Tag Archives: Punk Rock

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.


Suspect Parts Tour Diary 2018

15 Sep


pointy finger suspects

Suspect Parts in Kreuzberg Photo by Imke Wagener

SUSPECT PARTS released our debut album in 2017 on Oops Baby Records in the USA and Taken By Surprise Records in Germany. In August/September of 2018 we returned to Berlin to embark on another tour and to record a new single with Dr. Smail Shock at his analog recording studio Smail Shock Produktion Studio B .  In PART ONE I discussed my arrival a few days early in Berlin and my 3 day tour of the city. I enjoyed visiting the Stasi Museum, the Treptower Park Soviet Monument, Bernauer Strasse, Teufelsberg and more. You can read about my 3 day Berlin adventure in PART ONE

Suspect_Parts_Tourposter_2018_online - FINAL.png

With Andru and Saskia’s flat in Friedrichshain as our home base. I decided to jump the gun and shoot a solo episode as the debut for Season 2 of our travel show Guten Morgen Deutschland much to the chagrin of my co-host Sulli.

German Vocab. 1:

Rampensau – “Ramp Sow” (Someone who is comfortable with strutting their stuff on stage)

Lass Die Sau Raus – “Let Your Sow Out” (Be comfortable with yourself onstage)

Du Giele Sau – “The horny pig?”  “The cool pig?”

Menschen schlange – “People Snake” (a long line, “eine lange schlange”)

Geizig – Frugal, stingy

Spiesse – someone who is boring, a jobsworth

Speck Gurtel – a bacon girdle, a bacon belt – the area around a city – the suburbs

Du machst dich breit – you take up too much space

Sulli shot back with his own solo episode of Guten Morgen Deutschland 

Chris finally showed up and Suspect Parts were back in town!


The Boys Are Back In Town Photo by Sulli

We rehearsed like crazy for 3 days. We even did some “trudging” a la Black Flag for a 2nd day of practice for 8 hours.  We practiced 3 new songs to record with Dr. Smail as well as rehearsing our hits like “Run For Your Life”

Practicing for 8 hours is rough on the back so it’s important to stretch.


While practicing for 8 hours it’s also very important to take an ice cream break.


Thanks to Berlin Blackouts for letting us use their practice room!


Suspect Parts and Berlin Blackouts

Perhaps most importantly, we had to get our fashion together.  Andru decided to go with polk-a-dots this time around. Our band lampshade “Lampo” is wearing a blue vintage cowboy shirt with a “Timmy Whitey” sport coat.


Handsome Devil Andru Bourbon Photo by Saskia

We hit up some army surplus stores and I found 2 jackets that I liked. The jacket on the left was sorta like Inspector Gadget meets Gestapo and the jacket on the right reminded me of something Stephan Remmler from Trio would wear, so I got that one. It was affectionately referred to as “Remmler,” for the rest of the trip.

If you’re unfamiliar with the genius of Stephan Remmler and Trio, besides their hit “Da Da Da” you should also check out their other material. A personal favorite of mine is this one:


My friend Tim Muller gifted me this white jacket which was affectionately referred to as Timmy Whitey” for the rest of our trip

While practicing for 8 hours it’s also important to take a beer break.

sulli 1

Justin wearing “Timmy Whitey” enjoys a beer outside of the Ramones Museum. Photo credit: Sulli

As Suspect Parts are an egalitarian band with no designated leadership, we wanted Chris and Andru to sing at least one song each. We decided on a couple of covers. Chris decided to sing  “IOU” by The Replacements and Andru “Hundsgemein” by Ideal. If you don’t know Berlin 80s new wave/punk band Ideal, you should definitely check em out!



The Interior of Komet, Hamburg. What a great place to hang out!

Our favorite Schwebish guys Jens and Michael run Wild Wax promotions in Hamburg and also work with our favorite Italian, Franz of Otis Tours.  They put together an annual festival in Hamburg right off of the beautiful Reeperbahn called “Get Lost Fest.”  Jens was kind enough to ask us to play the pre-party at Komet Bar on Thursday night.

We jumped in the van with Tine our driver and tour manager, and arrived right on time to enjoy Jens’ chili (it gets better every time) and to enjoy Jens and Franz banter and argue. They are like a comedy duo – Schwebish and Northern Italian, you think it wouldn’t work well together, but it seriously does.


In the parking lot of an Aldi en route to Hamburg

We loaded in and sound checked in the Komet’s keller and got ready for a big night!  The opening band were from Catalunya and had no gear with them so they had to borrow our drums, amps, and even guitar.  They managed to break a string on our backup guitar and had to borrow my trusty ESP Viper afterwards.  I didn’t mind too much but also noticed they had placed beers precariously on top of the amp. My anger began to run a little deep as I imagined the beer tipping over and spilling on top of my borrowed tube amp on the first night of tour before we played.  Luckily no beer was spilt. Why cry over unspilt milk?

We managed to play for folks all over Deutschland and Europe.  It was a fabulous 1st show. The crowd seemed to love “Alright With Me” and “Flowers of Evil”.  Someone named Angie Action filmed us playing one of our new tunes “You Know I Can’t Say No”

Upstairs at Komet they were DJing fantastic music.  Komet is one of my favorite bars I have set foot in. Upstairs they had these airplane chairs, great old movie posters, fantastic music, great Gin and Tonics.  When “You’re Gonna Miss Me” came on, I had to cut a rug. I grabbed a beautiful fraulien and we burned some serious midnight oil on the dance floor.

Even Andru complimented me on my dance moves. My own band mate saying something nice and not making fun of me? What a great start to tour!

German Vocab 2:

Durchschnittstyp – average guy

Ich bin kein durchschnittstyp – I am not an average guy

Wir sind Dauergaste in den Hitlisten – we have a permanent slot on the hit list

Elefant im porzelan laden – Elefant in a china shop

Teufelskreis – Devils Circle (Vicious Circle)

Der rote affen arsch – Red ape ass

Der rote pavian arsch – red baboon ass

FRANKFURT @ Dreikönigskeller

We had a long drive from Hamburg to Frankfurt so we sat in the back enjoying ourselves, making bloody mary’s from our van bar, telling stories, making sandwiches, and inventing our own society, culture, and language.

If there’s one thing Suspect Parts excel in it’s supermarket shopping for our van kitchen and bar. Andru, our Minister of Mustard is excellent at picking out the best van food and drink. As it was incredibly hot, popsicles AKA “iced lollies” were a part of this list as well as various items for the van bar.

“Can I request a quick supermarket stop to get water? Water aka beer”
  • Andru, in the van


“I think if I was sucking my lolly, everyone would like to see that.”
  • Andru, outside Aldi

In a non-air conditioned van on a long drive it is important to stay cool. I recommend putting your head out of the window.

