Since we started organizing the Save Music in Chinatown benefit shows, a lot of cool musicians from the neighborhood’s old Hong Kong Cafe days have come out to help raise money for music education at Castelar Elementary. There was Hector Penalosa from The Zeros, Chuck Dukowski from Black Flag, and Mike Watt from the Minutemen. And then there’s been The Gears, The Crowd, Channel Three, and The Adolescents. Wow.
Our eleventh show will be a double header of legends including the Rikk Agnew Band, with a key member of The Adolescents and Christian Death, as well a Chip Kinman from The Dils and Rank & File in Ford Madox Ford. Earlier in December, I went to Godmother’s in San Pedro and talked to Chip for a few minutes before Ford Madox Ford played a furious set that left his guitar destroyed.
You know, I found an old Hong Kong Calendar where The Dils played back to back nights. Do you remember those days?
I do and I don’t. I remember being there but I don’t remember the shows themselves. I remember the Hong Kong Cafe because we didn’t really play there that often. It was kind of special and it was kind of late in The Dils’ career.
But a two-night stand must have been a big deal.
It was a lot of fun and we were kind of a popular band, haha.
Although you didn’t play in Chinatown a lot, I love the idea of my favorite underdog cultures colliding there: my immigrant ancestors and Los Angeles punks. They don’t overlap much.
Not a lot. But I think artistically they did. In the early days of punk rock, when we first started, we were into reggae, Bruce Lee movies, and Burroughs. All that stuff seemed to blend together. One thing I remember about playing there was Golden City, which was my favorite restaurant at the time. I always get the same thing there, the noodles.
From the Grand Star, where our benefits take place, you can see the front of the old Hong Kong Cafe.
That’s awesome. I’m looking forward to it.
And old Dils songs like “Class War” and “Mr. Big” sound brand-new after the election.
They have legs, that’s for sure, and I do listen to it. A lot of the Dangerhouse stuff… I love punk rock.
What about new stuff?
I listen to all kinds of stuff. People might not believe this but I like a lot of hip hop. It takes more chances and I like that kind of stuff. But it’s nothing I’d ever do.
How amazing is it for your new band, Ford Madox Ford, to be on the same label as X and then be working with Chris Ashford, who recorded The Dils, Blackbird…
That’s the best. I’m making my next record with Chris, who I made my first record with 40 years ago! Chris is absolutely great–such a great should and such a good spirit. I would do anything for him.
I love the idea that you guys are not only lifer and survivors but are still doing cool new stuff.
I hope so! We’re having a great time and when we play a lot of people who used to go shows come out to see us. But I’m actually trying to figure out how to break out because we have Dewey Peek in our band who’s 21. He’s a total badass and I want his generation to come out and see him.
I feel like in L.A. we have RazorCake and Burger compressing everything that’s old and new, punk and garage. It’s all the same now.
It is! It’s funny because I used to say four guys for blues, we’re strictly a blue bland. But on the way here I thought, “We’re a fucking punk rock band.” What we’re doing is radical and fun.
What were you doing after Blackbird and Cowboy Nation and before Ford Madox Ford? Were you making music the entire time?
I put out something called My First Punk Rock Record by a band I put together with my wife, Dewey Peek, and Sean Antillon, and it was real ’77 style. All down strokes, all 1/8 notes, real fast–like 15 songs in 11 minutes. It came out on Fundamental Records from Chicago. It’s very hard to find but it’s a really cool record.
That’s some technical talk about punk rock. Did you take classes or anything when you were a kid?
I picked up guitar in high school, but my brother Tony was in high school band. He had more of a music education and could read music. Dewey took trumpet classes in school! It helped him out because he has a really good ear and hears stuff that I don’t.
So how did Ford Madox Ford happen?
We’ve only been together since last November, so it’s only been for a year and one month. My wife said, “Kids are grown up and out of the house. Start playing music. That’s what you do, so do it.” Supporting the family was pretty much a full time job, that’s for sure. So I said all right and dove right in.
It may not make money, but it’s cheaper than therapy.
And it does make a little money, it turns out. There’s the 7″ single on vinyl…
It’s great. I like the B-side even more than the A-side!
“Before the Fall” is the first song we wrote. It has a first song quality and is so bizarre because we don’t know what we’re doing. And then we have the digital release, “Let’s Work Together.” And we’re working on the album now, and it will be out in all formats in early 2017.