Rad band reminder: Quasi


I originally posted this article and interview on my Giant Robot blog (R.I.P.) about a year ago on October 14, 2013, just one day after their show at the Echo. Since I have Sleater-Kinney fever on the heels of the reunion news just like everyone else does, I thought it would be cool to reassemble it with a few edits…

Sometimes the world seems to good to be true. How cool is it that Sam Coomes (who’s played with Elliott Smith and Heatmiser) and Janet Weiss (Sleater-Kinney, Wild Flag, The Jicks) can come together and form a unique and excellent musical bond that sounds nothing like those other top-shelf bands. Like The Beatles on steroids with out-of-this world hooks, free-associating lyrics, and crazy dynamics, Quasi is never less than totally melodic while somehow never leaving the red zone of the Rock-O-Meter. And despite being in even more than the previously mentioned bands–as well as actually been previously married to each other–they are miraculously celebrating their second decade of kicking ass.

And then sometimes the world is lame. Why wasn’t last night’s show at The Echo totally packed? If the rock gods meted out any sort of justice, the Portland duo would be selling out fancy venues instead of playing comfortable dives that are not sold out. Sam wondered aloud at the show if it was a problem that he and Janet started off playing prettier music and may have become too rocking for their audience. The storied drummer responded that she can’t not rock.

For those of us at the show, it was awesome. And I love how the two not only work the merch table but also offer interesting items like a 20-year zine with photos and essays by Jon Spencer and the other members of Sleater-Kinney as well as a tour CD EP with covers. Holy crap, their versions of Queen and Sabbath rule. And why don’t all bands have Sharpies out at the merch tables? I guess you could ask why don’t all bands rock out to their fullest potential as well.

I sent some questions to the band before The Echo show and Sam answered them while on the road from San Diego. Do your ears a favor and check out the band’s shows, welcome them like the conquering heroes that they are, and absorb the culmination of 20 years of unreal musicianship and real chemistry. Seeing the two duke it out on “War Pigs” going back and forth with heavy-duty keyboards and battle-mode drums will blow your mind.


I read on Thee Quasi Facebook page that you played between Tenacious D and Sparks at Fun Fun Fun. How does it feel to be typecast as a duo?

It doesn’t feel too bad. In fact, I can’t detect even the slightest emotion associated with the concept of duo.

Can you tell me about the concept of Mole City? Is that like people who live in subways and sewers? Beauty marks and pock marks?

It’s a city where there is no money but more important things are the true currency.

You’ve been quite prolific with the double album on top of all the other albums. What happens to the old songs when it comes to making a set list?
Some go away but some hang in there. Then some return and others slide away.

Do you miss old songs like you would an old pet or are they more like old photos from the past? If someone yells one out at a show, can you bust out most of them?
SC:  Well we’re pretty loose, but if you are too loose too long it just turns into muck. I’m not emotionally attached to a given song, typically, though.

Why has this band lasted longer than the others that you’ve been in? Is it as simple as it being easier to get two people together in the studio or in a car, or is there more to it than that?
I honestly don’t really understand it exactly. There have been a million reasons for this band to call it a day, but I guess it gives us something we value. It doesn’t really make that much sense on a rational level.

Why doesn’t Janet sing more? Is it an anti-Phil Collins/Mentors thing?
I would love for Janet to sing more. I can’t really speak for her, but I’m pretty sure neither Phil Collins nor The Mentors have anything to do with the situation.

You’ve probably been asked this a million times before but your band is quasi what? i.e. quasi punk, quasi indie rock, quasi Wings…

Take your pick.

I’m going to take my 5-year-old daughter to sound check when I take some quick pics of you before the show. Is that the move of a cool parent or selfish one?
I wouldn’t worry too much about being cool as a parent.

Seeya at The Echo!

Thanks. See you!


Of course, Sam and Janet were very cool to Eloise and even responded to some of her questions and observations about their songs. Why are they never coming back again? Sometimes you have to leave bad places. Is “Everything and Nothing At All” related to ELO’s “Don’t Bring Me Down”? Sure, and The Beatles’ “Don’t Let Me Down” as well. Too bad the gig was too late for her to attend but perhaps there will be an in-store or matinee next tour… Or maybe I’ll get her a fake I.D. by then. You grown-ups really have no excuses to miss any of their future shows, though.

Get the new Sleater-Kinney LP and reissues from the band website or Sub Pop. Better yet, buy them at the merch table when they come through your town!

Umbrella Coverage

Photos courtesy of Nigel Ong
Photos courtesy of Nigel Ong

There’s a lot of bullshit on social media. Food and babies and other stuff that I’m just as guilty of sharing as anyone else. But one can also do a lot of good with it. I don’t think more than a dozen people would have purchased tickets to each of our Save Music in Chinatown benefits without Facebook. And when it comes to the Umbrella Movement that’s been happening in Hong Kong, the Web has been providing a direct link that the mainstream news can’t match.