Pavianistan is the nation of Suspect Parts who speak a patois dialect of Pavianisch (a blend of German and English).  Pavianistan is an egalitarian society with no designated leadership although appointed ministers do exist in this banana republic such as:

Minister of Mustard: Andru Bourbon

Minister of Media and Gherkin Handler: James Sullivan

Minister of Moving Schiesse: Chris Part

Minister of Maneuvering and Merchandising: Tine Ones

Minister of Müll and Miscellaneous Bag – Justin Maurer

The Pavianistani National Slogan is:


Wo erdnusflips sind ist party

(Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Strong. Erdnusflips are party)

We also managed to shoot an episode of Guten Morgen Deutschland and were rudely interrupted by frigging wasps!

German Vocab 3:

Schiess die Wandan – “shit on the walls” (an expression used for general discontent)

Arsche Krampe – “pain in the ass” or literally “ass cramp”

Feierabend Bier – “beer that you would have at the end of your shift or when finishing a job”

Arsch Geige – “Anus Violin” (someone who is a pain in the ass)

Du bist eine echte arsch geige – “you are a major anus violin”

Da wird der hund in der pfanne verruckt – “There become the dogs in the pan crazy”

Schliessmuskel Sphincter

On that note, we pulled into Frankfurt and Tine and I saw a very suspicious middle-aged couple driving a convertible BMW. We thought they might steal the equipment in our van.  We also thought that their license plate said “FKK” (Freikörperkultur, the East German nudist and open body culture that was prevalent in the GDR and still exists throughout German culture).

Our hosts Dennis and Mieke made us a lovely dinner and offered us the local apfel wine and some apfel schnapps as well as some coffee. They had hosted friends of ours Red Dons, Piss Test, Macho Boys, and the Chemicals all from Portland, Oregon! (Germany is a bit obsessed with Portland, Oregon for some reason. They absolutely love The Wipers, Dead Moon, Poison Idea, and Exploding Hearts. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s just interesting! Especially interesting to me ’cause my old band Clorox Girls also lived in PDX.)

After a great dinner, we headed down to the venue, Dreikönigskeller (3 Kings Cellar). We were warned that the bar owner Nico was a little bit strange and that he didn’t like it when people ordered multiple drinks at once. Apparently the secret was to order one at a time.


Justin and Andru in Frankfurt Photo Credit: Sulli

When we arrived the bar, Andru ordered 1 beer from Nico and it took about half an hour to get it.  Nico was the only person working there and moved incredibly slow.  We were told they (by they, I mean Nico) wanted us to soundcheck on the tiny stage, and we agreed. It took us all of 10 minutes to set up and we were ready to go. Nico was working at his own snail pace. It seemed like there might be a method to his madness, but then again, maybe not. He was shuffling behind the bar, not really getting anyone a drink, but just moving things around.  The audience was already in the bar and we hadn’t sound checked yet. The DJ’s were there and had all of their gear set up.  I told the DJs they should just go on. People started smoking in the cellar and I was worried it would fuck up me and Sulli’s voices (people smoke indoors at all shows in Germany. Most of these shows are in little windowless concrete basement venues. The audience especially loves to light up right in front of my microphone).

Nico told the DJs that they couldn’t start until soundcheck was done. He then looked towards the stage and said that we had to give the Veltins plastic beer crates that Sulli had stacked his amp on back to him.  Sulli lifted his amp and I gave Nico back his beloved Veltins crates. Nico seemed pleased.  We sound checked for about 30 seconds doing the “Na Na Na” part in “Land of 1000 Dances”

Nico finally allowed the DJs to start and the place filled with music and cigarette smoke. I wanted a fucking beer.  Somehow Andru convinced Nico to give us 4 beers at once (Minister of Mustard strikes again).

We played our set, people seemed to like it.  Afterwards DJ Dirk Klotzbach played some hits including “Food Fight” by Village People and “Big Time” by Rudi.  Tine ran onto the dance floor to boogie to “Big Time” and I joined her.

A guy wearing a Harrington jacket was hanging out by our merch table.  A few folks went out to the shop to buy us some traditional Apfel Schnapps (or was it peach schnapps?) and gave us the drink with the fruit soaked in it.  We drank it.  The schnapps itself was pretty harsh, but the fruit combination thing was decent. The Harrington jacket guy asked me why I was wearing a white denim jacket. I told him that Chris had a black one, Sulli light blue, Andru dark blue, and that we couldn’t all wear the same color. He said, “Maybe you are a loser since you are the one who wears white.

Ah, sometimes I love Germany.

A woman from Frankfurt hung out by our van and told us her stories about going to Berghain, a notoriously debaucherous night club in Berlin.  She said the first time she went there, her gay friend went into the pitch-black orgy room to get it on with some guys. She was on the dance floor and said that everyone whipped out their pimmels and proceeded to abspritz onto a slip-n-slide type thing then everyone slid around in the abspritz. This story got me laughing out loud. It was the best conversation in Frankfurt.

Dennis tried to buy a bottle of apfel schnapps from Nico at the bar and Nico said no. He would only sell him a bottle of Jim Beam. Is there a method to Nico’s madness? No one knows.

Someone from the techno/hip hop dance club next door partially blocked the driveway and we couldn’t get our van out. A motley crew of “helpers” from our show got in and out of the van all giving conflicting directions. Suddenly there were like 20 people in our van.  This completely hammered Italian guy with dreadlocks kept opening the sliding door and stepping out, finally going to the drivers side and claiming he could do a better job at backing up.  He tried to get back into the van and we wouldn’t let him in. The rest of the folks in the van got out and decided to get cabs instead.  Luckily there was a very friendly Bavarian guy who rode with us to show us the way back to where we were staying.

In the morning, Dennis and Mieke made a fantastic breakfast out in our back garden and our very own Chris made some homemade hummus.  It was a lovely and civilized breakfast and we enjoyed it immensely.

dennis frankfurt

Suspect Parts and Dennis outside Tine’s “The Ones In Charge” van in Frankfurt


“How many minutes until we’re there?”
Andru begins immediately rooting around Mobicool Maxi for a beer to crack
  • Exchange between Andru and Sulli on the outskirts of Freiburg
sulli and sulli freiburg

Sulli’s mug on the Freiburg show poster

Freiburg is a wealthy town in the Badish region of south western Germany near the borders of France and Switzerland. We were told that the show would have to end pünktlich (on time) at 10pm. While a Saturday night show ending at 10pm seemed quite preposterous to those of us living in Berlin, London, and Los Angeles, we didn’t complain, it would give us more time to drink after our show.  Tine our driver and tour manager pulled us in and we loaded our stuff quite early.  We noticed a very beautiful girl on a bicycle who parked her bike and sashayed into the building next to the venue. I called her “Inge.”  We hoped she would come to our show, but of course she didn’t.

Andru tried to decide which outfit to wear that would best compliment his handbag:

After loading in, changing into our stage clothes and shaving, Sulli and I had a beer outside hoping that Inge would come out, see how handsome we were, and come to our performance that ends pünktlich at 10pm which would give her plenty of time for any other evening plans she might have.  We noticed this sign and I just had to break at least one rule in Freiburg.


