Strategic Offensive and the return of anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, pro-workers, Pinoy-centric, grindcore thrash-masters Flattbush


Music trends change with the seasons and protest music comes and goes with regimes, but  Flattbush has been playing vicious grindcore with lyrics that smash the Powers That Be and uplift the people since Day One. Nothing-to-lose-but-your-chains lyrics are spattered in English, Tagalog, and Kapampangan like blood against the wall in the opposite of a Rambo movie where the imperialist oppressors are mowed down by rapid-fire guitars and chopper-like drums.

Bracing myself for the band’s fourth album coming out on March 29, I caught the media-averse band in action at Lakewood’s world-famous Regal Inn and coaxed them to do a rare Q&A about it in their napalm-scented bunker.

Clockwise from top left: Bradley Walther – Guitar, Ramon Banda – Drums, Arman Maniago – Bass, Enrico Maniago – Vocals


How long has Flattbush been together now?
Enrico: We formed the band 1993 back when we were in high school. 24 years!

Bradley: I became a fan in 1995 and I joined in 2002. My band in high school played a lot of shows with Flattbush, and we would often hang out together and get into all kinds of mischief.

What have you been up to since your last record?
Enrico: We do the usual routine like a typical lower-middle class worker. We work at our day jobs and take care of the family, but on the side we challenge ourselves to create art and music. I became busy with union organizing at my workplace… We also read a lot and do research about anything that keeps life interesting.

Bradley: I stepped away from Flattbush before they released Otomatik Atak. I did a couple tours and released an EP with another project, but I also did a lot of soul searching, met my wife, and focused on raising our son. I rejoined the band sometime around 2012 with just the idea of writing music and having fun.


Eddie and Alex Van Halen, Ray and Dave Davis, Don and Phil Everly… Does having brothers in the band make it easier or harder to keep it going? 
Enrico: Or the Bee Gees. Making music and creating art is always fun. What kept us going is the purpose of the music. For whom? I think that’s the reason we lasted for 24 years. Finding a purpose in life. Quitting is not even an option. Whatever you do in life, if you get tired, just rest. Then get up and do it again.

Arman: Both hard and easy. It is hard to team up, because of family and work priorities. And once we hook up, it’s easy to create art. Easy.

Bradley: I don’t know about other bands, but for us it’s always been easier. We’ve been family for many years now. Even though I’m not related to these guys, we’ve been through a lot together and I think of them as brothers.

Has the band’s songwriting process or inspiration for making music changed at all over the years?
Arman: Nah, when we write fucked-up music, we are in the comfort zone. Our inspiration is to write fucked-up music.

Enrico: You would think that the vast amounts of musical references in the internet will help you produce faster. Actually, it’s kind of the opposite. You get overwhelmed with a lot of talented artists out there. You assess yourself to push it even harder or you get paralyzed with an overdose of information. You just have to keep on going with what’s natural and have fun creating.

Your songs take a lot of energy and can’t be easy to play. Do you guys do cross-fit or something to stay in shape between records and shows?
Enrico: We are pretty athletic. We jog, bike… Exercise our jaws (eat). We watch what we eat as much as possible to live longer in this planet and witness how our useless leaders turns our planet into a floating gas of shit… and witness how they get flushed down the toilet… someday.

Bradley: Arman and Rico are probably in the best shape of their lives. My lifestyle is pretty different since I mange a bar. My plan is to be in tip top shape by the album release date, but most of our music is conditioning our hands and fingers to do all the work. I couldn’t imagine playing drums on these tunes….

Ramon, when did you join the band?
Ramon: I knew the guys since middle school in ’95 or so, but I joined the band right out of high school in ’99. Right away we started writing heavier stuff, and they let me do whatever I wanted as far as drums go. In 2003, I went on a Jesus-fueled hiatus for about 15 years but got back together with them about three years ago. We wrote the new album and it feels great. We picked up where we left off. They still have the same spirit and let me do whatever I want. Just make it crazy, throw a fill on top of a fill!

Can you explain the title, Strategic Offensive?
Enrico: Strategic Offensive is based on Maoist theory and practice; it’s the last stage of guerrilla warfare. This is when the red fighters, led by the working class, march from the countryside and take over the city to win the final battles of the revolution. History has proven this type of warfare effective in third world countries that have a semi-colonial and semi-feudal society such as the Philippines. It’s erroneous to jump to this stage when people are just organizing themselves… But I am very optimistic that the Philippines will reach this stage because of the ever worsening crisis in the country.

