and The Boys, Croy being a roommate of my old friend Mark Janchar of Hovercraft Records. Small world.
When I my relationship of 8 years ended in divorce, country music was one of the few things that helped me through it. All of these singers had felt my pain too. They drank to cope just like I did.  They made mistakes just like I did.  They fucked up and hit rock bottom just like I did. They got back up on their feet just like I did.
In Los Angeles I found a small but thriving country scene at venues like The Echo, Harvard and Stone, and The Escondite.   At Cowboy Country in Long Beach I saw a great young pedal steel player named Kevin Milner. I got his contact information.  I asked Cezar Mora if he wanted to play in a country band with me.  He was one of my only friends I knew who loved both punk rock and traditional country music.  We both really dig the Bakersfield sound, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and classic stuff like Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, Eddie Noack, Willie, Waylon, Loretta, George Jones, you know, the good stuff.
Angela Ramos from San Pedro surf band Bombon agreed to play bass, and Luis Herrera (from Rough Kids, Sonny Vincent, and many more) on drums. We called ourselves The Wayward Chapel, released a live album, and played 3 shows.  Our debut on 4th of July we rode in on the back of my neighbor Francisco’s flatbed tow truck. It was truly epic.  Then Angela had a baby, Cezar started a plumbing business called Camco Rooter, and I started freelance ASL Interpreting full time.  We stopped playing.

The Wayward Chapel’s First show on top of my neighbor Francisco “Tow Life”s flatbed tow truck. 4th of July 2016

My little brother Jamie recently moved to Dallas, Texas and there was a loose plan for my family to visit him there for Christmas.  I thought about going on tour solo, playing some acoustic shows on the way to help pay for gas.  My second thought was to recruit Cezar Mora on 2nd guitar, harmonies, and some lead vocals of his own and we could do a stripped down country set of originals and covers. To my surprise. Lord Cezar Mora agreed to join me on this Los Angeles to Dallas journey.  In the end I had a lot of trouble syncing up dates with Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Marfa venues, so the tour was booked as far as Tucson, Arizona, and Cezar would fly back from there. I’d drive the remaining 952 miles myself.  This is our tale.
LA poster
Friday Dec. 13th Los Angeles, CA @ Fais Do Do
A few hours before our LA show our promoter Ryan Platero got in touch to tell us that Fais Do Do had cancelled the show because they had no PA System.  He scrambled and was able to move the show to the Grand Star Jazz Club in Chinatown.  The other bands and DJs scrambled and posted on social media, texting people, frantically spreading the word about the last minute change of location.
Cezar and I donned our hats and boots and arrived a little early, schlepping our stuff up the flight of stairs.  Little did we know, the downstairs bar at the Grand Star had a techno party downstairs. The blaring techno was drowning out the opening act Blanca, but as she was versatile, she was able to stomp her feet and adjust the tempo of her songs so that it matched the tempo of the throbbing kickdrum below.   Cezar and I were up next and it was the first show we had ever played as a two piece.  The techno totally drowned us out and I felt like I had to scream over it.  Some folks in the crowd started talking and between the techno and their talking, it was all I could hear. I couldn’t hear myself, couldn’t hear my guitar amp, couldn’t hear Cezar, couldn’t hear our vocals.  It was extremely difficult to get through.  We played a cover of “Dead Flowers” and that’s when I got into my punk rock mindset.
My inner voice started chiding me,
                       “Man, what if this is the last show you ever play? How do you wanna go                                   out?
                         You gonna give up?”
Luckily Ryan our promoter told us we only had time for a couple left.  Ending that set was like ending torture trying to play over the techno downstairs.
Before we ended our set I said, “I don’t condone violence, but in this case I will make an exception. Will someone please go downstairs and shoot the DJ multiple times?”
I don’t condone violence but I did wish death on whoever was torturing our existence with bad house music.  It was Friday The 13th after all. Did we pass the test? Who knows. We survived relatively unscathed.  People seemed to love our Cactus t-shirts designed by Matthew “Snake” Davisand screen printed by Kid Kevin Carle at Calimucho Screenprinting and we sold a few.
long beach poster
Saturday Dec 14th Long Beach, CA @ 4th Street Vine
Our friend Jim Ritson owns 4th Street Vine in Long Beach and a couple other bars too. God bless him. Our good friend Paul Gonzalez had recently had his car stolen in front of the place while he was working. His records, turntables, and DJ Mixer was inside his car. It was devastating for him as DJing is his 2nd job and one of his loves.  Long Beach rallied and raised a few thousand bucks for him on GoFundMe.  God Bless Paul.
Cezar and Paul were drinking across the street at The Social.  Cezar had his black Stetson Revenger on.  He looked killer.
We had a couple drinks and then headed over to 4th Street Vine as we were on first. People seemed to really listen to our tunes.  It was nice to not have to try and play over throbbing techno.  Our set felt good, pure, the way the songs were meant to be heard.
TJ flyer
Sunday Dec 15th Tijuana, BC @ Casa De Vilma
I picked up Lord Cezar at 10am at his pad in San Pedro and he wasn’t there. He had parked his van at his Aunt’s place in North Long Beach (down the street from Snoop Dogg’s parents’ house).  So far the communication on this two man tour was off to an excellent start.
Made the 20 minute detour to North Long Beach, found Lord Cezar and his van the Green Goblin.  Made the tetris pack into the back seat of my 2013 Honda Civic and we were off!
The drive to Tijuana was relatively painless.  That stretch of 5 freeway near the San Onofre power plant and the view of the great Pacific Ocean is so beautiful.  We stopped in San Isidro, the last US stop before Mexico to buy Mexican Car Insurance, the one thing that I forgot to do.  Typically your US car insurance provider won’t cover you for accidents down in Mexico.  We had our guitars and combo amps with us and I asked my insurance people about theft.  Geico told me that I had to buy renter’s insurance to be covered for theft, but everything in both my apartment and my car would be covered.  I thought it was a good deal, and remembering our good friend Paul in Long Beach and his recent theft of all of his DJ Gear out of his car, I went ahead and bit the bullet, buying renter’s insurance.  Now that our car and gear were fully insured, we said fuck it and crossed into Mexico!
Our friends Marco and Gabriela’s pad is over in Playas Tijuana, and to get there, you cross the border and make a hard right which leads you through this windy, hilly freeway which parallels the massive border fence to the right.  This fence is rusty corrugated steel and is about the height of 20 Honda Civics.  In between the initial Mexican border fence is the death strip, and then the US border fence.  You can see US Border trucks driving back and forth just on the US side of the fence.  The huge fence leads all the way into the Mexican side of the Pacific Ocean which ends up right at Playas Tijuana.
In Playas the fence has these murals painted onto it. They’ve made it into a kind of park.  I like it that they’ve done that.  Turned this ugly steel fence into something a bit more pleasant.  From Playas Tijuana you can literally see the skyline of San Diego in the distance.  The border is such a farce, man. It’s literally for show.  People who cross the border daily have family on both sides.  It’s people’s aunts, uncles, grandparents, neices, nephews who are crossing to visit and stay with family on the other side.  Gabriela, who lives with Marco in Playas Tijuana is studying to be a Veterinary Technician.  She crosses almost daily to study in San Diego.  Marco is studying to be an educational administrator and nearly has his Master’s Degree from one of the many excellent universities in Tijuana.

Our host Marco’s face after I convince him to try a little taste of Gran Centenario Plata

We found our host’s house and I cut my finger open on their sliding gate door. My friend Cezar told me that I was going to get tetanus or lock jaw and have to sing the rest of the tour through my teeth with my jaw stuck shut.  Nice guy, isn’t he?
We met the doggie, Vilma who their house is named after.  Marco was preparing a carne asada BBQ in their back yard.  Playas Tijuana is mellow and pleasant and a nice breeze blows off the ocean.  It was time for Cezar and I to get in our hats and boots before people started arriving the party.  But first things first, we bought a bottle of Tequila Gran Centenario, Plata from the corner store nearby and enjoyed a tragito with our hosts.
Damian Fry aka Profeta de Ajo (“Prophet of Garlic”) opened up the show with some beautiful tunes from South America.  He had an assortment of different instruments and he played and sang beautifully.
Damian Fry TJ

Damian Fry aka Profeta de Ajo.       Photo by @isabeology (IG)

Up next were Los Rattlesnakes, Tijuana punk scene veterans who recently started an acoustic side project.  The dudes later told me that they had called the band Los Rattlesnakes because of the theme of rattlesnakes in the Ritchie Valens biopic film “La Bamba”, which is also a favorite of ours.  My old friend Sulli and I got Ritchie Valens tattoos on a trip to TJ awhile back and I told them the story about it. They were stoked.

Los Rattlesnakes

Los Rattlesnakes

Your pals Cezar and Justin were up next, and the room full of TJ punk rockers surprisingly dug our set of traditional country western music.


Our set was followed by a lively afterparty and we managed this group shot before things got too rowdy!  Gracias a Marco y Gabriela and all of our new friends!  Saludos Amiguitos!!
tj afterparty
el centro poster
Monday Dec. 16th El Centro, CA @ Strangers Bar
Our poor host Marco had to jet off to work at 6am for a 7am start at the school he’s working in.  I loaded the Honda Civic as Cezar had disappeared off somewhere.  Poor Cezar slept on the couch with no blankets.  Someone finally draped some blankets over him.  I had the guest room where their roommate had just moved out and repainted the room. At first I was alright, but halfway through the night the paint fumes got kinda overwhelming and I opened the window and let some cool Playas De Tijuana aire in.
First things first, breakfast.  I remembered a place where Gabi and Marco had taken Irwing and myself on an earlier visit.  We found the place.
CJ Tj4 (4)

El Heisenbergo aka Lord Cezar has his breakfast

After much deliberation I ordered the crab omelette.  Cezar ordered chilaquiles with machaca.   I had a freshly squeezed orange juice that was cold and mildly sweet. Goddamn, it may have been the best orange juice I ever had.  The Crab Omelette was absolutely fantastic.  They had this dangerously picoso salsa roja, and I put too much on my little crab omelette tacos I made with my side of frijoles.  I was worried I might pay the price later.  It wouldn’t be until Phoenix, but oh a price I would pay.
Our hosts in TJ mentioned that the drive to Mexicali might be dangerous. My personal experience driving in Mexico is to take the toll roads and drive during the daytime.  That was the advice given to Clorox Girls during our Mexican tour in 2006, and this advice has served me well.  Lord Cezar had some misgivings, but we decided “fuck it.”
We took the toll road past Tijuana, past Tecate, and into the rolling rocky hills before Mexicali. The drive was beautiful.   I caught some shots of El Heisenbergo in his natural habitat.
Here’s what I wrote when I initially posted the photos.
Cezar and Justin made a succesful camino TJ a Mexicali y estamos en El Centro. The rock formations on the way to Mexicali were amazing. My shots of El Heisenbergo y las pinches piedras are here. The border is just for show, Los Mexicanos are our brothers and sisters. California was Native American, Spain, Mexico, THEN the US. We share history, food, culture, music, literature, art. It was our pleasure to share our music with our hermanos en Baja California. El Centro tonight with The Mellow Dicks from Mexicali at Strangers Bar. If you live here, come!
After a gorgeous drive and less than $6 in tolls, we finally hit Mexicali where we enjoyed some tacos.  There’s something special about flour tortillas in the desert: stretchy, buttery, sanguine. I don’t think I’ll ever think of flour tortillas in the same way again.  Viva Tortillas De Harina!
Our friend Ernie Quintero roadied for Clorox Girls during our Mexican tour in 2006 and he shot and edited this video.
Ernie is now a father and owns 2 businesses in El Centro, one being Strangers Bar. He told us that a Monday would be perfect, and said he’d donate all of his tips to us. What a good dude.