Our show was written up in the cultural section in Freiburg’s local paper which brought out some norms to the show which was a completely welcome surprise. The little place was packed and people even danced!  Dancing in Deutschland? Verboten!

We had a great time playing and finished pünktlich at precisely 9:58 pm.  We were pleased with the exact calculation of our set (we’re turning a little more Deutsch every day) when one of the show organizers asked me where our driver Tine was. I told him that she was selling some records and t-shirts to some happy customers. He told me that she had to move our van immediately so that we could load our equipment out.  The staff then began running around like mental patients hauling tables and chairs and trying to reset the bar interior while our equipment and the other band’s equipment was still in there.  We heard a loud crash.  The unsettling noise was clearly the sound of an amp falling down hard.  Sulli and Andru went to investigate.  Phew, it was only the 1st bands amp.  Someone had knocked it over while rushing around carrying a table.  Nice one.  I’m sure rushing around to reset the bar is worth injuring someone or breaking a 1000 Euro amp.

I went with Tine to grab our van as the atmosphere in the place was a little intense and we parked in front of the venue.  Someone immediately came out and said we had to re-park the van.  As instructed, we began to load out our equipment, and someone else told us that we couldn’t block the bike lane that was on the sidewalk.  I’m not sure how to load heavy objects from a door to a van without setting some of these heavy objects down on the sidewalk (which would temporarily block the bike lane), but some of the folks began to grab our equipment and move it out of the bike lane onto the street or the other part of the sidewalk.  We all thought this was mental.

I began to sing “Life In The Bike Lane” to the tune of “Life In the Fast Lane” and danced at oncoming Freiburg bikers as to disrupt their right of way.  Needless to say, they loved it.

The music in the bar was a bit erratic. They’d play 2-3 great tunes then 2-3 bad ones. We asked one of the promoters if there were any more rock n roll bars in Freiburg. He said not really. He then asked us why we would want to go anywhere else when we could drink there for free. We thought this was a very good point.

The bar was long but ordering happened at the far corner which blocked the stairway to the bathroom. This made it extremely awkward to wait in line for a beer. I wondered why no one was ordering from the other side of the bar which would clear the pathway for people going up and down the stairs to the bathroom. Oh well, when in Freiburg do as the Freiburgians do.

We played some fooseball (Do not set beers on the Fooseball table!)  and I even won a game before getting unspeakably crushed by some locals.

We were staying in the apartment of a band called “Enraged Minority” I noticed that the guys in the band were 4 white guys from Freiburg. The irony of their name must have been lost somewhere.  Their apartment had 4 rooms with a massive outdoor balcony. It was one of the nicest band flats I have ever seen. One of the rooms had thousands of Euros worth of fine single malt scotch bottles and even multiple bottles of designer cologne.  The decorations in the place were posters of Karl Marx, Lenin, Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, and even an AK-47 hung on the wall.  Next to the single malted scotch and the designer cologne was a piggy bank of Karl Marx’s head.  Apparently the irony of this must have been lost somewhere.  We found a children’s book and decided to read the story of Pippi Longstocking before going to bed.

In the morning one of the band members from Enraged Minority came to make us breakfast with his small daughter.  The breakfast was lovely. As always, we appreciate hospitality and it was very nice of the guys to let us stay in their apartment and cook us breakfast.  After returning to Los Angeles, I received a message from one of the guys saying that their Pippi Longstocking book was missing. The message was insinuating that it was stolen.  For the record, Guten Morgen Deutschland never steals any props for our television program.  For the record, we are an egalitarian movement with no designated leadership, we are not communists, but we are theoretical comrades in your struggle to free the working proletariat of his capitalist chains.


We had a very long drive to Dresden and drank some bloody mary’s from our van bar

Flash, a competent, sensible, and reasonable sound-man was our engineer in Dresden. Flash patiently worked with us during sound check while saying encouraging words along the way. He had our various levels on perfectly logical settings that fit the caliber of Chemifabrik, the concrete former chemical factory that we were playing. No one was deafened or frustrated. Multiple members of the audience complimented the professional sound quality of our performance.

They gave us some watermelon before the show which was a welcome surprise.

watermelon in dresden

In the morning we met Bodie Johnson, an HB Surfer lost in Dresden:

The last time we were in Dresden, I almost pissed myself not being able to find the bathroom in the middle of the night in the pitch-black band flat.  Tine told us a story about previously driving a band and one of the guys, drunk, pissed in a corner in the middle of the night.  In her words:

“It would have been so great if he’d pissed on the promoter”
“I like your sense of humor”
  • Tine then Andru, describing the potential for confusion when searching for bathrooms in the middle of the night
sps with tine

Suspect Parts and Bodie Johnson with tour manager and driver Tine





Wir steh’n in der M 10 …





Taking the S Bahn to shoot our music video. Saskia video producer and Lampo our most important prop in tow!


suspect imke photo

Suspect Parts in the basement of The Franken, Kreuzberg. Photo by Imke Wagener.

We had to load an entire PA, speakers, mixing board, and more in and out of a van and set up everything ourselves. Special thanks to Mutti, Andru, Tine, and Hugo for setting up the PA.  We moved all of the tables around at the direction of Franken owner, Alice, and finished moving schiesse. Imke Wagener took some photos of us after we finished setting up everything and checking sound.


Sulli and Chris have a quick rest outside of Franken with the staff of Mutti’s booking Buro and Alice, owner of the Franken. Mutti’s dog also there, but forget dog’s name. Sorry hund!

The show went really well and loads of friends came out. Franken was filled to capacity. Thanks Alice and thanks Berliner Freunden!

sulli in franken basement by imke

Sulli prepares for the Franken show. Photo by Imke Wagener


Trickster is near the Ramones Museum so we joined our friends there for a coffee and some gin and tonics before the show.

cake in ramones museum

Justin enjoys cake and a coffee at the Ramones Museum


sulli and andru ramones

Sulli and Andru enjoy some cake and coffee at Ramones Museum

At Trickster we played with Love Lanes. The place was packed and we played what was our best show of the entire tour.  Everyone was singing along and clapping and dancing. It was a fantastic atmosphere. Thanks very much to Oihane and Laura and everyone at Trickster. We even did a “Down With Dons” photo shoot! We love you Berlin!