But, to clarify, we are not actual guerrillas. Our weapon is our music to project the situation in the Philippines and other struggling countries to free themselves from foreign control.

“They Strike, We Fight” is a cool song but there are no lyrics. Who are us and them? At first I thought it was about warfare but now I’m thinking labor…
Enrico: It’s actually about the people fighting for self determination in an indigenous community called Talaingod, located in the southern mountain ranges of the Philippines. I participated in a medical mission there and that’s how the lyrics came about


Hear crickets noise
But peaceful here
Bulldozers came
And cut all the trees

Our ancestral land
Was dug up for gold
And shut down our schools
Filled the water and soil

They strike with guns
We fight with spears
Destroy their goons

The mountains now flat
When rain pours we drown
Stop raping the earth
For profit and greed

They strike with guns
We fight with spears
Destroy their goons

We’ll defend our homes against your scheme
We’ll fight for our lives to the extreme
You don’t own the land, the land owns you
Until our last breath we’ll annihilate you

“Parusahan” is another cool new song… Who deserves the punishment?
Enrico: There’s a lot of extra judicial killings in the Philippines. This song is about hired assassins who kill activists. Sometimes they kill random people for money and implant evidence on the victim just to prove that they are doing their assignment. I mean, this is scary. Not many people write songs about these issues. So, we figured, why not.


“Boots” is pretty wild and different. How did that wind up on the release?
Bradley: If you listen to the entire album, I think it’s a nice release at the end of all the chaos. We’ve always loved that song. If you think about how the lyrics can relate to U.S. imperialism, it made sense to record it Flattbush-style.

When is the band going to play an all-ages show so your kids can watch their parents in action?
Enrico: Good question. We need to look for a surviving all-ages venue that doesn’t have a pay-to-play deal.

Bradley: We need more all-ages venues and the band is always open to suggestions if anybody knows of a great place!

Arman: I know, huh. We should. Let’s set up something up.

Find Flattbush at, find their old music at right now and the new record at when it comes out, and catch the record release show with Detox, Fetus Eaters, and Bad Acid Trip at Alex’s Bar on March 29!


Hello, CHAI! Food, cats, and neo-kawaii jams from Japan – US Tour 2018


CHAI is comprised of twin sisters, a high school friend, and college classmate who have released two super-fun EPs (1st EP, 2016 and 2nd EP, 2017) and two 7″ singles (“Sound and Stomach” b/w “ボーイズ・セコ・メン” and “N.E.O.” b/w “Sayonara Complex” in 2016 and 2017), made bunch of cool videos (too many to list), and even live in a house together. That alone would be living the dream as blueprinted by The Monkees, but now the Japanese band’s first full-length LP (Pink, 2017) has been released by Sony in Japan and Burger Records in the US. Bridging the big time and garage rock, their trajectory is a cool one.

Mana, Kana, Yuna, and Yuuki’s music about food, cats, and other neo-kawaii topics is fully DIY with raw punk energy filtered through mutant dance grooves that will please fans of Tom Tom Club, CSS, and Le Tigre, in addition to younger, fun-loving listeners who have never even heard of those ancient bands.

My household is pretty excited about checking out CHAI’s live show. Looking forward to the upcoming tour, I shot over some questions to find out more about their sound, their scene, and the mass quantities of gross American food they will be eating on their impending tour of California and Texas. My 10-year-old daughter made art to go with their collective answers.

This is a great time for CHAI to come to the US because women’s voices and international culture are more crucial here than ever! What can American audiences expect you to bring to the stage on the upcoming tour?
This will be our second time touring in the US, so we are super excited! We’re bringing you entertainment that you’ve never “seen before” or “felt before” so wait on it!

We’re super excited about your first US release, too. What songs should beginners check out first to understand the CHAI message and vibe?
“Complexes Are Art” is the concept we want to share and we use our music to do so. “N.E.O.” is one track that encompasses this theme. It’s a super cool, major explosive song! “Sayonara Complex” is a totally different, romantic song compared to “N.E.O.” This song is also based on the “Complexes Are Art” theme. Isn’t it great that there are so many different types of music?


Why are you called “CHAI” instead of something more exciting or hectic like milkshake or soda?
It’s simple and we like the feel of the word. It sounds enticing!

Your videos are so fun and cool. Are they as effortless as they seem or do you spend a lot of time planning them out?
As a team, we brainstorm a lot and we’re even involved in choosing our outfits and makeup. We can do what we want to do. We like to do intriguing things, unique things!