Ernesto had some pizza from his partner business Strangers West, and they put charcoal in the pizza dough making it dark and chewy.  Definitely interesting, definitely good!

strangers west

Charcoal pizza crust from Strangers West, El Centro.

Mellowdicks from Mexicali were a little nervous to play acoustic as this was their first attempt at doing so. They pulled it off!

Mexicali was where that stretch of the railroad came to an end, so there’s loads of Chinese Restaurants with Mexican ingredients.  There’s also loads of lovely frauliens who are half Chinese half Mexican.  A few beautiful frauliens were surprisingly at the bar in El Centro on a Monday night.  As our set ended many of them left as we imagined they had work in the morning on Tuesday. It also could have been because where we were playing blocked the bathroom.   Ernesto booked us a cheap hotel in El Centro where we were able to rest our heads after enjoying some pizza and beer at Strangers. Gracias, Ernie!



Tuesday Dec. 17th Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room


In the morning in our cheap hotel room, Cezar realized he had been attacked by spiders in the night. He had these insane spider bites all up his left and right arm.  I was spared from the spider attack.  Upon closer inspection we confirmed that they weren’t fleas, not bed bugs, not mosquitoes, definitely spider bites. Holy shit.  Poor guy was itching and scratching until we finally got him some cortizone in Tempe.

In the morning in El Centro, we had to hit a drugstore for a stomach malady I had. Old men on tour. (Don’t know why we didn’t buy cortizone here?)   Cezar made me a bet that they wouldn’t have a Nerf football in the drug store. I found a fucking football in there but Cezar claimed it wasn’t Nerf brand, so he didn’t have to pay up. Classic Cezar.

Homeopathic stomach malady video here

As we got into western Arizona, we waxed poetic on the marvels of the Saguaro Cactus.  It never fails. It takes them hundreds of years to grow and they live forever. God bless the Saguaro Cactus.


Tuesday in Tempe was pretty quiet other than me dying a slow death in the Yucca Tap Room men’s room.

After my death, I had to get in the right head space to play – which required tequila and a couple beers.   Sound was fantastic and it was amazing to hear ourselves through monitors. It may have been the first venue with actual working stage monitors.   Thank Allah for stage monitors!


Our pal and promoter Harry Jerkface opened the show with his own tunes.


Michele Lane played next and unfortunately didn’t snap any photos. Her best tune was her ballad “I love you, Bob Cantu.”  Was good to see Bob there, our old pal from Redwood Bar in Downtown LA.

After our set which felt great, Cezar and I saw two girls making eyes at us and whispering in each other’s ears, but I talked too long to the sound man about his funk band and they left.  Yes, I blew it. And no, Cezar would not let me forget about it.

We burned a little midnight oil with Bob, Michele, Harry and DeMonica.   DeMonica told us a bit about growing up White Mountain Apache and we tried learning some Apache phrases . 


Cezar’s arms were looking pretty bad from the spider bites and DeMonica found some cortizone for him.  She also suggested slicing open the bites with a razorblade and letting the poison drain out.  We vetoed this idea.

In the morning Harry made us one of his Hawaiian classics, Spam and Eggs.  I never had spam before, but it was kind of like a sausage.


Harry’s Spam and eggs were even more beautiful than this photo as he had a side of spinach and mushrooms.  Great stuff.

I had to bite back the hair of the dog that bit me. I bit hard.  This is called burning the midday oil.


Wed. Dec 18th Tucson, AZ @ Sky Bar


The drive from Tempe to Tucson was relatively painless at about 2 hours.  We hit up Tacos Apson in Tucson which was just fantastic.


Again, it’s those desert tortillas de harina that are just absolutely wonderful. We would have a couple of sonora dogs later on.   For those of you who don’t know about the Sonoran Hot Dog that originated in Hermosillo, Sonora, they typically have pinto beans, tomatoes, green salsa, jalapeño, mustard, mayonnaise, avocado and cotija cheese. Want one yet?


Down at Sky Bar we found out that it was open mic night and there were about a million dudes with acoustic guitars waiting to play.  Cezar spotted a woman with a marionette who was also on deck to play.  Cezar then spouted forth the best quote of tour:

“Fuck, now we have to play with a fuckin’ puppet show? What the fuck, man?”

Our buddy Issac Reyes from Lenguas Largas showed up with Matty from The Resonars (“Gone Is The Road” might be the best song of 2019) and our opening band The Gem Show.  Apparently our show was separate from the open mic, thankfully.   We had to fortify ourselves with some Tito’s and soda water in our tour van, the 2013 Honda Civic.

It was down to the 30s in Tucson, folks told us it was the coldest day of the year.  We met a girl from Ireland who had one of those Gaelic names that are very difficult for us doltish Americans to remember or pronounce and her friend, Jenny Calento, who had black hair with bangs and a lovely smile.  Jesus, this black haired bang thing really does me in.

We played our set followed by The Gem Show who were loud and excellent.

Sky Bar paid us very fairly and Gem Show even kindly donated their pay to us. God bless you guys.  Ben Asher from legendary Bainbridge Island punk group The Captives showed up, it had been at least 20 years since I’d seen him.  We didn’t get to chat too much. Sorry about that, Ben.

Afterwards we went to another bar with a couple of Lenguas Largas, Gaelic fraulien, and Jenny Calento.   They were playing modernish country pop which Lenguas and Gaelic did not enjoy.  Gaelic fraulien was friends with the bartender and asked me what traditional country music she should try to turn her onto.  I told her to go with the classics like Hank Williams. I also noticed some Dwight Yoakam in her playlist so told her to keep it up with the Dwight Yoakam, and noted that some of Dwight’s favorite singers were Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and George Jones.  Thought that was a good introduction to more traditional country music and the Bakersfield sound!

It was a birthday party at this little bar in Tucson and “Dirty Old Town” by the Pogues came on. The whole bar sang it.  What a fitting end to tour.

Me and Cezar’s tour playlist top 2 hits were probably “Beer Drinkin’ Blues” by Eddie Noack and “A Million Miles From Nowhere” by Dwight Yoakam.

Give unto God what is God’s and give unto Lord Cezar what is Cezar’s.

After burning some serious midnight oil with Matty Resonar and him introducing us to the excellent Mike Judge animated series “Tales From The Tour Bus” (absolutely hilarious, you gotta watch it),  I dropped Cezar at the Tucson airport and drove 526 miles to Pecos, Texas.  The next day drove 421 miles to Irving, Texas to my little brother’s place.  Had a family Christmas without much fighting or controversy which was a success!

Then drove 354 miles to Amarillo, Texas, and the next day 608 miles to Flagstaff.  A couple of days later did 256 miles Flagstaff to Tucson.  Then a couple of days later 485 miles from Tucson  to Los Angeles.  Those are some serious miles!

In Flagstaff I hit a snowstorm but was able to visit with some old friends Alex and Oakley and their 2 dogs.  Check the snow out!

My wildest night was in Amarillo, but I won’t bore you with it here!  Thanks for reading!

Happy New Year!







“Song For Sadie”

6 Jul

At my old friend Devon Sampson’s wedding in Mendocino County, I met an amazing violinist, Elizabeth Dequine. We played a few songs around the campfire and I was blown away with her playing. The next day I asked if she wouldn’t mind shooting a quick video for an original song I had written for The Wayward Chapel (country version) and Suspect Parts (power pop version). Elizabeth is 8 months pregnant, and had her other little one running around, who appears in the beginning of the video. Mil gracias a Jake Fernandez for shooting this on his iPhone. We had no rehearsal, she just listened to the chords and joined in. One take. We’re sitting on the front porch of an 1870s Victorian Farmhouse on Jug Handle Farm in Caspar, California. Here’s “Song For Sadie” Enjoy!


Jimmy Kimmel Live

12 Dec

Hello Friends,

I was honored to be a guest on Jimmy Kimmel live last night as a “sign language consultant” concerning the impostor sign language interpreter at Nelson Mandela’s funeral.

Life throws some curve balls sometimes.

For the record, I am fluent in American Sign Language (ASL) and grew up in an ASL household.  My mom and aunt are Deaf.  I worked full time for a few years as a freelance American Sign Language Interpreter in Southern California.  I’m not fluent in South African Sign Language (SASL), but it was proven by a number of sign language experts that the man interpreting at Nelson Mandela’s funeral wasn’t using SASL, Afrikaans, a tribal dialect, International Sign, or ASL.   So I’m interpreting as if the man was signing ASL which of course comes across as total gibberish.  There lies the comedy.  Jimmy Kimmel’s staff were aware of the ASL/SASL difference and wanted to be sensitive to the issues of the international Deaf community and interpreters as well.  That said, this is meant to be funny.  Enjoy.

Hugs everyone and happy holidays!



Sam Rodia’s Watts Towers

1 Oct
Sabato "Sam" Rodia, creator of Watts Towers

Sabato “Sam” Rodia, creator of Watts Towers

“I was going to do something big, and I did…You have to be good good or bad bad to be remembered.”

Sabato “Sam” Rodia, 1952

On a sunny Sunday afternoon I convinced my girlfriend to head down to South Central L.A. with me to check out Watts Towers. Growing up in a gang-rife Los Angeles of the 1980s and early 90s where Crips and Bloods reigned supreme, children were taught to be afraid of South L.A.  South Central was especially dangerous and anywhere south of the 10 Freeway was to be avoided at all costs.  In the films and television of the 80s and 90s, “Don’t go south of the 10 (Freeway),” was a common repeated phrase.

Watts riots, South Central Los Angeles, 1965. Over 100 square blocks torched.