Tour Journal Outtakes and More German Vocabulary:

“Döner macht schöne – aber nur mit Soße” (Andru’s favorite Doner shop slogan)
Breznak beer = gut
“I was hoping for more of a Willy Wonka vibe rather than this Auschwitz vibe”
  • Sulli, outside the Berliner Luft factory
“That’s damn good Luft”
  • Sulli, after drinking a Luft
“Guten Morgen Deutschland is gonna get me laid”
  • Justin, considering his fraulein situation
Verzweifelt – desperate
Bumshöhle – fuck cave
Klöten – balls
“Nothing funnier than this”
  • Chris, on the death of Udo
“I like guzzing”
  • Justin, after guzzing a hund
“Man cannot live on erdnuss flips alone”
  • Chris, while eating erdnuss flips alone
Fusspils – road beer
Santa cantina

Posh teckel

Sommersprossen – freckles
Bummeltriene – the last person to do something in general
Reudig – scruffy
Bun bo hue
Nickerchen – nap
Weichblase – weak bladder
Du miststück – you son of a gun (someone mischievous or slightly naughty)
Knecht ruprecht – Santa’s little helper

IT’S A LONG WAY TO THE TOP…2 underdog rock n roll bands attempt to conquer Europe in 30 days

6 Oct
Freehand sketch by Sandra Vérine drawing LIVE at Montpellier Subsonic music festival, Montpellier, France

Freehand sketch by Sandra Vérine drawing LIVE at Montpellier Subsonic music festival, Montpellier, France

Hello Friends,

Two of my musical groups Suspect Parts and Maniac just careened across continental Europe for a month, playing about 30 shows in Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain. I did double duty and played 2 sets a night. Exhaustion and sensory overload only scratch the surface of how I’m feeling, but I’d like to share some memories before they fade away.

Photo by Chris Almeida, Suspect Parts live at Cassiopea, Berlin. L to R, Andru Burbonski, Chris Bell, Justin Maurer, James

Suspect Parts live at Cassiopea, Berlin. Photo by Chris Almeida

Being back in the US is a trip. After coming off tour, you feel a little bit of PTSD. You get used to living like a dog, sleeping on the floor, eating and drinking and pissing and shitting whenever and wherever you can.  You’re existing in a state of perpetual motion, your only goal to get to the next town and play a 45 minute set.  It involves driving, waiting around, carrying amps and drums and soundchecks and vegetarian dinners and drinking out of boredom and out of trying to get in balance with a steady stream of caffeine and booze because you know you won’t get any sleep.  And maybe you’ll sleep on a filthy cot or on a bare mattress in a mold filled punk squat filled with graffiti and sharpie’d penises crudely drawn by other drunk punk bands who stayed there before you.  You’re horny but you don’t jerk off in the shower out of respect for your band mate who is showering after you.  You don’t have a towel so you use a dirty t-shirt instead.  You sweat so much that your face begins to itch and your eyelids feel like scales on a reptile.  But for some reason it’s an addiction and when you’re not doing it your skin crawls and you feel restless and you begin to plan the next tour. You’ll probably lose money but it doesn’t matter because when you’re up there playing that 45 minute set and it really works and you’re playing together like a well oiled machine, everything is out the window because what you’re doing is pure bliss. And the people you meet will be your friends for life. And the places you visit will continue to rub off on you and you will become a different person and you forget what you are doing and then it is over.

So here I am, in godforsaken Los Angeles, two days back at work, skin beginning to crawl, ready to do it all over again.

Justin Maurer, Little Armenia, Los Angeles 09/29/15

Before tour MANIAC shot this promo vid in the Los Angeles River where many a chase scene was filmed, from Repo Man to Grease to Terminator.  The vid was shot by Ardavon Fatehi and edited by Andrew Zappin. It co-stars Lord Cezar Mora as the thief.

Revisiting our multimedia tour journal we had a lot of time sitting around, either in a van or in a pitch black dank German venue. We launched a friendly rivalry with our old friends Red Dons who were also on a European tour.  We dubbed it “The Down With Dons Movement.”


Our lead guitarist in Maniac Andrew Zappin is a skilled filmmaker and photographer. “Captain” Zappin utilized the basic iMovie app on his iPhone to create a series of #downwithdons communiques as well as a travel webseries dubbed “Guten Morgen Deutschland” starring James “Sulli” Sullivan and yours truly.  Captain Zappin transformed into our “Minister of War” and began our series of attaques on The Dons.


Pre-Tour Journal:

Justin: We got in a few days early to rehearse. We practiced on a street called Pfarstrasse and it was, well, a little Pfar from where we were staying. My first couple of meals were so flavorful, I mean I could TASTE the butter, eggs, cheese, bread, falafel, tomatoes, etc.  Coming from the land of Monsanto and excessive preservatives, whenever I go to Europe I immediately notice the food is more healthy with less chemicals. Berlin is great. Graffiti art everywhere, people riding their bikes, excellent falafel, young people walking around. The street vagabond dudes all wear camouflage pants, some of them shirtless, always drinking Sternberg beer.  Suspect Parts did a photo shoot with Christina, Sulli’s wife.

Suspect Parts in Berlin. (Photo by Chris Almeida)

Suspect Parts in Berlin.
(Photo by Chris Almeida)

We drank some Mexicaners at The Franken in Kreuzberg.  Classic stuff.   Suspects were staying at Mutti’s (Mother’s) band flat.  I don’t think there is an equivalent in the US.  You have a booker who books shows, has an apartment for touring bands to stay in, has a warehouse full of gear to rent bands, and just a well-organized, well thought out setup.  Unfortunately  someone from MANIAC hired another booking agent to do our tour but that’s another story!

28.08.15 GER-Berlin, Cassiopeia

Justin: The venue was next to this skate park and climbing wall.  Ice Cube was at the skate park in the back a few days beforehand for the NWA “Straight Outta Compton” movie.  It was very civilized behind the venue with a series of coffee shops and bars and people leisurely enjoying coffee and beer in the sunshine. The show went well, kicked em in the head.

Maniac in Berlin (Photo by Chris Almeida)

Maniac in Berlin
(Photo by Chris Almeida)

29.08.15 GER-Hamburg, Get Lost Festival (Suspect Parts during the day // Maniac at night)

Hamburg is a port town full of surly old fishermen types and well, the world-famous red light district, the Reeperbahn.  It’s in the district of St. Pauli who is the unofficial patron saint of Hamburg. The urban legend goes that Saint Pauli was a pirate who was captured by authorities.  He was to be beheaded. He made a deal with them saying if once his head was cut off he was able to run across a line, his men were to be freed. The legend goes that the headless man made it across the line and his pirates were set free.  He is the official mascot for the St. Pauli football team.

Some members of MANIAC were very excited to be near the red light district and began regaling other members in the van on past visits to the Reeperbahn. As members of MANIAC had heard these stories many times, they were mostly met with rolling of the eyes. When we rolled into town we saw our compatriots in RED DONS and we hugged and kissed them (and began to plant the seeds of the Down With Dons movement that would later prosper and flourish)

In Hamburg, the scene bosses are mostly Schwabish (that being, coming from the South Western part of Germany near Stuttgart). They are some of my favorite people in the world. They love good music, don’t give a fuck about anything and are real sweethearts.  It was good to see these people again.  Suspects played a day show in the back patio of this bar and there were people from around the world there.

The night-time show was nutso, in this two floor bar, jam packed full of people.  MANIAC played upstairs and downstairs was the mighty DEAN DIRG, German garage punk superstars.