It’s awesome that you started the band in high school and are now doing it as adults. Does being in a band keep you young or does getting older make being in a band different?
We felt as if we were going to be artists, then we would have to be CHAI because there are things that only CHAI can express. We will continue to express ourselves on our journey to a Grammy award.

Has your songwriting process or things that inspire you changed since you began?
Our inspirations come from music and artists we personally like: Tom Tom Club, CSS, Justice, The XX, Basement Jaxx, Passion Pit, and many more! We’re influenced by so many types of music that, at any given moment, when we feel like we want to do a certain type of sound or music, we do it. You can’t narrow us down into any one genre!


What do you do when you aren’t making music? Do you all hang out together or do you have separate lives and come together like a giant robot or super hero team when duty calls?
All four of us live together in the CHAI house. On days off, we usually go to the onsen (hot spring) and relax.

The Hong Kong video is cool! What other Asian countries have you played in? Have you found a lot of cool indie friends and scenes out there?
We joined Sultan of the Disco onstage this past January in South Korea. We really want to go to other countries, too!

How did you wind up on Burger Records? Burger is a rad label, and they’re extra perfect because they’re named after food.
We’re so happy that we are able to release our music in the United States! Burger Records reached out to us via our contact forum and we were ultimately included in their Burger World: Japan cassette compilation.

What would you like to do during your second trip to the United States? Is there stuff you’d like to do again or different things you want to check out?
Last year we performed at SXSW as a part of the Japan Nite showcase, but this year we’re excited to be able to take on the challenge of crossing over the “Japan” border. Also, I want to eat something that makes me feel “America!” like steak. A big piece of steak or a large slice of pizza. Enjoy!


Check out CHAI at and catch them on tour now!

Tuesday, March 6 – Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
Wednesday, March 7 – Amoeba, San Francisco 
Thursday, March 8 – The Hi Hat, Los Angeles
Friday, March 9 – Amoeba, Hollywood
Saturday, March 10 – Burger Records, Fullerton
Sunday, March 11 – Alex’s Bar, Long Beach
Monday, March 12- The Casbah, San Diego
Thursday, March 15 – SXSW Showcase at Maggie Mae’s, Austin
Saturday, March 17 – Burgermania VII at Hotel Vegas, Austin



The return of Dengue Fever, Senon Williams art update, and Burger-A-Go-Go


I’ll never get sick of sharing the story of how I met Senon Williams. After hearing what sounded like a far-out, psychedelic, Cambodian garage rock jam on KXLU while driving across town from my home in Silver Lake to the Giant Robot compound on Sawtelle, I called the DJ to find out the name of the band. He said it was a demo from a local group called Dengue Fever, and that Senon wouldn’t mind him giving me his name and number. I went on to stalk the band and write its first article in print, followed by various pieces on the band’s milestones.

After the magazine ran its course, we’ve kept in touch. Dengue Fever played one of the Save Music in Chinatown benefit shows that my family went on to start organizing and Senon painted a poster for us. Then we followed his trajectory in art, which has included multiple shows around town and a beautiful book.

When it was announced that the band would be joining the upcoming Burger-A-Go-Go tour, it was a perfect excuse to catch up once more.


Dengue Fever has been out of the headlines for a while, but now you’ve got this Burger-A-Go-Go tour coming up. What are some of the interesting things you and your colleagues have been doing during your break?
We all been doing a bevy of life living. I been painting, traveling, and playing music. Paul has been recording a bunch of his own music and doing sound design. Ralicke plays with everybody under the sun and swims with the fish in the Pacific the rest of the time. Zac is a mystery but I know he has been making a record with a friend of his. Ethan’s family is growing and he practically has a zoo of exotic creatures at his house. Nimol has been traversing the country playing traditional music in Cambodian supper clubs.

That being said, we are always recording and experimenting. We are enjoying different processes of songwriting, in the past we have simply stayed to our instrument. These days we have been thinking more to what the song needs and care less who plays it. We are unhurried with our ideas and have the feeling to evolve and embrace the ethereal.

There’s new music in the works? Without getting too detailed or giving anything away, can you further describe this direction, style, or vibe that you’re sensing.
We are slowing it and being minimalists. Making Nimol’s voice be the center and not using traditional drum kit as often.

I think it’s cool that Dengue Fever is part of the Burger family, and I give the label credit for having a roster of old and new punks, psychedelic groups, garage rockers, lo-fi bands, etc. and breaking down so many barriers to support just plain cool music. How did you get into the fold?
I don’t really know. But my guess is way back when our manager Josh developed a friendship with them and they were into our music. Then one of them suggested we do a Best Of album on cassette with a ton of songs on it. After that, they have been licensing all our albums for cassette release.