Watts riots, South Central Los Angeles, 1965. Over 100 square blocks torched.

Riot Torn Watts, 1965. Photo by Harold Filan/Associated Press

Riot torn Watts, 1965. Photo by Harold Filan/Associated Press

Fortunately we disregarded the advice of my childhood and decided to pay a visit to Sabato “Sam” Rodia’s Watt’s Towers, a one-man 30 year creation spanning from 1921 to 1954.  Visiting the towers really touched me. I wanted to get a feel for the human heart behind this intense labor of love.

Photo By Marina Plentl

Photo By Marina Plentl

Photo By Marina Plentl

Underside of the main Tower. Photo By Marina Plentl

Coincidentally the Watts Jazz Festival was in full swing on the Sunday afternoon when we made the trip down to South Central Los Angeles.  Watts has a history of defiance, notably the Watts Riots of 1965, the L.A. Riots of 1992, and in a historically defiant work of outsider art, Watts Towers. The Towers have stood the test of time, a veritable fist in the sky against naysayers, vandals and multiple city demolition attempts.

Charles Mingus, 1976, Watts' finest Jazzman

Charles Mingus, 1976, Watts’ finest Jazzman

On the Watts Jazz Festival’s stage a charismatic M.C. declared into the mike, “Don’t let the city officials fool you. We put this together ourselves without their help. We raised the money. We put this together for the people of Watts without help or assistance from the City of Los Angeles.”  The attitude of the M.C. seemed directly reflective of Rodia and his Towers.  Rodia worked alone and completed his masterpiece without the help or money of outsiders. It was his personal gift to South Central Los Angeles and the world.


Although the Towers and the surrounding park are on the map, as far as city officials are concerned, the people of South Central L.A. are a low priority, off the radar of city government. South LA residents’ marginalization in the past led to drug addiction, gang violence, riots and turmoil. The mostly middle-aged black attendees of the Watts Jazz Festival have survived living in a place that at times resembled a war zone. They continue to have a sense of quiet yet defiant pride. The Watts festival attendees seem to prove that holding your head high and holding your culture close is one of the only ways to overcome decades of adversity. What better way to show this sentiment then throwing a free Jazz Festival in the park, run by the people for the people.  This idea seemed to go back to the Wattstax Festival of 1972 where admission was $1. They kept the admission cost low so that everyone who suffered the Watts riots 7 years earlier could afford to partake in the festivities.

Simon “Sam” Rodia was an Italian immigrant who began his new life in Pennsylvania in 1895.  When his brother died in a coal mining accident, he moved west, living in Seattle and Oakland, where he and his wife had 3 children. A tiny man, at 4’11”, he worked with his hands as a tiler, logger and construction worker as well as finding work in railroad camps and rock quarries. Many of the skills he learned in his varied manual labor occupations would later facilitate the creation of his masterpiece.

When he divorced his wife around 1909, he left his family in Oakland, moving south to Long Beach. After a few years of living and working (including relationships with 2 women), he heard about a reasonably priced small plot of land for sale in Watts. At the time, Watts was not a desirable location to live because of its proximity to both rail road tracks and the light rail tracks for the Red Car, a street car which connected downtown Los Angeles with Long Beach.  The street car and the railroad produced quite a bit of noise which made the nearby lot a difficult sell.

Rodia’s romantic relations with a woman named Benita dissolved and in 1921 he decided to buy the triangular plot located at 1761-1765 107th Street in South Los Angeles. He built a small house for himself on one side of the lot and feverishly began construction on his vision of 3 towers on the other. In the 20s he lived with a woman named Carmen. After she left him in 1927, he would remain alone for the rest of his life, dedicated to creating something great.


Rodia’s heroes were highly regarded Italians like Galileo, Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus and Michelangelo. He admired the Leaning Tower of Pisa and other noteworthy Italian architecture. He was determined to create something that matched the accomplishments of his idols. It was also rumored that he drank heavily after leaving his wife, and he felt the need of a monumental project to avoid a plunge into heavy drinking.  Rodia came up with an idea to create a giant sculpture resembling one of Marco Polo’s ships.

He built his Towers using a mixture of concrete, steel and wire mesh. He would bend steel using the nearby railroad tracks to anchor a makeshift vise. His basic masonry tools and his bare hands were his instruments to build. He decorated his towers and the walls surrounding the Towers with his neighbors’ discarded trash: glass bottles, broken kitchen platters, ceramic pottery and seashells from the beach 20 miles away. He constructed a stone oven where he baked bread as well as melted ceramic and glass items for decoration and construction of the Towers. His sense of humor is seen in his offbeat touches including a cement cowboy booted foot and teapot spouts jutting out of walls.


Rodia would also pay neighborhood kids in cookies or pennies for pieces of broken pottery and kitchenware.  He was known to the children as the “3 Musketeers Man,” because at the time, a full-sized 3 Musketeers chocolate bar cost a nickel. If the kids brought him enough ceramic pieces, he would sometimes reward them with a nickel.


Rodia worked full time in a ceramics factory, the Malibu Tile Company in Santa Monica, and would collect ideal pieces to decorate his massive sculpture. He was fired from Malibu Tile when they discovered he was stealing such a large amount of supplies. He quickly lined up other work in the area in tiling, as a security guard and as a telephone line repairman. He diligently attended work full time and remained obsessed with his project during every free moment day or night for 30 years.


To make his commute to work quicker, he placed a circular police siren on top of his car. After successfully navigating South L.A.’s streets in an imposter squad car, someone reported him.  The police came to investigate and he told the officers that he had never owned a car.  The rumor was that he buried his car to avoid prosecution.  It remained a rumor until it was confirmed in the 1990s, when the shell of a car was found buried behind one of his walls.

Despite his popularity with certain neighborhood children, he was often mocked by locals, dismissing his project as crazy or an eyesore.

Shrugging off the frequent ridicule, Rodia remained focused.

“Some of the people they say what is he doing? Some of the people were thinkin’ I was crazy, and some other people they say he’s gonna do something.”

– Sam Rodia

He would frequently walk the entirety of the railroad tracks from Watts to the rail road depot in Wilmington (about 15 miles one way), to collect broken bottles and other useful items on the side of the tracks. He used bottles of popular beverages such as 7-Up for green glass and Milk of Magnesia for blue glass.

His name was misspelled in a 1937 LA Times article calling him “Simon Rodilla.” History would correct his last name (Rodia), but unfortunately his incorrect first name (Simon) remained. He went by the nickname “Sam,” although his Italian given name was Sabato.

As Rodia’s project reached new monumental heights (his tallest Tower 99 1/2 feet tall) he ordained himself a minister and began orchestrating weddings, baptisms and other religious ceremonies in front of his towers. His ceremony had an unmarried couple entering the compound from one divided door frame and leaving simultaneously through one door. The ceremonies he performed were not recognized by the church or the State of California, but he drummed up a steady flow of marriages and baptisms nonetheless. On Sundays he would give sermons from a podium to any who would listen. Rodia built two fountains that spurted water. As the overflow of liquid seeped into his designs imprinted on the ground, it gave them an otherworldly feel.


According to our tour guide at Watts Towers, Rodia worked with his hands so frequently that his fingerprints were completely rubbed off. He bathed once a month in rubbing alcohol to get all of the building material off of his skin.  He used a window washer’s belt and harness to climb the towers, and in his old age fell off one of the Towers in the 50s, breaking one of his hips. He remained committed and finished his project which he compared to “Marco Polo’s ship.”

"Nuestro Pueblo" inscription, photo by Sarah Janet

“Nuestro Pueblo” inscription, photo by Sarah Janet

On the side of the main tower is inscribed “Nuestro Pueblo” – “Our Town” in Spanish. He was fluent in Spanish and his Mexican neighbors thought that he was of Latino origin. He attended Italo-American society meetings in downtown Los Angeles so he managed to retain his Italian identity. It is curious that he named his creation “Nuestro Pueblo,” in Spanish instead of Italian. The Italian would have been “Nostra Città.” Simon Rodia was illiterate, dropping out of school at the age of 12 when he began working, so perhaps he became more accustomed to Spanish after his 50 years in the states or maybe he knew that more locals were familiar with Spanish. Perhaps it was a nod to the region’s Latino history or the El Pueblo de Los Angeles Monument on Olvera Street, the most historic street in downtown Los Angeles.


When completed, within the walls of Rodia’s Towers are 17 structures including 3 towers, a baptismal font, fountains and the four walls that surround the Towers. A city ordinance forbade a building taller than 100 feet so his tallest tower is 99 1/2 feet tall. The inner and outer walls as well as the ground are covered in Rodia’s personalized imprints – using a garden hose faucet to depict flowers, the metal backings of chairs and headboards to create intricate imprints and also hand-placed sea shells, glass bottles and tiles. Heart designs also feature prominently. When asked about the significance of the hearts, he replied, “You know.”

During WWII, in step with Japanese internment and widespread anxiety and paranoia, it was rumored that his creation was a clandestine radio tower used to communicate with the enemy.

After 31 years of labor, in 1948 his Towers were complete, ornately decorated and solid.  Allegedly he frequently bickered with his neighbors, and some of the locals would even vandalize his project.

Finishing his masterpiece well into his 70s, he decided to relocate to Martinez, California (near his former home of Oakland) to be closer to his family. In 1954, he gave the plot of land to a neighbor, Luis Sauceda, and left his beloved Towers forever. One year later Sauceda sold the land to Joseph Montoya who wanted to convert the property into a taco stand that prominently featured the Towers, but this project never came to fruition.

Photo by Marina Plentl

Photo by Marina Plentl

In 1959 the Towers were condemned and slated for demolition, deemed “hazardous” by the City of Los Angeles. A few art advocates spearheaded by William and Carol Cartwright and Nicolas King, managed to raise $3000 to purchase the Towers.  They orchestrated engineers to conduct a safety test. A crane was attached by rope to the main tower. It was decided that if the tower fell, then the Towers were unsafe. If the tower was left to withstand the intense force of the crane, then it would stay.  Rodia’s Towers past the strength test with flying colors as the wheels from the crane were lifted off of the ground and the rope eventually broken with no damage to the tower besides a slight lean.  His tower was jokingly dubbed, “The leaning tower of Watts.”

Sam Rodia happily conducted a few interviews with journalists and filmmakers about his Towers as they began to attract international attention in the 50s.

“I was going to do something big, and I did…You have to be good good or bad bad to be remembered.”

– Sabato “Sam” Rodia, 1952

Rodia attended a conference about the towers at UC Berkeley in 1961 and appeared satisfied about finally receiving some recognition although he never visited his Towers again after leaving Watts in 1954. Sabato “Sam” Rodia died July 16, 1965 about one month before the Watts Riots violently erupted.