They were fantastic, people stage diving, cigarette smoke everywhere, people doing speed in the dressing room while drinking out of a giant bottle of Jagermeister.  Real fun that was had by all. Apparently, whoever was running the MANIAC merch booth was asking every single person who came up to the merch table for drugs. Real Classy.

30.08.15 TBA

31.08.15 TBA

Because of our fantastic booking agent, we had 2 days off after Hamburg.  We decided to go back to Berlin and try and record a split 7″ at our friends’ studio on the outskirts of Berlin.  The recording was mostly a wash but we did get to go swimming in a lake that was an East German vacation hotspot.  There were naked old men, naked women, geese, children and more. Suspect Parts German bassist Andru told us about Freikörperkultur or FKK, the “Free Body Culture” movement which was the world’s first nudist movement which began in Germany in the late 1800s.Andru also taught us the word for Fat German, “Dicker Deutscher.”

Our East Berlin Lake Photo by Andrew Zappin

Our East Berlin Lake
Photo by Andrew Zappin

01.09.15 GER-Dresden, Chemiefabrik

It was raining in Dresden so we didn’t get a chance to see the beautiful historic part that they rebuilt after the bombing. We did get a chance however, to roam around Berlin in the morning, see loads of historic sites, the Spree River, bullet holes in the walls where there were serious gunfights during the war, Hitler’s bunker which has been turned into a Jewish Cultural Center, Brandenburg Gate, Soviet monuments and many more. We had a great tour given by Andru and Chris which concluded with a stop at the Ramones Museum.  The Ramones museum is fantastic and well worth a visit. As far as the Dresden show goes, not much to report.  We made the first “DOWN WITH DONS” video, that was fun.

Justin and Chris signing the wall at the Ramones Museum in Berlin

Justin and Chris signing the wall at the Ramones Museum in Berlin02.09.15

GER-Münster, Gleis 22


Munster is a great college town near the Dutch border in Northwestern Germany. It was a long drive from Dresden to Munster, we had to cross pretty much all of Germany. Gleis 22 is a great venue, I have some fond memories from when Clorox Girls opened for Jay Reatard here in 2007.  The booker Markus has been promoting concerts in Munster for about 20 years. He’s one of the nicest most knowledgeable German independent promoters out there. The morning after the show he took us around and showed us the Dome (the local cathedral) above the Dome is a steel cage. There was an uprising against the local Bishop about 500 years ago. The Bishop ordered the men in charge of the uprising killed. Their prostrate bodies were placed in this cage hung high above the cathedral to dissuade any future rebellion. The cage trick worked.  We had a nice stroll in Munster, a great cup of coffee and a visit to Green Hell the local punk record store.

We also made the 2nd “Down WIth Dons” video, as always, directed by Minister of War Andrew Zappin.

Posse in front of Gleis 22, Munster, Germany (Photo by Justin Maurer)

Posse in front of Gleis 22, Munster, Germany
(Photo by Justin Maurer)

03.09.15 GER-Kassel, Goldgrube

This perhaps was the most interesting night yet.  The show was on a Thursday night but felt like a Monday night. Pretty uneventful. However we made not 1 but 3 Down With Dons videos after they took us to the “Best Bar in Kassel if not all of Germany.”  At the bar we were given an open bar tab.  After the first round of Mexicaners was poured, a local fell off of a barstool and shit himself.  Captain Zappin helped the man up and this man’s excrement got onto Zappin’s shoe.  The smell was so overwhelming that we couldn’t drink our drinks and had to leave to get some fresh air. We tried to get the bar staff to call the man an ambulance but they instead were arguing with us about us staying and not leaving.  We told them we’d like to go to our sleeping spot, but they wouldn’t give us the address.  They instead continued to argue with us about not leaving.  Finally we convinced one of them to come with us and show us the way to the place where we were staying. I observed, “If that was the best bar in Kassel, imagine the worst bar in Kassel!”

The sleeping place seemed like it was an art student’s apartment and had themed rooms.  James, Sulli and I were in the Jesus themed room. There was a crucifix across the ceiling.  Elmo or another Muppet character was crucified to another cross in the corner of the room. Creepy turn of the century German portraits of Christ were across the room.  An organ was in another corner and I composed the “Down With Dons” theme song.

There was also a hunting themed room where our Minister Of War Andrew Zappin starred in his first appearance in the Down WIth Dons Multimedia campaign:

04.09.15 GER-Düsseldorf, Tube

Well, in Cologne they drink Kolsch, in Dusseldorf they drink Alt. It’s a battle that has existed for centuries.  Not caring for this battle, the meat eaters among us ate some meat food instead.

Tale of two schnitzels. One is Weiner Art and one is Jager art. A Dusseldorf Alt stands proudly in its glass.

Tale of two schnitzels. One is Weiner Art and one is Jager art. A Dusseldorf Alt stands proudly in its glass.

In Dusseldorf we met Vom, drummer in Die Toten Hosen and The Boys.

Dance party at Vom's! (Photo by CB Mangler)

Dance party at Vom’s!
(Photo by CB Mangler)

A super nice guy, he invited a bunch of us back to his house.  Here’s a portrait of the man by Andrew Zappin.

Vom Ritchie of Die Toten Hosen and The Boys in his place with his moose

Vom Ritchie of Die Toten Hosen and The Boys in his place with his moose “Frank.” (Photo by Andrew Zappin)

Red Dons were in Finland and paid us these two tributes including this bizarre visit with Santa Claus

In Dusseldorf, our booking agent truly showed his prowess when in his hometown he could not convince the bar owner to pay up the previously agreed upon guarantee on paper. Luckily, we were headed to France and Spain which are out of the jurisdiction of he who will not be named’s territory. But first, 6 more German dates!

05.09.15 GER-Trier, Lucky’s Luke


Trier is next to a river and in the middle of wine country. At the show there were people but none of them knew who we are. Suspect Parts sung “Kumbayah” as the closer.

Zache from Maniac went to a “jack shack” where he purchased a thong earlier in the day and wore this thong as the closer for Maniac.

The bar stayed open until at least 7 in the morning and gave us free drinks all night. It was a pretty packed dance party. They played real god awful music and so most of us left to go to bed upstairs in the band flat. Someone brought a psycho girl upstairs who called herself “Nadine The Unbreakable.” She said she was an anarchist and was trying to beat everyone up. She actually punched me in the face at least twice. Some others got it even worse.

06.09.15 – Day off

Our skilled booking agent again failed to fill a day for us, so luckily we were able to stay in Trier in the same band flat. The place was pretty disgusting but it was free and it made a perfect setting for our Magnum Opus of all Down With Dons Videos. This was Director Andrew Zappin’s Citizen Kane.

Also around this time some Down With Dons copycat videos started making their way around the globe, like this one, starring Kenton McDonald in Portland, Oregon

We also had a nice time strolling around the old part of Trier, really gorgeous architecture, a cathedral, Roman walls, ruins of bath houses and more. We began our travel show “Guten Morgen Deutschland” here in Trier, sponsored by Lowenbrau, “Das Bier Fur Trier!”