Pasty’s Rats, Feels, and The Coathangers are great and I can’t wait to check out the other bands! Which ones in the Burger-A-Go-Go lineup are you particularly excited about joining?
I am mostly excited about all the women in the line-up. It is going to be great, I always have a better time in mixed crowds. I think the deep vibes will spread.

It must be hard leaving your family, but is going on the road with the band still fun for you? Do you ever miss it during a long hiatus between records and shows?
Yes, I love to tour. We are still a band because we respect each other and love each others company…and cool shit just keeps happening.

And I will miss my family. We only go out for short stints or, if there is a long tour, there is generally plenty of time in between. When I am home I don’t do a 9-5. I am with my family with my time, heart, and soul. But I think the love is enough to bridge the gap when I’m gone.


Aren’t you in another combo besides Dengue Fever now? What’s up with that?
I play with Mark Lightcap, Steve Hadley, and Jason Yates. We have no name, we have no plans, we play all the time, and let the music flow out of us. We don’t write songs; deep melodies find their way into the outer space where we reside. We record everything, then I edit all the magical spots together… And presto! A song.

We have recently played a few shows performing Acetone songs. A band that ended 15 years ago to support a reissue of music and a biography book. Mark and Steve were in that band. We have no plans to continue with Acetone music but will play those songs if invited… It will be peppered with far-out excursions if not entirely.


Finally, what’s going on with your art? Now that your book has been published and is getting some distribution, are you taking a break? Working even harder?
I have been seriously making paintings for a few years. I have had several solo shows and been in a bunch of group shows. I find painting to be a very important part of my life, and I am becoming more prolific and the scale keeps growing. I will be painting until I can’t.

My book published by Hamilton Press is exquisite with a masterful design by Green Dragon Co. and the beauty of it has got me stunned. I am still in dis belief.

I also just completed my first lithograph with Ed Hamilton in an edition of 20. There will be a reception to celebrate the release of my print March 10th at Odd Ark Gallery.


Catch Dengue Fever up and down the West Coast from mid-February through early March. I think I’ll go to the March 3 show at 1720 in Central L.A. and then say hi to Senon at Odd Ark Gallery in Highland Park on March 10.


Kristin Kontrol presents Color + The Kids at Girlschool 2018


When an acquaintance named Kristin asked me if I knew any little kids that would want to play a benefit show with her, it wasn’t totally shocking. We had mutual friends, I had written an article about Sandy from her old band Dum Dum Girls, and I’d seen the group many times–a bunch of them with my daughter and two nieces. But the idea of gathering random children and getting them ready to play Anna Bulbrook’s Girlschool festival at venue like the Bootleg in just two weeks was ridiculous. And cool. Of course, Wendy and I volunteered our 9-year-old daughter who goes to a ton of shows for her age and suggested our 7- and 11-year-old nieces who not only love music but also have a music studio in their backyard that my brother-in-law operates. Everything lined up: the cousins joined forces and Carlos became a second coach. My sister Angelyn, an organizer.


Kristin posted on social media to recruit more kids and, soon enough, there were nine or ten children in the mix. Some had played instruments before, but none were prodigies or had experience being in a band. Following an introductory get-together and the first official practice, my sister and I independently invited a 13-year-old friend of our girls who could play some guitar, as well as a 4-year-old dancer with gusto, and the lineup was complete.


After only four practices plus a few extra sessions the side, the kids not only pulled off the set of one Dum Dums song and some cool covers (with help from Kristin and Carlos) but according to the LA Times were show stealers. Kristin inviting Bethany and Bobb from Best Coast and Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs to be special guests didn’t hurt, but it was also a big risk for her to use those favors. What if the band of children totally stunk? They didn’t and the crowd loved it. Especially us parents who saw the band start off like the Shaggs trying to figure out Velvet Underground jams.


Right on the heels of Kristin Kontrol presents Color + The Kids at Girlschool 2018, I decided to ask my new friend some questions about the experience, and followed up with Anna from Girlschool as well.


MW: After choosing not to play a proper Kristin Kontrol set for the Girlschool festival, what inspired you to get a band of random kids to play with just a couple of weeks to prepare? That was an insane idea.
KK: Ha! I had a gut feeling pulling the spotlight off myself was the way to go. Sometimes you find yourself in a weird transitional spot and it just didn’t feel like the right use of my energy to try and cobble together a KK lineup/set. I love kids and it seemed much closer to the nature of Girlschool to work with them.