Demonstrators push against a police car after rioting erupted in a crowd of 1,500 in the Los Angeles area of Watts.  14,000 national guardsmen were called in to disperse the rioting and over 100 square blocks were destroyed by arson.

Demonstrators push against a police car after rioting erupted in a crowd of 1,500 in the Los Angeles area of Watts. 14,000 national guardsmen were called in to disperse the rioting and over 100 square blocks were destroyed by arson over a 6-7 day period in August of 1965.

Two years later, a photo of  Rodia was included on the iconic album cover of the Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band released in ’67  (Rodia is on the top row, far right, to the immediate left of Bob Dylan). Jann Haworth, the co-designer of the album cover was a native Angeleno, she included Simon Rodia as one of her personal contributions to the inspirational or historic figures included in the artwork.

Simon Rodia's face is on the top row, far right, to the immediate left of Bob Dylan

Simon Rodia’s face is on the top row, far right, to the immediate left of Bob Dylan

Since the towers were proven safe, in 1975 the City of Los Angeles and the State of California took over the maintenance and conservation of the towers and they became a public heritage site. The immediate surrounding area became a park and arts center.

“Through the sheer force of the creative intelligence they manifest, the towers uplift the Watts community. They serve as an urban oasis…”

– American National Biography, A.N.B.

Photo by Marina Plentl

Photo by Marina Plentl

I thought about Simon Rodia and how his tenacity, character and personality reminded me of the way Italian-American writer John Fante, also an L.A. writer, described his own father, Nicola “Nick” Fante in his books.  His father was a brick layer, often out of work during long winter months in Colorado. He drank plenty of “Dago Red” wine and was very proud at his intermittent accomplishments, constructing many prominent buildings in the Denver area. Many of Nicola Fante’s schools and churches still stand today in Northern California and Colorado.

In Dan Fante’s memoir about his family “Fante,” he recounts a tale of his Grandpa Nick in a bar fight with two Irishmen after they humiliated him. He smashed a bottle over one of the Irishmen’s head and bit the ear off another. He couldn’t handle being slighted or humiliated.

John Fante, Italian-American author and screenwriter. His father was a stubborn stonemason - Nicola Fante, and his son Dan Fante, another iconic Los Angeles writer - also ferociously stubborn, it runs in the family...

John Fante, Italian-American author and screenwriter. His father was a stubborn stonemason – Nicola Fante, and his son Dan Fante, another iconic Los Angeles writer – also incredibly stubborn, it runs in the family…

In John Fante’s book, “Full of Life,” he writes about his ferociously stubborn Italian father, who moves in with his son’s family in Los Angeles to help renovate their house when it became infested with termites.

“I felt his hot tears and the loneliness of man and the sweetness of all men and the aching haunting beauty of the living” 

– John Fante, Full of Life

The ornery tenacity of Italian-American laborers like Nicola Fante and Sam Rodia has disappeared from today’s milk toast American society.  Sam Rodia’s Watts Towers still stand, now respected but only after years of being considered the work of a crazy recluse. Rodia put up with the humiliation of being considered a laughingstock but remained ferociously dedicated to his art.  After he was forsaken from his family, Rodia had a singular focus, building something he would be remembered for.  In the still struggling South Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts, his Towers remain a testament. They reveal the resilience of the human condition. They show that a neighborhood can survive racism, poverty, police brutality and riots.  They show that a simple man can create, even a man with a broken heart.


Rock/Fight (LA Record)

13 Sep


(View this article on the LA Record Site)

A new photo exhibition has opened in Hollywood called Rock/Fight.  Most of the shots were taken at LA’s Olympic Auditorium downtown.  The idea is a pairing of 80s punks with 60s and 70s boxers and wrestlers. Half of the exhibition are action shots of  leathery brawlers mostly snapped by photographer Theo Ehret in the 60s and 70s. The other half, paired with Ehret’s bruisers are of high-energy hardcore punk bands who performed at the Olympic Auditorium in the early 80s as well as a few other timeless rock n roll shots.

The Olympic Auditorium in its heyday (photo by Theo Ehret, not a part of the Rock/Fight exhibition)

The Olympic Auditorium in its heyday (photo by Theo Ehret, not included in the Rock/Fight exhibition)

Host Henry Rollins explained the event to a full house.

“Rock and roll is a contact sport. Most of you here in this room have been spectators in one way or another at either sports events or at a rock show.  Performing rock and roll is hard work, just like boxing or wrestling can be brutal to the body of an athlete. You see these images of both boxers and musicians in these airless, windowless Dostoyevsky-ish back stage rooms, I have been in many of these rooms and they are straight off the pages of a Dickens novel.  Over there is a photo of Muhammad Ali and the heavyweight champion of rock n roll, Iggy Pop.  That’s going to be the only time I’m above Iggy Pop in anything.”

The crowd laughed as Rollins gestured to photographer Edward Colver’s 1981 outtake of the cover shot from Black Flag’s “Damaged” Album, Henry  punching a mirror. It’s framed above a 1972 Mick Rock snap of Iggy Pop bending backwards like a gymnast.

“That shot was taken just down the street,” Rollins told the audience, referring to the “Damaged” cover shoot.

Host Henry Rollins,, "Rock and Roll is a contact sport."

Host Henry Rollins,,”Rock and Roll is a contact sport.”

The event was sponsored by Peligroso Tequila.  I waited in the liquor line. I was eager to get a drink, but was able to survey the framed photographs on the wall next to the line.   The first shot to my immediate right was the Colver photo that Rollins joked about. There it was, the outtake from Black Flag’s “Damaged” LP cover shoot in 1981.

© Edward Colver, Henry Rollins, outtake for Black Flag's Damaged album, Los Angeles, California, 1981

© Edward Colver, Henry Rollins, outtake for Black Flag’s Damaged album, Los Angeles, 1981.

Ed Colver was interviewed recently on website DoubleCrossXX.com where he spoke about this mythological photo shoot:

“…The “Damaged” cover photographs of Henry…I shot at what was called the Oxford house in Hollywood. I taped the entire backside of the mirror, turned it over and broke it with a hammer, then cleaned it. The “blood” I made with red India ink that I brought with me and stuff I found in the kitchen. After experimenting for a bit I came up with red ink (for color) liquid dishwashing soap (consistency) and powdered instant coffee (for color).

We did some photographs outside with a blue blanket as a background (unused, no mood) and then some inside. The best photographs in my opinion were not used (Henry’s eyes glowing red from my flash) they were deemed too demented (those photos have been “misplaced” for over 20 years).

The back cover photo of just the broken mirror was my idea and I took it at a friend’s house in Los Feliz. I photographed the mirror for the back on Rowena Ave. To have it only reflect black, I laid the mirror on a sidewalk at night and photographed it at a slight angle as to not have my camera or I show up in the reflection. Where I shot it was two blocks from the Labianca house scene of the Manson murders. My friend’s aunt that lived a block away found bloody clothes in her alley after the murders, she lived on St. George and at the time of the murders Tex Watson lived on Griffith Park Blvd.”

– See more at: http://doublecrossxx.com/edward-colver-on-photographing-the-damaged-cover

Below the Rollins shot was Iggy Pop, “The heavyweight champion of rock and roll.”

Iggy Pop by Mick Rock. 1972. Edition of 90. Asking price for a Silver Gelatin 16" X 20" print, $2000.

Iggy Pop by Mick Rock. 1972.

Seeing some of  the Edward Colver shots were surreal, as I grew up poring through punk fanzines and had seen many of the classic early 80s punk photos on flyers, record covers,  back covers and inserts.  This one of Minor Threat was truly breathtaking to see up close and personal. My heart quickened. I could feel the energy and smell the sweat.

Minor Threat, Torrance, CA 1982. © EDWARD COLVER, 1982 Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat, photographed at The Barn in Torrance, California, July 3, 1982. Also on the bill were Dead Kennedys, MDC, Zero Boys and The Detonators. This is one of two Colver photos selected for the Brooklyn Museum's "Who Shot Rock" exhibit.

Minor Threat, Torrance, CA 1982.
Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat, photographed at The Barn in Torrance, California, July 3, 1982. Also on the bill were Dead Kennedys, MDC, Zero Boys and The Detonators. This is one of two Colver photos selected for the Brooklyn Museum’s “Who Shot Rock” exhibit.

Growing up a fan of 1982 punk documentary “Another State of Mind” I recognized Mike Ness’ outfit from the film.

Mike Ness (Social Distortion) by Edward Colver. Los Angeles. 1981.

Mike Ness (Social Distortion) by Edward Colver. Los Angeles. 1981.

And next in line finally, waiting impatiently for a cold drink, there was John Lydon to greet me.

Johnny Rotten by Bob Gruen. Atlanta, 1978.

Johnny Rotten by Bob Gruen. Atlanta, 1978.

I was asked what I wanted to drink by the Peligroso Tequila staff.   A bearded young man told me that the special was Cinnamon Tequila.  He gave me a shot of that and mixed me a tequila and OJ topped with a little special syrup and a squeezed lime.  The cinnamon tequila actually wasn’t bad, but as agave cactus and cinnamon are grown in separate regions of the world, I found the pairing to be odd.  (With a little research I found that Mexico is the major importer of “true” cinnamon. They get it mainly from Sri Lanka, who supply about 70% of the world’s cinnamon demand. Food for thought).

With tequila and OJ in hand, I weaved my way through the crowd to the restroom where I found the most unimpressive photo of the exhibition, a shirtless Lenny Kravitz (taken by Stephanie Pfriender Stylander).  Bare chested Lenny and his six pack abs go for $950 if you’d like a 16″ x 20″ Archival digital print.  As this photo was the lamest of the show (runner up being some bare boobs from Woodstock ’99 shot by Henry Diltz) – next to the crapper was a fitting place for ‘ole Kravitz.  Maybe I’m being harsh, but honestly Lenny Kravitz does not deserve to be in the company of Iggy Pop, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Black Flag and Minor Threat.  Just saying.

Lenny Kravitz by Stephanie Pfriender Stylander.  He was next to Theo Ehret's "The Champion" - Danny  "Little Red" Lopez - 1977.  Also next to the toilet.

Lenny Kravitz by Stephanie Pfriender Stylander. He was next to Theo Ehret’s “The Champion” – Danny “Little Red” Lopez – 1977. Kravitz’ location was next to the bathroom in the far corner of the gallery.. Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly’s EW.com

Now heading to the left, her Eminence Debby Harry shot by Bob Gruen in ’77.

Debby Harry/Pink by Bob Gruen. Toronto, 1977. Unfortunately this was the highest resolution I could find. Gorgeous photo, gorgeous woman.