On the way out of Trier, we drove through the tiny country of Luxembourg, where we shot another episode of “Guten Morgen Deutschland”

07.09.15 GER-Aachen, AZ @ Some Irish Pub

Ooh, this was a brutal one.  Maybe the only good part was staying with our friend from the Komplications. He had Nazi knives and cool stuff at his place (Disclaimer, none of us are Nazis obviously). He let us raid his warehouse thrift shop in the morning. Super super super nice dude.

Here he is, singing in the Komplications. If you like The Screamers, you will dig Komplications. Keys, drums, vocals.

Also, we found a Red Dons fan outside the Irish Pub and shot the first “Up With Dons” video:

08.09.15 GER-Köln, Sonic Ballroom

Our old friend Roman is the booker at Sonic Ballroom.  Played here many times, a classic Deutsche venue.

We shot another episode of our travel show “Guten Morgen Deutschland” here at the world famous Dome in Cologne:

Thanks to Frau Mony for shooting these vids:

09.09.15 GER-Karlsruhe, Alte Hackerei

On our way to Karlsruhe we shot this episode of “Guten Morgen Deutschland”

Karlsruhe is Badish which is right next to Schwabisch turf in SouthWestern Deutschland.  One of the local specialties is spaetzle.  My Schwabisch friends who now reside in Hamburg are always arguing about who cooks the best spaetzle among them.  It’s good stuff.  The one we had was near the small red light district of Karlsruhe and was sorta like a glorified mac and cheese, not the deliciousness I remembered.  Anyhoo, when in Badish or Scwabisch turf, be sure to try the spaetzle. We got kinda unlucky in our spot.  The beer was good though.   

Alte Hackerei literally means “old hackery,” it used to be a slaughterhouse and now is a venue for punk and alternative music.  The bar and back area were very nice and the fooseball table quite good.  We played with Party Force from Oakland, California who were friendly fellas and we sampled the local schnapps at the bar.  Not a bad time in Badish Deutschland.

10.09.15 GER-Tübingen, Hegelstraße 7

Ah Tubingen, an interesting night.  We made friends with some Calgarians called Teledrome who were also playing.

They were an electro pop new wave kinda band which was really refreshing in the land of bad 90s punk.  We danced pretty hard for them and they in turn danced pretty hard for us.

It was Chris’ friend Brandon Madrid’s birthday and we dedicated our wild breakdown to him:

Afterwards there was a baby crawling on the floor of a punk squat, some bad pink speed going around, drummer of Teledrome talking like Jeff Spicolli and more

11.09.15 SUI-Luzern, Sedel

It was a beautiful drive to Luzern, Switzerland even though Andru Bourbon called it “Country Of Freaks” and “City of Freaks.”  Our other Andrew, Captain Zappin, Minister of War, had to piss pretty bad as we were stuck in traffic in the middle of Zurich City Center.  He finally pissed in a bottle. The first bottle piss of tour.

We were playing this venue next to these cow pastures, right on the foot of the Alps.  You could hear the cow bells jangling around the cows’ necks as we loaded in.  The backstage spread was excellent, unparalleled. Literally the best tasting cheese you could imagine.  The beer was great too. Beer made with glacial water from the Alps?  Fantastic. They had 3 cooks backstage cooking us a beautiful homecooked meal. The Swiss treated us pretty well and it won’t be forgotten.

12.09.15 FRA-Montpellier, Subsonic Open Air

Again some genius booking on our agent’s part, we had to wake up at 5am to make it to 5pm loadin in Montpellier. We hauled ass with Chris behind the wheel and he didn’t accept my offer of Swiss Cheese.  See him star in an Andrew Zappin film here (Music by La Femme)

After paying hundreds of Euros in tolls to the French, we made it to Montpellier. It was raining so they moved the Open Air Festival indoors.

We met the guys from Le Grys Grys and their girlfriends, all nice people

Some of our friends from Valencia were there and reminded us of Paella and Wau Y Los Arrghs!

Sylvie and her husband have been doing Subsonic for many years now.  They put together a great little shindig and everybody had a great time.  It was raining but Sulli, Bourbon and I along with the Valencians got an espresso and a pastis before playing.  Perfect.  That is some wake up juice.  It was Sulli’s birthday at midnight and folks sang “Happy Birthday” in English, French and Spanish. Good stuff. We stayed up very late with Isidro from Valencia and the Grys Grys guys. It was fun. Ardy our roadie, photographer, raconteur, international man of mystery, got into town and showed up at 6:30am. The sleeping place was closed and he slept on the sidewalk. Welcome to tour Ardy. Next stop, carajillo country.

Maniac in Montpellier @ Subsonic Festival. Photo by Sue Rynski

Maniac in Montpellier @ Subsonic Festival.
Photo by Sue Rynski

13.09.15 ESP-Barcelona, Freedonia

Crossing the border into Spain is a beautiful thing.  CATALUNYA rather. The beer is colder, the food tastes better, the people friendlier, the sun sunnier.  God damn we started having fun.  Barcelona was a small little venue with a cocktail bar in the front.  It was in Raval which is an immigrant neighborhood and can be one of the seediest ‘hoods in Barcelona, especially on weekend nights.  We were there on a weekday and it was relatively peaceful excepting someone trying to steal a diner’s jacket while eating in broad daylight on the terrace of an Indian restaurant.  After the show we went to a gay bar and had a fantastic time.  The Gin and Tonics were huge, cold, cheap and delicious.  Some of our party disappeared to do speed until 9 in the morning. The rest of our party slept.

14.09.15 ESP-Terrassa, Skorpions Bar

Speed takes its toll

Photo by Ardavon Fatehi

Had a nice walkabout all around Barcelona in the daytime, mostly the tourist stuff but it was a beautiful day.  This gent played some accordion for us.

Photo by Ardavon Fatehi

Photo by Ardavon Fatehi

The markets had some of the finest jamon as sampled by Captain Zappin and yours truly. Ardy found this great graffiti in Terassa

La Policia Esnifa Cocaina. Our very own man about town Ardavon Fatehi. Photo by Andrew Zappin

La Policia Esnifa Cocaina. Our very own man about town Ardavon Fatehi.
Photo by Andrew Zappin

Terassa is on the outskirts of Barcelona and this beautiful man put on our show.  For a Monday night it was a fantastic turnout. It seemed like the whole village showed up.  On the way back to Ori’s apartment he kept telling us he had this huge pitbull and that we had to be careful. He actually had some of us spooked.  When we got to his house we met the “pitbull” this shy little guy:


15.09.15 ESP-Bilbao, Satélite T

Next stop was the Basque Country.  Bilbao, home of Eskorbuto.

Unfortunately we weren’t playing in Donosti/San Sebastian, home of fine fine pintxos and a beautiful beach, but a beautiful time was had in Bilbao. They made us a fine dinner with wine.

