My first contact with Hector Penalosa followed a double header at The Troubadour with The Zeros and The Muffs in 2012. After I posted a manic, raving review on my Giant Robot blog (R.I.P.), Hector did the unthinkable. He wrote a thank-you note. No one ever did that before and no one has ever done it since. Turns out not only was he in one of my all-time favorite bands but he is one of the nicest guys ever, too.
Hector and I became friends on social media after that, which was cool, but what was really awesome was how he liking, sharing, and promoting the Save Music in Chinatown project as soon as my wife and I started it. He even drove up from San Diego to attend the inaugural show and we’ve become friends in real life.
So of course I had to ask him to play our second show, and he brought The Baja Bugs. I have extremely limited knowledge of the Fab Four compared to the hardcore Beatlemaniacs out there but holy crap! The Baja Bugs play the Liverpudians’ catalog with the fire of a hungry and brilliant garage band loaded on uppers and riding the explosion of early rock ‘n’ roll. They also cranked out a blistering mini-set of My Revenge songs and I’m stoked that the latter will be playing our next benefit gig.
I had a short conversation with Hector about his bands and the Save Music in Chinatown cause to get us stoked for the show…
Can you tell me a little bit about My Revenge? How long has the band been together, what’s up with releases, and so on…
My Revenge is a band that I’ve had on the back burner for close to two years. I’ve been writing songs for many, many years, on and off, and I had accumulated quite a lot of songs. So I decided to expose them to the public. Naturally, I had to get a band together.
I have recordings of the songs we play, but I’m a bit of stickler when it comes to recording. But I am going to release a CD, as well as vinyl, plus the usual download access on the Internet.
Three of you are also in The Baja Bugs, who tore it up last year at a Save Music in Chinatown show. Can you remind me how you guys got together and describe your specific approach to the Beatles catalog? The era, the vibe…
The Baja Bugs are a Beatles cover band with rock ‘n’ roll muscle. It started out of frustration. Listening to to other Beatles cover bands and tribute bands, I realized that they were lacking energy in their performance. Technically, they have the musical parts down but there was no fire. That element is so essential to The Beatles’ music. Sure, they have ballads and mellow tunes. But for a live performance a band should focus on the “rock ‘n’ roll” Beatles. They were influenced by Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins, and a few other guys who started and were rock ‘n’ roll! And The Baja Bugs love to play all the wild, uptempo, rocking Beatles tunes.
As a fan of your music, I was stoked when you started supporting Save Music in Chinatown on social media right from the beginning. What are some of your thoughts on music education?
Music education is just as important as math, English, and history lessons. Creativity and music tap into a part of our brain that otherwise would not be used. They create a different way of thinking–a positive development of the brain. But music education and the creative development of children in schools don’t seem to be a priority in the school systems any more.
I know that music changed my life for the better. It takes me to a happy place when I listen to it or play it. And it does the same for so many other people. And, yes, it is stimulating and fun!
Do you have fond memories of playing in Chinatown back in the days of early L.A. punk?
I do have lots of fond memories of playing in Chinatown. The Zeros played at Madame Wong’s back in 1979 with The Go-Go’s, if I recall correctly. Who would have expected punk rock in a Chinese bar back then, but it happened! The punk bands were looking for venues to play and the Chinese bar owners saw it as great business through selling drinks and charging a little money at the door. A win-win situation. We also played at The Hong Kong Cafe in 1994 and a few other times, too.
The Zeros are still in demand and seem to play fairly often these days. Do you ever step back and think, “Damn we wrote a lot of great songs when we were just children!”
The Zeros do play once in a while. If the offer to do a gig seems right, we tend to play it. At the same time, we don’t want to overplay and burn out our audience. It makes the gigs a bit more special.
Regarding our songs, we don’t really ponder much on, “Hey, we wrote some cool songs when we were kids.” We wrote what we felt about what we saw around us at the time. We just made sure the songs were catchy and a bit tough with a dash of cool. To this day, we enjoy playing them! They’re still fun and to see and hear fans sing along with us here in the U.S., Spain, Tokyo, or elsewhere is a blast!
Do you remember when you made the transition from a kid who enjoys and listens to music to someone who makes it?
From listening to music to playing music was a slow transition. My dad is a musician, and when I was 5 or 6 I discovered his record collection on the bookshelves in the living room of our old house. I started playing The Supremes greatest hits collection, and was captivated by the snare drum on the recordings. My dad had a drum kit in the living room and I recall tapping the snare drum to the beat of the The Supremes.
That was just the beginning. My dad also had a piano but it looked complicated with so many notes and keys. Six years later, I discovered the guitar and seriously wanted to learn how to play it. Once The Beatles became a part of my life, I really wanted to become a guitarist and musician. I was 12 going on 13 by then, and I haven’t stopped.
Catch Hector and My Revenge at Save Music in Chinatown on Sunday, October 19 at Human Resources in Chinatown! Show starts at 3, tickets are only 12 bucks in advance through Eventbrite and 15 at the door if it doesn’t sell out!