Debby Harry/Pink by Bob Gruen. Toronto, 1977. Unfortunately this was the highest resolution I could find. Gorgeous photo, gorgeous woman.

Below Debby was this wonderful shot of Keef by Ethan Russel from the Stones’ ’72 US Tour.

Keith Richards Patience Please by Ethan Russel. Rolling Stones US Tour 1972.  The largest print size was sold out. Price? $12,000.

Keith Richards Patience Please by Ethan Russel. Rolling Stones US Tour 1972. The largest print size was sold out. Price? $12,000. Smaller sizes are available $1K and up.

Next to Keef we have The Who, fucking shit up at the Monterey Pop Festival.

The Who by Henry Diltz. Monterey Pop festival, 1967.

The Who by Henry Diltz. Monterey Pop festival, 1967.

Getting to the main dish, Ed Colver’s seminal “Flip Shot.”  Colver was chatting to folks near the shot (although they seemed to be queuing up for a photo-op with Henry Rollins). I shook Colver’s  hand and told him “good job,” explaining that I had used his “Flip Shot” for a flyer I made in High School for a punk show on Bainbridge Island, Washington.  He seemed pretty non-plussed about my story and a little annoyed at the fact he couldn’t make a beeline for Rollins.  It seemed like he had something he wanted to tell Henry, but he had to line up just like everyone else.

Rollins was telling some very-tall high heeled women an animated tale about one of his middle school teachers in DC.  The women were smiling and nodding politely, waiting for their chance to ask him for a photo.

(Pasadena, CA © EDWARD COLVER, 1981)

“Flip Shot” of skater Chuck Burke taken by Edward Colver during Stiff Little Fingers / Adolescents / DOA show at Perkins Palace in Pasadena, California, July 4, 1981)
Now the meat of the exhibition.  A massive shot of Sid Vicious by Bob Gruen from the Sex Pistols 1978 show in Dallas, Texas.  A 30″ x 50″ Digital print is on sale for 5 Grand, but there’s smaller sizes available for $800 and up if you’re so inclined.
Sid Vicious by Bob Gruen. Dallas, TX. 1978.

Sid Vicious by Bob Gruen. Dallas, TX. 1978.

And to the left of Sid, a real man. Wrestler Victor Rivera in Theo Ehrets 1978 shot “Bloodbath”

Unfortunately this was the highest lresolution of Theo Ehret's "Bloodbath" (his shot of wrestler Victor Rivera at the Olympic Auditorium in 1978). Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.

Unfortunately this was the highest resolution of Theo Ehret’s “Bloodbath” (his shot of wrestler Victor Rivera at the Olympic Auditorium in 1978). Courtesy of Entertainment Weekly. This little jpeg does not do “Bloodbath” justice at all.

Here's a snap of "Bloodbath" I took with my trusty old BlackBerry Curve,  reflection off the glass and all

Here’s a snap of “Bloodbath” I took with my trusty old BlackBerry Curve, reflection off the glass and all

And a couple photos down to the left from “Bloodbath” is this gorgeous mid-air shot of Elton, circa 1973

Elton John by Barrie Wentzell. London, 1973.

Elton John by Barrie Wentzell. London, 1973.

Muhammad Ali, "Training For The Rumble In The Jungle" by Theo Ehret. Main Street Gym 1974.

Muhammad Ali, “Training For The Rumble In The Jungle” by Theo Ehret. Main Street Gym 1974.

You had this brilliant shot of a free-for-all at Olympic Auditorium, starring Andre “The Giant”

Andre The Giant "Battle Royale" by Theo Ehret. Olympic Auditorium 1976

Andre The Giant “Battle Royale” by Theo Ehret. Olympic Auditorium 1976

Mando Ramos "Aftermath" by Theo Ehret. Olympic Auditorium 1973

Mando Ramos “Aftermath” by Theo Ehret. Olympic Auditorium 1973

Freddie Blassie "Dust Cloud" by Theo Ehret. Olympic Auditorium 1974

Freddie Blassie “Dust Cloud” by Theo Ehret. Olympic Auditorium 1974

I met a man named Carlos who grew up in East LA and was an avid attendee of many of the punk shows depicted in the Colver photos.  “Ed Colver is like our Van Gogh,” he told me.  “We grew up with all of these albums, t-shirts, going to all of these shows.  I was at both that Andre the Giant Wrestling match AND the Dead Kennedys show, both at Olympic Auditorium downtown.  The openers for Dead Kennedys were Fishbone.  They had this trombone player who was crazy, man.  A kid stage dove off of a PA speaker and knocked into him.  The trombone player tried to fight the kid.  In those days they didn’t frisk you before you went into punk shows, so the kid had a fuckin’ knife.  He pulls out the knife and stabs the fuckin’ trombone player from Fishbone.”

“What happened next,” I asked.

“Nothing. The show just went on.  The band got the guy out of there and the Dead Kennedys just went on and played.  That’s how it was in those days.  At some of these punk venues we’d be leaving the show and outside would be Crips or Bloods just waiting to start shit with you. We’d be like, ‘Man, are you serious?  AGAIN?’

Man, right around the corner, up here on Hollywood Blvd, used to be this club where Courtney Love used to hang out.  She was a stripper at Jumbo’s at the time.  One time I saw her shooting up heroin with River Phoenix in the bathroom.”

Carlos laughed. “They were just right there, man, in plain view.”

“That’s what it was like in LA back then, man. That’s what it was like.”

Dead Kennedys by Edward Colver. Los Angeles. 1982

Dead Kennedys by Edward Colver. Los Angeles. 1982

After another round of tequila, the place was getting pretty crowded and I headed out.  On the way out I bumped into Henry Rollins.  I thanked him for calling rock and roll a contact sport. I rediscovered a couple old photos of mine recently that reminded me what life was like sometimes as a touring rock and roll band on the road.  I was often treated like a human piñata and could relate to what Henry had said.

Clorox Girls live in Mexico City, 2006, Getting choked by Chilangos.

Clorox Girls live in Mexico City, 2006, Getting choked by Chilangos.

Another guy's blood on my face. Clorox Girls live in La Roca, Spain 2007. Photo by Mateus Mondini

Another guy’s blood on my face. Clorox Girls live in La Roca, Spain 2007. Photo by Mateus Mondini

I told Rollins about getting punched in the balls and choked by the crowd when my band played in Mexico City.  I told him that sometimes on tour we’d listen to his book on tape “Get In The Van.”  I told him that we could relate to his stories like Black Flag getting attacked by skinheads in Austria.  Rollins chuckled and said, “Yeah, back then it used to be, the first thing the crowd would do, is go up to the stage and hit the singer.  It’s not like that anymore, I think it’s better.  You know, most people don’t understand that type of experience.  After I went through that, everything else in life seemed easy, seemed like cake.”

The Rock/Fight exhibit will be on display until October 12th at Project Gallery, 1553 N. Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood.

Here’s a link to this article on the LA Record Site

History of LA (& OC) Punk 1976-1981

11 Sep


(Darby hurt his neckie-weckie… Darby Crash of the Germs, photo by Jenny Lens)

The Weirdos, 1977. Photo by Jenny Lens.

The Weirdos, 1977. Photo by Jenny Lens.



Live At Surf City (7″ EP1978 White Noise Records)

Main Photograph

(Pasadena, CA © EDWARD COLVER, 1981)

“Flip Shot” of skater Chuck Burke taken by Edward Colver during Stiff Little Fingers / Adolescents / DOA show at Perkins Palace in Pasadena, California, July 4, 1981)




Okay, Dudes and Dudettes…Thee LA Weekly recently printed a piece called Top 20 Greatest L.A. Punk Albums of All Time: The Complete List, and I found the list to be missing quite a few classics and gems.  In my last post, “My Favorite Los Angeles Records 1959-1971” I started my foray into LA punk history in the late 50s with Richie Valens and then through LA’s proto-punk bands of the 60s like Love, The Seeds and The Standells.  We ended in 1971 with The Doors “LA Woman” LP.


(Further reading, Marc Spitz & Brendan Mullen’s “We Got The Neutron Bomb, the untold story of LA punk:”





Okay, let’s get going…frist off, what did I forget ito include in “My Favorite Los Angeles Records 1959-1971”?  Plenty.  How could I forget the Music Machine?

music machine

I also forgot Kim Fowley’s “The Trip” (1965) !?

How could I forget The Leaves who did maybe the BEST version of “Hey Joe!”  

I was born in LA and was a Catholic school kid until I moved near Seattle in 1994.  Nearly 20 years later, I live in Los Angeles again and am attempting to unravel my own history as well as the history of my birthplace.  When I got hooked on punk I dug deep and found that my favorite punk bands were usually Southern Californian. As a teenager in a rainy small town, those bands from the late 70s and early 80s sounded exactly like how I felt.  They were bands like Black Flag, The Adolescents, The Weirdos, The Germs.

The Adolescents anthem, “Kids Of The Black Hole” was perfectly in-tune to my mindset, feeling trapped in a culturally repressed place.  (You could probably say the same for another Adolescents jam, “No Way” where frontman Tony Cadena complains about his lack of action as a suburban kid; an  80s So Cal punk answer to “Can’t Get No Satisfaction”…No ass/no head/gotta go home/and jack off instead…”)

Frank Agnew, Rikk Agnew and Steve Soto  of the Adolescents. Photo by Edward Colver

Frank Agnew, Rikk Agnew and Steve Soto of the Adolescents. Photo by Edward Colver

When I was 15, I tracked down a VHS copy of  Penelope Spheeris’ 1980 LA Punk Documentary “The Decline Of Western Civilization” in the local record store, “Singles Going Steady” and would watch it again and again, especially the footage of Ron Reyes & Black Flag.

Decline Of Western Civilization Soundtrack. The Germs' Darby Crash is on the cover

Decline Of Western Civilization Soundtrack. The Germs’ Darby Crash is on the cover

The Ramones. Queens, New York. These 4 had a contagious energy that inspired a new generation of bands from London to Los Angeles and everywhere in between

The Ramones. Queens, New York. These 4 had a contagious energy that inspired a new generation of bands from London to Los Angeles and everywhere in between

It all started with The Ramones blitzcreig of dates in Southern California in the summer of 1976 at venues like the Roxy and the Starwood in West Hollywood. The brudders from Queens also made it down to Huntington Beach and up to San Francisco.


From The Starwood’s Wikipedia page: 

“The Starwood was highly instrumental in the careers of many regional bands and artists including; Black FlagThe GermsThe DickiesThe Go-Go’sFEARCircle JerksThe BlastersThe KnackThe Kats/The Nu KatsThe Mau-Mau’sSister (band),Circus Circus (band) (going on to become W.A.S.P.) The MotelsMötley Crüe, Foxtrot, Windance, The PlimsoulsThe QuickThe PlugzSuburban LawnsQuiet RiotThe RunawaysVan Halen (who made their all-originals debut there), and X.