Basque hospitality in Bilbao

Basque hospitality in Bilbao

Justin and Sulli cleaning up in Bilbao. Ardy in background wearing a sweet beret

Justin and Sulli cleaning up in Bilbao. Ardy in background wearing a sweet beret

16.09.15 ESP-Oviedo, Lata de Zinc

Next we were off to Asturias, home of Asturian leche and cidra.

Red Dons struck back by burning a fabricated Suspect Parts Setlist:

We stopped at the beach on the way where this epic Down With Dons video was shot

There was an insane staircase to load all of the gear into the basement where the stage was. They cooked us very good vegetarian food at the venue. Afterwards was a nutso local Catholic festival which in Spain means a lot of drinking and bars staying open as late as possible, some in this case 4am or 6am.  We drank some local cider and went to a lot of bars. Cobblestone streets, people wandering around.  A very social occasion, the festival of San Mateo. La Resaca was muy fuerte.

17.09.15 ESP-Alcala de Henares, Ego Live

Alcala de Henares is on the outskirts of Madrid. It is known as the birthplace of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote. It was a quiet night but Spain beat France in the Euro basketball championships so people were happy. Sulli and I had an excellent carajillo next door.  The promoter was a gentleman who paid us our guarantee even though he lost money on the show. Hotel was across the street and very comfortable.

18.09.15 ESP-Sevilla, Sala X

sala x

Sevilla was an amazing city, way down in Andalucía. It was impossible to park the van anywhere because the parking garages wouldn’t fit our German van. Narrow cobblestone streets, old people and children in public squares, bars and cafes everywhere. Beautiful city. No one at the show but we got our crazy guarantee of 500 Euros. The promoters of our show actually lived in Grenada but did no promotion in Sevilla.  Very strange scenario. But our friends at Holy Cuervo in Madrid were taking care of everything so we got a hotel and the guarantee.  Worth the trip to Sevilla just for the food and the sights and the smells. Wonderful to be in Andalucía.

Roadside bar in rural Spain (photo by Andrew Zappin)

Roadside bar in rural Spain (photo by Andrew Zappin)

19.09.15 ESP-Madrid, Wurlitzer Ballroom

Madrid, mi ciudad natal. Wonderful to see Gran Via again. Malasana. El Wurley. El Omni bar. Nacho took good care of us but again a parking nightmare. Chris had to head back to our hotel and put a chair in the road to save a parking space for our van. He sat in the chair and drank a bottle of wine and waited for the van and gear to return. Sulli , Chris and I were booked to do a DJ set at Weirdo Bar but Chris wasn’t able to make it . Andru had to drive the van so he couldn’t make it either. Ardy AKA DJ Madrid filled in as DJ while I loaded the gear in the van. DJ James Carman also jammed some hits. Captain Zappin and I stayed behind because he had to film a very special message for Red Dons. The Captain finally declared a temporary armistice. Peace between Suspects Maniac and Red Dons had finally been declared.


MANIAC went back to Los Angeles from Madrid and Suspect Parts continued the righteous quest back to Berlin. I will keep these last few brief.

20.09.15 ESP- Valencia, Magazine Club

One word. Paella. They made us one. With conejo and costillas. Chris and Sulli are vegetarian but they pushed the meat aside to eat the rice. That should tell you how good it was.

21.09.15 ESP- Sant Feliu, Atzavara Club

Back up to Catalunya it was a beautiful drive along the Mediterranean coast. We went to the beach twice.

First on our own

Suspects on the beach. Costa Brava, Catalunya

Suspects on the beach. Costa Brava, Catalunya

Then since an armistice was officially declared we met up with Red Dons on the beach in neutral turf, Catalunya.

Suspects and Red Dons meet on the beach in Catalunya. Peace is declared!

Suspects and Red Dons meet on the beach in Catalunya. Peace is declared!

They treated us very well at Atzavara Club. Red wine, bbq and a great community organized volunteer-run club. It was Chris’ birthday and everyone sang him happy birthday in Catalan. Good stuff!  He drank red wine and was a happy boy.

23.09.15 GER- Munich, Kiste

A long drive to Munich from Catalunya. We crossed France, Switzerland and Bavaria and finally made it to Munich at about 7am. We stayed with Chris and his wife Laura. Great bakeries in Munich. We visited Michl Krenner’s new record shop, Black Wave Records and made the necessary trip to the Augustiner Brauhaus. The show was in this weird techno bar, but went well and had a great time DJing with Michl afterwards. Viva Bayern!

Sophia, Michl, Herbie, Sulli, Justin in Munich

Sophia, Michl, Herbie, Sulli, Justin in Munich

24.09.15 GER- Berlin, Cortina Bob

Last Falafel, last Pfeffi, Last Jager, Last Espresso Machiatto, last Mexicaner. Thank you to our family in Berlin. You made it feel like home. Hell, it is home! We love you, XO Suspect Parts

Chris, drummer of Suspect Parts, kept a pretty detailed record of the most hilarious quotes on tour said in the van or out of the van.  When he was driving, I kept track.

Sulli's van rendition of Suspect/Maniac members (James Sullivan)

Sulli’s van rendition of Suspect/Maniac members (James Sullivan) L to R – Chris, Zappin, Justin, Andru, James, Zache, Sulli

The personality of the person saying the quote is key, I will introduce them with hometown and instrument:


Justin Maurer (vocals, guitar, current city: Los Angeles)

James “Sulli” Sullivan (vocals, guitar current city: Manchester, UK)

Chris Bell Brief (vocals, drums current city, Munich, Germany)

Andru Bourbon (Bass, current city, Berlin, Germany)


Zache Davis (vocals, bass, current city: Los Angeles)

Andrew Zappin (lead guitar, current city: Los Angeles)

James Carman (drums, vocals, hometown: Carson, California)

Justin Maurer (guitar, vocals, current city: LA)

Van Life L to R Ardy, Zappin, Justin

Van Life
L to R Ardy, Zappin, Justin

Here are some of my favorites:

“You are really obsessed with your underwear” (Andru Bourbon to Chris Brief on his underwear air drying in the van after being hand washed)

“Give me a little bite of your sausage, James” (Justin to James on sharing his Spanish Sausage)

The crew in an official Down With Dons party meeting lead by our Minister of War

The crew in an official Down With Dons party meeting lead by our Minister of War. L to R – Zappin, Sulli, Zache, Andru

“I had a dream I was wearing shorts. When I woke up I had pants on and I was happy.” (Andrew Zappin on his van dream)

“Stupid Dream” (Andru Bourbon in response to Zappin’s dream)

“I like all food that comes out of a tube…really!” (Andru Bourbon on his vegan culinary preferences)

“I like to taste my olive,” (Chris Brief on Spanish olive tapas)

“Where do we keep getting all of these random fucking CDs from?” (Chris Brief)

“The dwarf gave them to me,” (Sulli clarifying the origin of the dozens of random CDs sliding around the van floor)

“2 dwarves in 1 place, that’s like lightning striking twice in the same place,” (Zappin on 2 dwarf attendees of a show, one of whom gifted us dozens of random punk CDs)