MW: Us parents were blown away by how well you handled kids with minimal to no experience being in bands. Are you practiced in teaching children, relaxation techniques, or conflict resolution? Some of those kids were real divas!
KK: I honestly think I had a bit of a buffer because the parents and kids revered me a little more than just a teacher. But both my parents were public school teachers, and my mom actually taught parent education and early childhood development stuff, so I had a really great role model my whole life as well as being a pretty mellow/calming person. I was super impressed with the kids though on their own merit, and if any little issue arose, having the parents at rehearsal was so helpful in that I didn’t really have to occupy a role too much outside of “weird fun art aunt” …


MW: Anna, what was your response to Kristin wanting to play with random children after declining to play a solo set?

AB: I thought it was tits-on. Perfectly in the spirit of Girlschool. Loved it.

MW: If you had a master plan in your head, how closely did reality follow it? Maybe you just went for it with a positive outlook?
KK: Definitely more PMA than game plan initially. But I took the time to think about it simply and determine the key goals, which essentially were successfully playing a few songs and having fun doing so, which meant picking songs that were accessible both skill and recognition wise. We definitely sounded like The Shaggs at our first rehearsal, so I tried to reassess after that, scaled back the songs, took some individual time with a few of the beginners, and voila!


MW: Anna, did she present a detailed vision or was it vague? What were you expecting and how did the actual show compare to that?

AB: I knew it would be cute, and fun for the kids—but I was mostly hoping that the kids would have that alchemic “lift-off” reaction to performing. The experience of performing, when it connects for you as the performer, especially as a *band,* is like no other. And they sure as hell did. The whole thing was more fun, more inspiring, and more life-giving than I had hoped. People felt it.

MW: The kids got so much out of the experience, and we parents loved supporting it. Kristin, I’m wondering what, if anything, you got out of it?
KK: “Must be the colors and the kids that keep my alive, cuz the music is boring me to death.”


Sometimes, Wendy and I try to figure out how our daughter gets to do stuff like be in a band with Kristin, play with Bethany and Bobb, and sing with Karen. (And Eloise accompanied Lois less than a week before!) It’s true that I encountered all of the musicians through the magazine we helped make years ago, and that might have had tilted the odds for us, but each of our decisions leads to the opportunities we get–and then it’s up to us to take them. What if I never told my friend Eric that I also wanted to make a zine about Asian stuff or Wendy (just out of art school and not my girlfriend or wife yet) never decided to spend nights and weekends designing it? What if Wendy and I never organized that first Save Music in Chinatown benefit concert for our daughter’s school even though we had no experience or business doing so? What if we quit right afterward because it was too much work? What if I told Kristin that we were too busy with our next event to take part in hers? Sometimes, you just have to go for it and those actions can affect a kid’s future as much as a cool benefit like Girlschool, which pushes for equality and empowerment in music and culture, can inspire it.

Keep in touch with Kristin at and keep an eye on, too. Then make time to do things that are fun and important to you!

Save Music in Chinatown 14 recap with Lois, Selector Dub Narcotic, Phranc and Alice Bag as PHAG, Mike Watt & The Missingmen and roll call


During the general comments section of yesterday afternoon’s School Site Council meeting, I thanked the handful of staff and parents present who supported and attended Save Music in Chinatown 14, adding that it attracted our largest attendance ever (maybe 250?) and brought in the most dough for the Castelar Elementary’s music program in the project’s Grand Star era (almost $4,400!) in the five years that we have been organizing all-ages matinees inspired by the neighborhood’s old Hong Kong Cafe. More than that, the show was a lot of fun.


Another parent asked why it was so successful and my answer was that I didn’t know. Maybe it was because the packed lineup featured the beloved and respected member of the L.A. punk community Mike Watt & The Missingmen co-headlining with fellow first-generation punkers and longtime activists Phranc and Alice Bag playing a rare set as the Smothers Brothers-inspired duo PHAG, not to mention rare appearances by Selector Dub Narcotic and Lois representing the International Pop Underground all the way from Olympia, WA. (With in-between jams selected by Michelle from the beloved Jabberjaw club on top of all that!) But from my point of view, we have had countless special rosters like that. I’d like to think that like-minded people who appreciate old-school punk and underground music are finally catching on to what we’ve been doing in Chinatown. Of course, they’d want to stick up for public education, the art, immigrants, and inner city kids, too.