Some of the acts from outside of California who played at the Starwood include; The DamnedDokkenDevoThe JamCheap TrickThe RamonesDead BoysThe StranglersAC/DCSladeVince Vance & the ValiantsRush, and The Fleshtones.”

Billy Zoom from X on Elvis to the Ramones from his Razorcake Interview

“The Ramones were the first ones to figure out what it sounded like. I think punk was a lot like rockabilly and rock‘n’roll when it started. Back in the early fifties there were a lot of records that were almost rockabilly or almost rock‘n’roll. You’ve got these music history buffs that will argue about “What was the first rock‘n’roll record?” As far as I’m concerned, it was “That’s Alright Mama” by Elvis Presley, because everything before that wasn’t quite—it was like two-thirds of the way, three-fourths of the way there—they never quite got all the ingredients right. Elvis was the first one to really get the whole combination right and it just took off like crazy. He was the first then, all of the sudden, there was a hundred people, then two hundred, then four hundred, jumping on the bandwagon. I think it was the same way with punk. I think once the hippies killed rock‘n’roll, there were a lot of disgruntled musicians who had grown up with rock‘n’roll and pop music, and were looking for a way to take music and the radio back from the hippies. Take the art out and put the rock back in. The Ramones were the first one to get the whole thing right.”

Billy Zoom of X

Billy Zoom of X

Billy Zoom again, “I loved the Ramones the minute I heard them. They played the Gold West Ballroom in Norwalk and it just so happened that the company I worked for, my regular job, had just put in the sound system. I was an electronics guy. I saw the Ramones and said, “That’s it. That’s the sound.” I actually thought it was going to be the next big thing, I didn’t realize it was going to be banned from the radio. That was Friday or Saturday and the Monday after, I put an ad in the Recycler…two bass players answered the ad. The second one was John Doe.”

X (L to R Billy Zoom, John Doe, Exene Cervenka, DJ Bonebrake)

X (L to R Billy Zoom, John Doe, Exene Cervenka, DJ Bonebrake)

Who knows when the “first” LA Punk show actually happened but according to  this blog , LA Punk, the first punk show in 1977 was on January 1st at the KROQ Caberet with The Dogs, The Pop, Berlin Brats & Zolar X.

Zolar X. LA Space Aliens

Zolar X. LA Space Aliens


From YouTube channel “cometothesabbat”:

“From 1973 to 1981 Zolar X became legendary on the west coast USA for dressing and acting like space-aliens 24 hours a day. They spoke ceaselessly in an “alien language” of their own invention, which would amuse, but often infuriate the public at large. They are referred to as “Los Angeles’ first glam rock band” in the 1998 book Glam by Barney Hoskyns. Zolar X’s origin is included in author Marc Spitz and Brendan Mullen’s quintessential 2001 book on the Los Angeles punk scene “We Got The Neutron Bomb.”

In the 1970s, Zolar X’s outlandish image was matched by over the top performances, otherworldly stage sets, and their unique brand of glitter-space-rock. They were the house band at famed Los Angeles nightclub Rodney Bingenheimer’s English Disco, which was recently immortalized in George Hickenlooper’s 2004 documentary Mayor Of The Sunset Strip. Zolar X played historic gigs with Iggy Pop, Michael Des Barres, Jobriath, New York Dolls, among others. Ace Frehley of Kiss was a Zolar X fan and early supporter.”

Before “LA’s 1st punk show in 1977,”  bands like THE RUNAWAYS, THE QUICK and BERLIN BRATS were already tearing up Sunset Strip Venues like the Whisky A Go Go


The Runaways, 1976

The Runaways, 1976

Brad Elterman

The Dogs moved to LA via Detroit and NYC.  They played with the cream of the crop of the proto-punk bands in both cities.  They brought this style, napalm and vitriol to their songwriting and playing and quickly set up shop in Hollywood with their DIY Imprint, Detroit Records. They started booking a concert series called “Radio Free Hollywood.”   The intersection of Hollywood & La Brea would never be the same…


dogs flyer

The Dogs Reissue on Dionysus Records

The Dogs Reissue on Dionysus Records


From BerlinBrats.com:

“It’s circa the mid-1970’s and the Rolling Stones are recording in the luxury of the Caribbean and the New York Dolls are in the midst of their death throes….but in Hollywood, Ca. the Berlin Brats are torching the Sunset Strip, demolishing pay-to-play live gigs and bringing rock and roll into a psychosexual realm – all before the Sex Pistols have played a single note.

They were the entertainment at the raucous launch party of a soon-to-be-behemoth L.A. radio dynasty – KROQ. Rodney Bingenheimer (who) called them “The West Coast’s first Punk Band”. They performed their legendary anthem “Psychotic” in Cheech and Chong’s “Up In Smoke”. Then they helped organize “Radio-Free Hollywood” with other like-minded groups that were determined L.A. would have its own scene for music, and were soon headlining the Hollywood’s Sunset Strip.  They released a 45 (Psychotic / Tropically Hot), catching the attention of the annual Playboy Magazine’s Rock Census, who called the song “an anthem” and the band as one to beat in the industry’s largest market.  The flame was burning hot…too hot.

With the advent of punk rock and half the Brats drawn to the music and others not, the band broke up on the way back from headlining a Mabuhay Gardens show in San Francisco with the Avengers. Rick Wilder and Rick Sherman went on to form the notorious rock n roll punk band the Mau Maus, who went on create their own mayhem….”

Berlin Brats, LA's answer to the New York Dolls

Berlin Brats, LA’s answer to the New York Dolls


The Quick formed in 1976 and would play clubs like the Starwood and the Whiskey A Go Go supporting the likes of The Runaways, The Ramones and Van Halen. They released one LP in 1976 “Mondo Deco.” KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer would frequently play their unreleased Elektra Records demo “Pretty Please Me”, but the record wasn’t available in stores.  Later LA punk bands like The Dickies and Redd Kross would cover the song.

THE QUICK, PRETTY PLEASE ME (1978 Elektra Records demos, unreleased at the time, later released as “Untold Rock Stories”)



From minutegongcoughs  YouTube Channel (Thanks Dude)

“The Nerves were a mid-’70s power pop trio based in Los Angeles, California, featuring guitarist Jack Lee, bassist Peter Case, and drummer Paul Collins. All three members composed songs and sang. They managed a national tour, including a few dates with The Ramones, but they lasted just a short time and self-released only one self-titled four-song EP in 1976, featuring the songs “Hanging on the Telephone” (Lee), “When You Find Out” (Case), “Give Me Some Time” (Lee), and “Working Too Hard” (Collins). The EP was distributed by independent Bomp! Records.”

The Re-Issue “One Way Ticket” of the Nerves discography, demos and live tracks is now available and excellent.

The Nerves only 7" EP, released in 1976

The Nerves only 7″ EP, released in 1976

The Nerves

The Nerves


After the Nerves split up, drummer Paul Collins formed THE BEAT.  1979. Fantastic Power Pop.  The first 2 LPs are unstoppable.


The Plimsouls

The Plimsouls


Peter Case from the Nerves formed the Plimsouls after The Nerves broke up. “A Million Miles Away” was on the “Valley Girl” Soundtrack in 1983. They also played live in the movie.

OKAY BACK TO THE PUNK!  (continue below)

The Damned, the first UK punk band to hit US shores in 1977 on tour. New York City at Twin Towers.

The Damned, the first UK punk band to hit US shores in 1977 on tour. New York City at Twin Towers.

The Damned were the first UK punk band to tour the US in 1977. They were also the first English punk band to play in Los Angeles. According to Brendan Mullen, founder of the Los Angeles punk club The Masque, the Damned’s first tour of the U.S. found them favoring very fast tempos, helping to inspire the first wave of U.S. west coast hardcore punk. (From The Damned entry on Wikipedia).

Photo by Jenny Lens Capt Sensible of the Damned jamming with the Weirdos, playing “Pushin’ Too Hard” by The Seeds, a 60s LA band who influenced punk. The Orpheum, April 16, 1977.

Photo by Jenny Lens. Capt Sensible of the Damned jamming with the Weirdos, playing “Pushin’ Too Hard” by The Seeds, a 60s LA band who influenced punk. The Orpheum, April 16, 1977.

The Damned made quite a splash in LA with their 3 appearances.

Here’s an account of the three shows (from http://www.whiterabbitskgs.co.uk):

Saturday 16 April – Whiskey A Go Go, Los Angeles

The Damned were booked as support for Tom Verlaine & Television but the headliner refused The Damned as support.  Here’s an account of the night, from LA Punk Blog 1977:

April 16 1977 is a day that will remain permanently imprinted on my mind until the day I die. We had tickets to see The Damned and Television at the Whiskey. When we arrived for the show, the Damned had been removed from the bill and replaced. Fortunately for us, one block down, across the street from Tower Records, the Weirdos were going to be playing.’

The Germs and The Zeros played support to The Weirdos at Orpheum Theatre down the road. Sometime during the show, Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible of the Damned arrived with Rodney Bingenheimer.

Photographer Jenny Lens (wrote about) the first live appearance of The Germs – ‘ The Germs: thats the saddest story of my life… [fake crying]. Okay, I have pictures of that, almost but not quite…I didnt realize that the Germs were gonna play. I shot the Weirdos at Bomp Records on April 16 1977, maybe the first time they were ever photographed. Pleasant (Gehman) was with Darby and dared them to talk to the Weirdos and get on the bill. If they were a band, they should play…”

Jenny Lens continues, “I know the Weirdos were scheduled and I lived 20 feet from the Orpheum. The theater was on Sunset Boulevard right next to where Book Soup is, right across from Tower Records. There’s a big office building on the corner of Sunset and Palm now, but there used to be bar on the corner and a teeny 8-unit, two story building just south of it. I lived in an upstairs apartment facing the alley. I was always early to shows and parties, but I just missed the Germs because I didn’t know they were playing.

I photographed Captain Sensible of the Damned jamming with the Weirdos. That was my big picture of the evening. I just discovered a shot of Captain Sensible, Dave Vanian, the Damned singer, Jake Riviera their manager and Brian James their guitarist, sitting in the audience.

The Damned may have been booted off the Television bill but they did play the Starwood 2 nights later’.

Monday 18 April – The Starwood, Los Angeles

The Damned Set List: I Feel Alright, Born To Kill, Fan Club, Neat Neat Neat, Stretcher Case, Help, New Rose, Stab Your Back, So Messed Up.