“No, there are plenty of dwarves all over Europe,” (Andru Bourbon)

The crew in Trier, Germany (Photo by Justin Maurer)

The crew in Trier, Germany (Photo by Justin Maurer) L to R James, Zache, Sulli, Zappin, Chris, Andru

“I haven’t touched my dong this entire trip” (Zappin, on masturbation)

“So what you’re saying is that you’d consider having an open relationship with Jane Fonda” (Justin to Sulli on Barbarella-era Jane Fonda)

Roadside bar in rural Spain (photo by Andrew Zappin)

Roadside bar in rural Spain (photo by Andrew Zappin)

“I shot my friend with a BB Gun once” (Chris Brief)

“Watch out for scorpions, don’t touch black widows…there were some serious wasps” (Chris Brief on growing up in New Mexico)

“I think the most dangerous thing where I grew up was feral dogs with rabies…or wild pigs” (Andru Bourbon on growing up in East Germany)

“When I was growing up we had a family of skunks living underneath the house” (Chris Brief on coming of age in New Mexico)

Zache Davis in conversation with Ardavon Fatehi, Maniac roadie and filmmaker:

Zache – Why, you have a girl there?

Ardy: I have girls everywhere

Zache: I used to be like you

Ardy: I’m nothing like you

“If I have any Hopi in me, it’s because someone in my family raped a Hopi Indian” (Chris Brief on his family’s claim that they have Hopi Indian blood in the family)

“I would slit all of your throats to wash her underwear” (Andrew Zappin, on an attractive female pedestrian in Sevilla, Spain)

“I don’t know who I am anymore…no, I do, I’m the Minister of War” (Andrew Zappin)

“I won’t be crying tonight but next week I might drop a tear…secretly” (Andru Bourbon, discussing emotion in an atypically German way, on the departure of Maniac in Madrid)


Soundtrack to the tour was dominated by two standouts.  First off, the German 80s New Wave band TRIO (They are known primarily for their hit “Da Da Da” but the rest of their early catalog is criminally underrated.)  Our favorites included “Sunday Need Love, Monday Be Alone,” “Drei Mann Im Doppel Bed,” “Anna,” “Hearts Are Trump,” and more.

The 2nd Van Hit was a new French New Wave band called LA FEMME .  What excellent driving music.

Aberdeen Skins Never Say Die (Vol. 1 Brooklyn)

9 Oct

(View on Vol. 1 Brooklyn Here )

Aberdeen Skins Never Say Die

Photo by Dan Halligan, 1998

Photo by Dan Halligan, 1998

“Awww put your clothes back on, faggot!”

A handful of skinheads swirled around the pit, shielding their eyes from my nakedness. For some reason we were playing in Aberdeen, Washington. The promoter was a chubby kid with a floppy green Mohawk named Phil. Phil seemed to have mild Down’s syndrome and he spoke with a stutter.

“Ther…ther… ther…are no real skinheads in America. The… the only real skinheads are in England.”

The Aberdeen skinhead crew didn’t take kindly to Phil’s remark and piled on him throwing wild punches. A couple security guards pulled the cueballs off of Phil.  He rose and dusted himself off.

“You…you guys hit like a bunch of girls,” he smirked. A few of the skins charged again and the security guards chucked them out of the front door.

About half the skins were outside and half were still inside the hardwood floored community hall. I went up to Phil and asked him if he was okay.  The remaining skins began eying me and sizing me up. I was a teenage beanpole with a footlong green liberty spike Mohawk. For the occasion, I had donned my sleeveless denim punk vest, my mom’s old Gap jean jacket that I hacked the sleeves off of. My Grandma sewed on some patches of local punk bands like Bristle and The Rickets. All the kids from my town who were into cool music wore high top Chuck Taylor’s and mine were navy blue.

My high school punk band was playing with The River Rats, a greasy garage punk band from Seattle and The Turn Offs, a surfy-garage band from Eastern Washington.  Their reverb-soaked hit was called “Taking the Impala to Walla Walla.”

It was our turn to take the stage. We tuned up and I instantly tore into the skinheads. I taunted them from the mic.

“You guys are real tough jumping a guy 10 to 1. You’re real big men.”

Some middle fingers went in the air and like a mound of red ants they began to swirl around a little bit.

“Why don’t you guys come up front? If you don’t get up here, I’m gonna get naked.”

I don’t know why, but at the time my thing was stripping down to my boxer shorts or completely naked. I knew it would piss off the homophobic skinheads.

The skins weren’t into our music and I followed through with my threat, stripping down nude.

“Awww, fuckin’ faggot,” the skinheads yelled.

One of them threw a bottle and like a skilled English footballer I butted it with my head. The glass bottle shattered on the floor and the security guards threw the remaining skinheads out of the show.

Someone warned me that the skinheads were waiting for me outside.

“We’re gonna kill the naked guy,” was the apparent threat.

The older Seattle greaser punks told me, “We got your back Mo Cheeks.”

My nickname at the time was “Mo Cheeks,” a pseudonym I had borrowed from a 70s basketball player, Maurice Cheeks of the Philly 76ers who was a teammate of legendary star forward Dr. J. Along with the Doctor, I was a fan of classic basketball stars like Pistol Pete Maravich and Magic Johnson.  At the time the Seattle Supersonics reigned with their triple All Star lineup of Sean Kemp, Gary Payton and Detlef Schrempf. It wasn’t very punk to like basketball, so I kept my fanaticism for the Seattle Supersonics under wraps, at least around suave older punks.

As we loaded up I had leather jacketed, slicked-back-hair Fonzie lookalikes around me sporting cymbal stands and hard shell guitar cases as weapons. “Let’s roll, Mo Cheeks,” they said.

My heart pounded as we carried the gear down the stairs ready to fight. Waiting outside the hall was the skinheads, dressed identically in their uniforms of thin red suspenders, rolled up faded jeans and Doc Martens. There was about ten of us and twenty of them.

They didn’t seem to recognize me even though I had a foot long green liberty spike Mohawk. I heard them muttering about “the naked guy.” One of the greasers patted me on the back and chuckled.  We had outsmarted them without even trying.

It began to rain and we packed all of the gear haphazardly into the River Rats van.  My band climbed into our bassist’s beat-up baby blue ’66 Ford Mustang. Strewn on the ripped-up leather of the back seat were hamburger wrappers, cans of purple Aquanet Hairspray and a half rack of warm beer. We cracked some cans of Ranier in celebration. As the sun set and the rain pounded down on the roof of the Thunderbird we made our way to the house where we were all sleeping.

Between towering cedar trees was our Bates Motel. It was a dilapidated two-story house on a heavily forested rural side street.  We drank cans of Olympia Beer and the older boys teased each other about some girls they had slept with.  I was still a virgin at 15, but I laughed along as if I knew exactly what they were talking about. We staked out sleeping spots and threw sleeping bags into dark rooms.

And in walked three skinheads.