Along with our small-but-dedicated crew, so many old and new friends, teachers and families from Castelar, and fresh faces, I was grateful and stoked to see so many people who have played or helped out at previous shows. Without them, rookies like us would never have lasted this long. Nate may have done some sound in his past life, but Wendy and I had little experience in setting up shows or fund raising. Going into Kindergarten, Eloise hadn’t drawn posters, contributed to zines, gone on the radio to promote shows, or joined bands onstage yet. Dad had never hosted and after-show dinner at Golden Dragon!


So, props to everyone who played, helped out, and attended Sunday’s gig but respect to everyone who has ever played before, those who could attend the show and those who could not: Adam Bomb, Adolescents, Alice Bag, Alley Cats, Alpine Decline, Bad Cop / Bad Cop, Baja Bugs, The Bear & Little Nun, The Bicycle Thief, Birdstriking, Bitter Party, Bombón, California, Carsick Cars, Channel 3, Chuck Dukowski Sextet, Chui Wan, The Crowd, Deadly Cradle Death, Dengue Fever, Deradoorian, DJ Baby Tender Love, DJ Loud Panda, Evil Hearted You, The Florida Mistakes, Ford Madox Ford, FourEyedFour, The Gears, Bob Forrest, Rachel Haden, KCHUNG DJs, LA Fog, Lucky Dragons, Molotov Cocktail Hour DJs, Money Mark, My Revenge, Neptunas, Rikk Agnew Band, Rough Kids, Saccharine Trust, The Schizophonics, Zander Schloss, Sean Wheeler & Zander Schloss, SISU, 16 Again, Steve Soto, Spokenest, Tabitha, Upset, Mike Watt & The Missingmen, Mike Watt & The Secondmen.


With support like that, who knows what the future and the next four shows will entail? Eloise only has a year-and-a-half left at Castelar, so let’s make each gig count. See you on May 30 for Save Music in Chinatown 15!




Eloise interviews Lois about Olympia and the International Pop Underground, the Hong Kong Café and L.A. punk, and Save Music in Chinatown 14


Having met through zines and shows decades ago, over the last few years my family and I have been seeing Lois and Eric regularly during our trips to the Pacific Northwest and their stops down in Los Angeles. It was almost exactly one year ago that we gave them Eloise’s latest mix tape for their long drive back up the coast and they gave us the latest Selector Dub Narcotic jam by Calvin Johnson. Guess what? Through relentless correspondence and pure fandom on my part, Lois and Calvin are now slated to play our next all-ages matinee fund raiser for Castelar Elementary’s music program on Sunday, January 28 at the Grand Star. How exciting for this particular bill to mash-up key figures and friends from Oympia, WA’s International Pop Underground with our pals Phranc and Alice Bag, punk lifers who were part of the first-wave scene in Chinatown. Wow, two of my favorite subcultures on the same stage and here’s a Q&A with two of my favorite people to get everyone else excited about it: Eloise and Lois.

EW: So here we are at Philippe in Chinatown and we will now do an interview with me and Lois. So the first question is, when did you pick up a guitar? What inspired you?
LM: The first time I picked up a guitar, I was already in college. I didn’t start very young. I played flute in grade school band but I didn’t really aspire to be a musician.

I did an internship in Portland, OR, and walked by this music shop called Captain Wizeagles. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was owned by Fred and Toody Cole, who were in a band called Dead Moon. And Toody had been in a band called The Rats. They were really, super cool people. I came to love their music a lot but, at the time, I walked by the window and saw this black guitar that looked like the one that was played by The Everly Brothers, another band I love. I don’t know what came over me but I had to have it. I was like, “Man, I want that Everly Brothers guitar!” So I walked in and asked, just like the song “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” It was 40 dollars and I said, “I’ll take it.”

So I was kind of inspired by the beauty of the object more than the music that I wanted to play. I just had to figure out how to do it. Luckily, my friend Calvin made me a diagram of three chords and I started teaching myself how to play.

EW: That’s cool. Was it hard or did it come easy to you?
LM: It came hard because, sometimes, when you teach yourself you have to follow your own sound. It’s hard to mimic other songs and I still have a bit of hard time playing the guitar. My style is very rhythmic. I don’t really pick out the notes of songs. I just think of rhythms and built my tunes for the lyrics on top of them.

EW: When you started playing, did you make new friends? Travel to cool places?
LM: I started playing in about 1984 and, until now, that’s a lot of years. The two best things about it are the friends I made and places I’ve been able to visit.

The friendships you make in music usually come because you are fans of the same bands. That will draw you together. Or you can play or make music together. I was joking at a show I played in Olympia with Heather Dunn, who was playing drums, that I’m not really in touch or friends with all the people that I’ve ever dated but I am friends with all the people I’ve ever played music with.