Comments: Support from The Quick. Apparently 2 sets were played – exactly the same set.

A write-up of someone’s memories of the show states… “They belted out basically the entire contents of their debut album that night and left us wanting more. The Damned had run out of cash pretty early on in their American tour so they asked the audience to throw whatever change they had on the stage. I think they made a good amount of money gathering up what we tossed up to them. They also offered to have their picture taken with you for $10. $10 was a bit steep to afford in those days but would have made a great souvenir all these years later if I had bitten on the offer.”

Another piece on the web by M Compton states – ‘The Starwood, one of LA’s best and most missed clubs. They offered the Damned two nights, obviously expecting a huge turnout. But when the nights of the shows came around, there were maybe 20 or 30 people per show who came out to see this groundbreaking band. (As punk grew in popularity after these shows, it was hard to find any punk who wouldn’t claim they were there to see it. There was no way all the people who claimed to be there could have been there unless they were hiding behind the bar.) I went to both shows and was in heaven. The band pretty much played their first album in order, making up a set that lasted all of 25 minutes. And I was exhausted after that.”

Tuesday 19 April – The Starwood, Los Angeles

Comments: Support from The Quick.

M Compton states on a web blog – ‘The second night I dragged along my friend Jeff Wolfe, who knew little about punk, but was in the process of forming a band called the Furys that punk would influence quite a lot. For some reason, Captain Sensible took a dislike to Jeff, jumping onto the dance floor and spitting right in his face. Jeff allowed punk to influence him, but he always hated the Damned after that. I secretly found it kind of amusing. I got my own injury that night when Dave Vanian lit a flare and the hot sparks cascaded over my shoulders and burnt the crap out of me, leaving holes throughout my shirt. I wore the wounds proudly. It wasn’t the first injury that my love of punk rock would lay on me.’.


(Great article in the Guardian on Darby Crash & The Germs here)

The Germs 1977, Lorna & Darby playing their 1st show at the Whiskey

The Germs 1977, Lorna & Darby playing their 1st show at the Whiskey

Introduction by “The King of Los Angeles Radio”  Rodney Bigenheimer of KROQ and Belinda Carlisle of the Go Go’s “The reason I don’t play in the group anymore is because They’re too dirty for me…and they’re sluts.”

THE GERMS are best described as a cult. Singer Darby Crash was an LSD-dropping teenager into Nietzsche and Scientology and wanted to form not just a band, but a “Circle One” cult, where the members wore blue armbands not unlike the symbolism of the Nazi swastika. Darby had illusions of grandeur, taking the David Bowie song “Five Years,” literally telling people he would kill himself in 5 years and become immortal.  Their first show at the Whiskey, they had already become legendary in their own right even though they couldn’t play their instruments.  Darby and Pat put an ad out for “Two Untalented Girls” and that’s how they found Lorna their bassist, and a female drummer who would soon be replaced by Arizona  (“cactus head”) transplant Don Bolles.  They released a few singles and only one album “GI,”  Released in 1979, it’s poetic lyrics and searing white-hot savagery (produced by the Runaways’ Joan Jett) was called “an aural holocaust” in the LA Times.

Darby was a closeted gay man, who thought he couldn’t be the frontman of a punk band and also be openly gay. Darby OD’d on heroin in 1980, trying to fulfill his “Five year plan.”  The only problem was that John Lennon was killed in New York City on the same day which greatly overshadowed his death.

Darby would not be forgotten however,  and in recent years a book (fantastic “Lexicon Devil”) and a film, not so fantastic (“What We Do Is Secret”) have been released in his memory.  The Germs album, released on Slash Records in 1979 has apparently never gone out of print.



The Weirdos are absolutely fucking brilliant.  One of the finest of the early LA punk bands.  Started by the Denney brothers in 1976, they’d dig through thrift store bins to find the most outrageous stage outfits.  As they were art students, they could turn any bit of ripped fabric into a visually stunning masterpiece.  The Weirdos wrote some of the hits of early LA punk including but not limited to “We Got The Neutron Bomb,” “Destroy All Music,” “Life Of Crime,” “Solitary Confinement,” and many more. They also did a great cover of Love’s “Seven and Seven Is,” as well as “Pushin’ Too Hard” by the Seeds.

Music critic Critic Mark Deming called them “…quite simply, one of the best and brightest American bands of punk’s first wave.”  I have to say I agree.

Their first two singles are absolutely essential:

“Destroy All Music” (1977), Bomp!

“We Got the Neutron Bomb” (1978), Dangerhouse

Both Frontier Records and Bomp! Records did discography releases which are well worth tracking down.

DANGERHOUSE RECORDS was probably the best of the early LA punk labels although Bomp!, Posh Boy, Slash, & Upsetter put out some great releases.

Dangerhouse released bands like RANDOMS, ALLEY CATS, X, DILS, THE BAGS, THE EYES & More.  They issued a comp in 1971 called “Yes LA”

Yes LA was a stab at the "No New York" No Wave compilation that came out the year before. It even said "Not produced by Brian Eno" on the picture disc. Hilarious

Yes LA was a stab at the “No New York” No Wave compilationn that came out the year before. It even said “Not produced by Brian Eno” on the picture disc. Hilarious

Dangerhouse discography here


The Randoms ABCD 7", Dangerhouse Records 1977

The Randoms ABCD 7″, Dangerhouse Records 1977

BLACK RANDY & THE METRO SQUAD “TROUBLE AT THE CUP” 7″ (1977 Dangerhouse Records)

"Trouble At The Cup" 7" with tracks like "Loner With A Boner" and "Sperm Bank Baby"... can you say "classic?"

1977. Dangerhouse Records. “Trouble At The Cup” 7″ with tracks like “Loner With A Boner” and “Sperm Bank Baby”… can you say “classic?”




The Eyes "TAQN" EP 1979 Dangerhouse Records. "TAQN" stands for "Take a Quaalude now."  Do it, dude!

The Eyes “TAQN” EP 1979 Dangerhouse Records. “TAQN” stands for “Take a Quaalude now.” Do it, dude!



Founder of the Masque, Brendan Mullen, late 70s

Founder of the Masque, Brendan Mullen, late 70s

From the Wikipedia Masque entry ”

The Masque was founded by Scottish-British-American rock promoter Brendan Mullen. It quickly became the nexus of the Los Angeles punk subculture. It was located at 1655 North Cherokee Avenue, between Hollywood Boulevard and Selma Avenue. Many L.A. bands frequently performed there, including Needles and Pins, The Model Citizens, The Dickies, Shock, L.A. Shakers, XThe GermsThe Bags,The ScreamersBlack Randy and the MetrosquadThe Alley Cats, F Word, Backstage Pass, The Wildcats, Suburban LawnsThe Mau-Mau’sThe WeirdosThe ZerosThe AvengersThe DilsThe SkullsThe Controllers and others. The Berlin Brats, Backstage Pass, Needles and Pins, The Skulls, The Controllers, The Model Citizens, The Motels and The Go-Go’s rented practice space there. Rhino 39, one of Long Beach, California‘s earliest punk rock bands, played there often. At least two compilation records featuring live performances at The Masque have been released.


First generation punk fanzines like Flipside and Slash covered the scene at The Masque.

The Weirdos on the cover of Slash Magazine

The Weirdos on the cover of Slash Magazine

An early issue of Flipside covering The Germs as well as "Punk Roq"

An early issue of Flipside covering The Germs as well as “Punk Roq”

The Masque was closed by the Los Angeles Police Department in 1978, and briefly re-opened before closing its doors permanently in 1979.”


THE SCREAMERS were one of LA’s most original and theatrical punk bands.  Starting up in Seattle as “The Tupperwares” and “Ze Whiz Kids,” the boys found themselves in Los Angeles starting up a synth-punk band. They never released a proper record, they just had demos and a few videos. Thankfully we are left with some of these gems.  Openly gay singer Tomata Du Plenty died of Cancer in San Francisco in 2000.






The Damned hanging out with The Screamers, LA 1977. Photo by Mark Sullivan

The Damned hanging out with The Screamers,. Los Angeles, 1977. Photo by Mark Sullivan

Blog New Jersey Noise did a nice piece on The Controllers here

THE CONTROLLERS are another one of my favorite LA punk bands. They started after dropping acid on the Santa Monica pier in 1976 or 77 and apparently spray painted “Controllers” in the street.  They were the first Masque house band and apparently “discovered” the Masque, making it a known venue for other 1st wave LA punk bands like the Screamers, Weirdos & The Zeros.

The Controllers claimed to write a song about the Neutron Bomb before the Weirdos did, even though the Weirdos “We Got The Neutron Bomb” is considered paramount over the two. Nonetheless The Controllers tune captures that early LA punk energy quite well…

The Controllers 1st 7" released on What? Records in 1977

The Controllers 1st 7″ released on What? Records in 1977

My favorite 2 controllers tracks are “Jezebel,” a cover, off of the “TOOTH AND NAIL” Compilation on Upsetter Records in 1979.

Upsetter Records '1979 "Tooth and Nail" compilation is essential LA punk listening

Upsetter Records ‘1979 “Tooth and Nail” compilation is essential LA punk listening



Controllers’ Guitarist Kidd Spike on the origins of the song, “Killer Queers”:

“Hey,This is straight from the horses mouth….kidd spike hisself speaking, just to clear up a couple o’ little things. It’s always bugged me that most everybody misses the point of the song killer queers. I’ve heard it all and just chalk it up to bad recording or lazy listening. For the record, it was an anti-Anita Bryant song. She was at the time a famous spokesperson for minute maid orange juice and had begun to publically (sic) speak out against homosexuality. I didn’t think it was any of her business, hence the song and the punch line (which I stole from my sister) “Anita baby, yea yea yea….Anita blow job.”

Slash poster of Flesh Eaters

Slash poster of Flesh Eaters

THE FLESH EATERS are one of the most unique bands of the early LA punk scene.  Street poet Chris D. was the main man, singer and songwriter.  There were many lineup changes between ’78 and ’81 but I have to say the best one was in ’81 on the “A Minute To Pray A Second To Die” album with Dave Alvin (of The Blasters) on guitar, John Doe (of X) on bass, Steve Berlin (of The Blasters and later, Los Lobos) on sax, D.J. Bonebreak (of X) on marimbas, snare, and maracas, and Bill Bateman (of The Blasters) on drums.  Hoo ah!  What a super group!

My Favorite Flesh Eaters song is “SEE YOU IN THE BONEYARD” From “A MINUTE TO PRAY A SECOND TO DIE” (1981)

Great history on the Flesh Eaters here (which I plagiarized some of, thank you.)