As far as travel goes, I’ve been to some amazing places in the United States, I’ve played a few shows in Europe, and I’ve been to Japan twice. I’ve been to Australia on tour. But there is a cautionary note: if you like to travel, touring is not the best way to do it. You have to be at the place you’re playing music in the afternoon to set up and do sound check and then the next day you go someplace else. So there’s a lot of places I’ve played shows at that I’d like to go back to because I didn’t have enough time. But if you are playing a show, use your audience to ask questions like where to eat and if there are sights to see. It’s a good way to find out about a town.


EW: How did you meet Daddy?
LM: I think I met Martin and Wendy because I was a fan of Giant Robot fanzine. I can’t remember where I got Giant Robot 1, probably from my friend Tae Won Yu, and I read the article your dad wrote about being Hello Kitty—I don’t know what you would call that, a mascot?—at a Hello Kitty Store. It was really touching and I remember thinking how hard it must be to have children come up and hug your legs, pat you, and say, “I love you!” when he said all he could do was move back and forth. So I wrote a fan letter and didn’t meet Martin in person until several years later, probably at a music show. And then, I think he came to Olympia and visited with Tae and Nikki at their house.

EW: I noticed that on the back of all of your records, it says, “This is the International Pop Underground.” What does that mean?
LM: Well, all the records I made as Lois were for a label in Olympia, WA called K Records. Calvin Johnson, who is the founder, adheres to this idea that all of us who play independent music are connected by ideas, friendships, and things like that. And we’re an underground, not part of the overculture. His way of describing that is international because it’s global and pop because it covers a lot of music in a shorthand way. So we’re part of the International Pop Underground.

In 1991, Calvin and several other people put together the International Pop Underground Convention, a few days of shows by lots of different kinds of bands. Pastels came from Scotland. Thee Headcoats came from England. Fugazi and the Nation of Ulysses came from Washington DC. And lots of things happened at that event, including what a lot of people describe as, maybe not the very first idea of Riot Grrrl, but where the kindling was lit by a match. It was an all-female bands show called “Revolution, Girl Style Now!” and bands like Heavens to Betsy and Bikini Kill played it. There were all sorts of wonderful things at the festival, but that was one asterisk.

EW: There were all girl bands?
LM: On that night at the convention, yes.


EW: That’s cool! What do you know about the history of punk in Los Angeles and Chinatown?
LM: Well, I think of all the L.A. punk bands, and there is a very rich history, one of my very, very favorites is The Germs. And I know that some of the earliest and only Germs shows took place at the Hong Kong Café.

EW: Last question: Are you excited about playing next to the old Hong Kong Café?
LM: I am beyond excited because your mom and dad have done so much incredible work not only to raise money for Castelar Elementary’s music program but to preserve and honor and enrich the presence of music in Chinatown, which had such an impact on punk music—wordwide, really, but in L.A. especially. The astounding shows that took place there in the late ‘70s were real wild and sometimes a little violent. I feel like I’ll be part of history and support the work that your entire family does to save music in Chinatown!

EW: Thank you! That is the end of our Q&A at Philippe in Chinatown.
LM: Thank you, Eloise.


Find out more about Save Music in Chinatown 14 at the Facebook event page and get tickets at

Save Music in Chinatown <3 Xu Ziyi


When we started our Save Music in Chinatown all-ages benefit matinee fund raisers five years ago, the idea was to build on the neighborhood’s punk rock past to support the local public elementary school’s music program. But a lot of other unintended stuff happened, too. Kids that can handle it have been exposed to underground culture and empowered by DIY. A real community of friends and supporters has grown around the shows. My family, which has roots in Chinatown, has been sucked into its culture and activism.

And a couple of months ago, we made a friend when Xu Ziyi sent a query asking if she could use our project as a subject for her graphic design class at ArtCenter. The fifth-term graduate student from Suzhou couldn’t have known that Wendy is an alum of the Pasadena art school or that both of us have a history of working with and supporting art school students and recent graduates. But, of course, we invited her to our home, opened up our archives, and suggested she draw with Eloise–and not just any kids in Chinatown.

A few weeks ago, we saw Zi present her final project and were blown away. The raw-but-powerful oversized two-color zines recalled vintage Search & Destroy and Slash mags and the mocked-up compilation LP was a perfect fit next to influential Dangerhouse’s Yes L.A. compilation and Flipside’s Rodney on the ROQ records. The posters, buttons, and patches further reinforced my feeling that while I was too young to catch the Germs, Dils, Weirdos, Bags, and Go-Go’s at the Hong Kong Cafe in the ’70s, we’re making our own golden age by bridging my favorite subcultures of L.A. punk and mostly blue-collar, English-learning immigrant kids.

How could I not ask our new friend about it?


What did you expect when you approached us about using Save Music in Chinatown as the topic of your graphic design project? What were you hoping for?
My biggest fear was that I was a stranger, you would be busy, and that you would not be willing to do it. In my mind, there was only a 10 percent chance you guys would reply. Really! But it was such a surprise that L.A. punk bands had shows at the Hong Kong Cafe. The craziness combined with Chinese traditions is so cool and I wanted to make the project work. My biggest hope was that we could just meet and talk about it.

Growing up in Zhangjiagang, what was your impression of punk rock?
I did not really know punk music. In a traditional education or family environment, we are not exposed to it in China. So, for me, it meant rebellion: people yelling instead of singing and being against the norm. But then I listened to punk at your house and liked it! Especially young Chinese bands like Birdstriking and Chui Wan. They are pretty cool—the music, the design, the aesthetics. I want to know more about them.

Did the project develop and turn out as you expected?
In the beginning, I could not imagine what it would look like. All my design solutions came from drawing with Eloise. She is so talented and so sweet and always wears a smile on her face. I am a pretty shy person, actually, but Eloise made me feel comfortable and her energy is so powerful and positive. Such a lovely girl. For example, Eloise showed me her Chinese practice sheet when we decided to do collage. I immediately thought, “That’s it! Castelar is a school that not only teaches English but also Chinese.” The grid that primary school students use to practice Chinese became part of the identity system.


Can you tell me more about how the project took shape?
Can you imagine every Saturday drawing with Eloise, listening to punk records, and being shown cool stuff? All of Eloise’s drawing are amazing, effortless, and so unique. She inspired me a lot. Also, you and Wendy showed me a lot of cool album covers, design books, and movie posters. Those inspired me, too. I hadn’t been home for more than a year, but it felt very warm–like family. For me, you guys have become like relatives and I really appreciate it! That was the best thing ever, and I don’t think it will ever happen again.

When did you start to have a vision of how the project would turn out?
The hardest part was the first couple weeks when I was not very clear what I wanted. It was hard to let Eloise to draw for me. I think it was around the sixth week that I felt a little stuck trying to connect punk rock and Chinatown. Then I thought about how I feel about Chinatown and what I like about it. Suddenly, I remembered our first assignment was to go around the neighborhood and look for inspiration. To get to know the place. At that time, I bought a lot of traditional stuff. This was really helpful. Then I knew what I wanted my project to feel like and what I wanted Eloise to draw for me. The beautiful drawings and designs were for Chinese New Year, but I was seeing those things differently. Although I grow up with them, I hadn’t been to China for a year and was seeing those things in terms of design. It was cool and different, and it inspired me a lot.


What sorts of comments and suggestions did you get from your instructor and peers as the project evolved?
Actually, before we met I did some posters just to get going and see if I could catch the feeling of punk rock. When I showed the class, my professor said it was too easy for me to do what I was doing. Then they saw Eloise’s drawings and said, “That’s cool. You should do workshops with kids and use their drawings.” I totally agreed and got excited about it. That week we met, and the second time we met was at your home when we starting doing it. It was so amazing!

How did the newspaper come to be?
I struggled with the newspaper. My professor said the titles for each show were confusing and unclear. I got some fun words from the shows, and some just had quotes or just images. I was thinking of how to include dates without being boring, and then the Chinese traditional calendar came to mind and then  I designed the dates like that to clarify the different shows. I am very glad my professor guided me on what wasn’t clear, because it can be hard for a someone that close to a project to see a problem!

We were so happy to attend the review, but I felt like I blabbed too much about my family’s experience and you didn’t get to say enough about your work! What were some of the things that you learned or got out of the project?
I am so happy you guys could come to my final and make it wonderful! It was a special project for me, because usually you do it on your own and most information comes from the internet. This was my first time to work with real people. It didn’t feel like client project, I was surrounded by super nice people, a super-talented artist, and music! You guys gave me inspiration and fed me, too. The design was all driven by all those experiences, which I think is much powerful and special than what I could have done on my own. I made good friends. I became more brave. I just loved it and I never want to give up!


Above: Zi with the zine and Lois, who happens to be visiting from Olympia with Eric and will be playing at Save Music in Chinatown 14 on Sunday, January 28. Hope to seeya there!