X hanging out at the Masque in Hollywood

X hanging out at the Masque in Hollywood

We covered X for a minute earlier.  They are one of Los Angeles’ most lauded of punk bands and are still playing today.  There’s been a lot written about them, so should be easy to find more info.  I just missed them playing a free show at Pershing Square in Downtown LA.  I didn’t hear about the show until after it was over.  Biggest regret of the summer.

Here’s their 1st 7″ on Dangerhouse Records, 1978:

My favorite couple of early X tracks from their seminal 1st album “Los Angeles” on Slash Records (1980) are THE UNHEARD MUSIC & THE WORLD’S A MESS IT’S IN MY KISS

Another great shot of X at the Masque

Another great shot of X at the Masque



Okay Vatos, now we’re off to East LA which I covered a little bit in my last entry: “My Favorite Los Angeles Records 1959-1971.  East LA was a straight up Chicano punk scene that was often not included in the Hollywood Scene about 20 miles west.  THE PLUGZ famously contributed to the “REPO MAN” soundtrack, which was the first semi-mainstream film to feature punk bands. THE PLUGZ and THE BAGS were two of East LA’s finest…  Enjoy… (If you’re interested in reading more, Razorcake Magazine did some great interviews with Alice Bag recently)



Excellent debut LP by the Plugz - 1979

Excellent debut LP by the Plugz – 1979


Alice Bag on the cover of Slash Magazine

Alice Bag on the cover of Slash Magazine

THE DICKIES were the first (and only?) of the first LA punk bands to get signed to a major label (A&M) in the late 70s.

They were wacky and schticky with songs about Banana Splits and car repair men (“Manny Moe & Jack).  The singer Leonard Philips even had a song about his penis (“If Stewart Could Talk… what would he say?”)  Super Ramones influenced and bubblegummy, if you like that sort of thing (which I do), you’ll LOVE The Dickies

The Dickies, A & M Records promo photo, 1979

The Dickies, A & M Records promo photo, 1979

Album cover photo for 1979's "The Incredible Shrinking Dickies"  Best cover photo ever?

Album cover photo for 1979’s “The Incredible Shrinking Dickies” Best cover photo ever?

zzz The+Dickies+-+The+Dickies+-+White+Vinyl+-+10-+RECORD-313448

VOM “I’M IN LOVE WITH YOUR MOM”  (Richard Meltzer & members of Angry Samoans.  Genious and self explanatory).

THE URINALS “ANOTHER EP” 7″ (HAPPY SQUID RECORDS 1979) – Art School Boys make some great great punk songs…




FEAR were one of the most confrontational of all of the early LA Punk bands.  In the “Decline Of Western Civilization” footage, they baited the crowd to attack them before they even played a note.

They were friends with John Belushi who got them a spot on “Saturday Night Live” on Halloween night of 1981.  The producers wanted the crowd to be as “authentic” as possible, so they bussed in loads of punks from DC and New York.  The HC punks were tribal at the time and did not like each other. They weren’t fans of FEAR’s music either.  After a few thousand dollars of damage was done on cameras, lights and other equipment due to stage diving punks, the producers pulled the plug.  A punk band wouldn’t return to SNL for a long, long time…

Their album FEAR “THE RECORD” (1982) Slash Records, is a classic of LA punk with off tempo art beats, saxophones and baiting of everyone and anyone who takes themselves too seriously.

Lee Ving has had an extensive music and acting career and has appeared in dozens of commercials, TV shows and fims. Lee Ving Filmography

zzzfear zzfear2




TSOL (From Long Beach… fantastic…)


SOCIAL DISTORTION “MOMMY’S LITTLE MONSTER” LP (You have to admit it’s a classic)

Mike Ness fixing his hair and makeup in 1982 documentary “ANOTHER STATE OF MIND” is also classic


BLACK FLAG “FIRST FOUR YEARS” LP (Compilation of Black Flag’s first coupla singers including Keith Morris, Chavo, and Dez)

BLACK FLAG “DAMAGED” LP (Henry’s searing 1981 debut.  Cover photo by Edward Colver)

CIRCLE JERKS “GROUP SEX” LP (1980) – Keith Morris’ band after Black Flag… They had members of Bad Religion and Red Cross too.. they played a few songs by all 3… a little faster…




OFF! FIRST 4 EPS  – Keith Morris strikes again…


DI “JOHNNY’S GOT A PROBLEM”  (Stands for “Drug Ideology,” brother… “Richard Hung Himself” another classic DI tune)


AGENT ORANGE (From Fullerton, California, home of Fender Guitars, The Adolescents, Social Distortion and Cassette tape Revival)

ANGRY SAMOANS (Underrated and great)

GUN CLUB “FIRE OF LOVE” LP 1981  (Overrated/underrated whatever your opinion, still a fantastic record)

MAU MAUS 1981 (kinda boring but here it is)

1Nov 17, 1984, Black Flag & the Ramones play at the Hollywood Palladium. The LAPD crack some skulls. Henry Rollins wrote about it in his tour diary/memoir “GET IN THE VAN” which is highly recommended. Photo by Gary Leonard.


Black Flag Singer Henry Rollins, Photo By Edward Colver in 1981

Black Flag Singer Henry Rollins, Photo By Edward Colver in 1981












THE ZEROS 1980 (“The Mexican Ramones”  is what they were called at the time.  FANTASTIC)

BAD RELIGION 80-85 (Great Early Bad Religion)


Minutemen from San Pedro. 1984 LP. I'm not following my own criteria now.  I was supposed to stop in 1981...Fuck!

Minutemen from San Pedro. 1984 LP. I’m not following my own criteria now. I was supposed to stop in 1981…Fuck!

Punk Boots at Oki Dogs, a hotdog place on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood that was a popular after-show hangout in the late 70s/early 80s.  One of Darby Crash's typical end-of-show lines was "See You All At Oki Dogs." He apparently said this the night of the last Germs show before he OD'd on heroin. Photo By Edward Colver. This photo was used on Bad Religion's "80-85" Cover

Punk Boots at Oki Dogs, a hotdog place on Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood that was a popular after-show hangout in the late 70s/early 80s. One of Darby Crash’s typical end-of-show lines was “See You All At Oki Dogs.” He apparently said this the night of the last Germs show before he OD’d on heroin. Photo By Edward Colver. This photo was used on Bad Religion’s “80-85” Cover

Glen E. Friedman photo of Black Flag behind the Cuckoo's Nest in Costa Mesa, 1981

Glen E. Friedman photo of Black Flag behind the Cuckoo’s Nest in Costa Mesa, 1981


KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer religiously played punk, new wave, power pop & early 80s hardcore on his KROQ radio show, "Rodney On the Roq" The Angry Samoans wrote a song for him "Get Off The Air" that wasn't very nice...

KROQ DJ Rodney Bingenheimer religiously played punk, new wave, power pop & early 80s hardcore on his KROQ radio show, “Rodney On the Roq” The Angry Samoans wrote a song for him “Get Off The Air” that wasn’t very nice…

POSH BOY RECORDS Released some great comps with great early punk tunes and a ‘zine by Flipside inside

Here's one of the Rodney on the Roq compilation LPs. Posh Boy released the vinyl and Flipside did a great insert zine for every release

Here’s one of the Rodney on the Roq compilation LPs. Posh Boy released the vinyl and Flipside did a great insert zine for every release

Here’s ANGRY SAMOANS ode to Rodney


These flyers care of: http://oldpunkflyers.tumblr.com

These are some of my faves:

black flag flyer black flag 2 black flag3 coolflyer1 coolflyer2 coolflyer3    coolflyer5 coolflyer6 coolflyer7  coolflyer9 coolflyer11 coolflyer13 coolflyer14 coolflyer15 coolflyer16 coolflyer17 coolflyer18 coolflyer19  coolflyer20 coolflyer21 coolflyer22 coolflyer23 coolflyer24 coolflyer25 coolflyer26 coolflyer27    coolflyer30 coolflyer31 coolflyer32 coolflyer33  coolflyer35 coolflyer36 coolflyer37 coolflyer38  coolflyer40 coolflyer41 coolflyer42 coolflyer43 coolflyer44 coolflyer45 coolflyer46 coolflyer47 coolflyer48 coolflyer49  coolflyer51 coolflyer52 coolflyer53 coolflyer54  coolflyer56 coolflyer57

zflyer1 zflyer2

So what did I forget? Everything?  Did I forget your favorite band? A lost classic? Send me hate mail/love letters here: jmocheeks@yahoo.com



PS I bet you just wanted a Top 10 List… Okay, here’s 27…

My Top 27 LA Punk Songs

1. The Adolescents “Kids Of The Black Hole”

2.  Black Flag “Revenge” (1980 SST Records)

3. Weirdos – Life Of Crime

4. Controllers – Jezebel

5. Fear – I Love Livin’ In The City

6. Germs – Richie Dagger’s Crime

7. Love – Seven and Seven Is (1967)

8. Descendants – Suburban Home

9. Urinals “I’m A Bug”

10. The Bags – Babylonian Gorgon

11. The Zeros – Handgrenade Heart

12. The Nerves – Paper Dolls

13. Dickies – Manny Moe & Jack

14. The Go Go’s “We Got The Beat” (Yup, you heard me)

15. X “Los Angeles”

16. Red Cross – All of these songs:

17. The Beat “Don’t Wait Up”

18. VOM – I’m In Love With Your Mom

19. The Plugz – Adolescent

20. Controllers – Killer Queers

21. The Eyes – TAQN 7″

From where he tells you to “Take a Quaalude now” to the last song where he tells you about how Disneyland is his favorite place.  Brilliance.

22. Black Randy “Sperm Bank Baby”

23. The Gears – The Last Chord

24. Simpletones – I Like Drugs

25. Simpletones – I Have A Date



Live At Surf City (7″ EP1978 White Noise Records)

New LA Drugz Music Video

27 Feb

Hello Friends,

The new music video for LA Drugz’ “Outside Place” is finally live!  The song is from our upcoming 12″ EP on Hovercraft Records. The video is based on the 80s punk flick “Repo Man” (Harry Dean Stanton, Emilio Estevez, 1984), and shot all over Los Angeles. We shot in the L.A. River, Boyle Heights, Downtown, Griffith Park and more.  It took a full 2 days to shoot.

Here’s some of the locations we shot at: Repo Man Locations

Alex Cox's 1984 cult classic "Repo Man" starring Harry Dean Stanton & Emilio Estevez

Alex Cox’s 1984 cult classic “Repo Man” starring Harry Dean Stanton & Emilio Estevez

“Outside Place” was directed and edited by Brett Roberts, the Director of Photography was Ardavon Fatehi and it was produced by yours truly. Thanks to everyone who participated, it turned out great!

You can hear a few more LA Drugz cuts here or here.