I used to work a pal named Kelvin, and now he’s been giving me the daily scoop not only about where the peaceful protesters are being cleared out by the goon squad (Mongkok this morning) but how the government has been directing busloads of counter-protestors to outlets like the Apple Daily that have been even a little sympathetic toward the protestors.

Photos courtesy of Nigel Ong
Photos courtesy of Nigel Ong

I know Nigel through his skateboard videos. I included one of them in a program of skateboard videos that showed in Chicago, Honolulu, and San Diego in 2012. But lately I’ve also been digging his understated black-and-white photos and video of umbrella districts, which depict the underlying tension between protestors and cops more than the violence that you can see all over YouTube.

The photos of Alex Ogle and video by Flora Lau are other powerful counterpoints to the more “official” coverage that one might see. Do politicians really think that the protestors are using their umbrellas as weapons the same way Jet Li did in the Once Upon A Time in China movies?


Finally, I never visit Reddit, but the continuous feed of updates, photos, and videos from the confrontation zones is hard to stop watching. I wonder if contributors to the feed will get busted?

The feeling of locals that they are not being represented by corrupt politicians and are being sold out of their homes to moneyed mainlanders is not a clear-cut crime and there is no easy solution. But there is no gray area when it comes to the government’s brutality and scare tactics, either. And those are being made plainer than day for everyone to see.

We Want The Airwaves: Save Music in Chinatown


For more than a month, I’ve been submitting details about Sunday’s Save Music in Chinatown benefit show to just about every calendar and music blog in town. And I have yet to see a listing or receive a reply.

That’s a bummer since I’m super proud of the lineup (the first hometown Bicycle Thief gig in 13 years, second show ever by Evil Hearted You, the return of Hector Penalosa from the legendary Zeros) and feel very strongly about the cause (music education at Castelar Elementary, the public school that my 6-year-old daughter attends). I thought the angles of bringing punk shows back to Chinatown and uniting the neighborhood’s subcultures of art and music for the local kids were strong, too. Oh well.

But just when I start to wonder if I’m delusional, in come my excellent friends contributing awesome goods for the raffle, volunteering at the bake sale, and promoting the gig via social media. And a few have even put me on the airwaves to help get the word out.


Last night, I was a guest of Cyrano and Lotus on KXLU‘s Molotov Cocktail Hour. How cool was it to make the pilgrimage to L.A.’s main artery of underground and independent music–and for my pals to not only give me a lift to the station but provide snacks, as well. They’ll be DJing at Sunday’s event, and I’ll be too busy to enjoy their selections of Asian and Latin garage rock, psych, and punk, so it was extra cool to dig those jams in the studio while adding cuts from bands that have been supporting the cause and gushing about the upcoming show, as well.

On Thursday, my friend Gabie invited to the KCHUNG studios in Chinatown to be on her Crystalline Morphologies program. She invited me to bring a guest and Ben from Evil Hearted You was available to talk about his band and share why they jumped on a chance to play our next event. Gabie has been a supporter of our project since the beginning, and always invites me onto her show each time we have a benefit to play records and promote the cause. You can stream or even download the show at archive.kchung.org.

Thanks again to Cyrano, Lotus, Gabie, and everyone else who helps in whatever ways they can. There’s no way we will single-handedly raise enough dough with our little DIY shows to pay Castelar’s $50 thousand bill for music education. But raising awareness, building community, and engaging the scene matter, too. And we can have a blast doing it.

Rad band alert: Evil Hearted You

ehy4I’m super stoked that Evil Hearted You will be playing our fourth Save Music in Chinatown DIY punk matinee/benefit gig next weekend. I found out about them not much more than a month ago when I met the bass player Ben Solis through our mutual friend (and another badass musician) Fredo Ortiz at an art show. Our paths had crossed in the past, notably at a Red Aunts/J Church/Money Mark show that GR put together back in the day, and we chatted about being grown-ups informed by DIY punk values as well as being parents of young daughters, not to mention our latest projects. I was starting to plan our next fund-raiser, he was in a new band Louis Perez III. (Yes, the latter’s dad is in Los Lobos.)

Turns out the band is amazing. On the self-released CD and Burger/Weiner cassette, Evil Hearted You’s songs reflect Perez’s childhood soaking in the O.G. punk/L.A. roots sounds of Lobos and Gun Club but are filtered through modern sensibilities. The collection is as restrained as it is realized, and there’s an underlying darkness, vulnerability, and beauty that pulses through the songs. And then a few days ago, I was invited to see the live unit with Louis, Ben, and drummer Eric Fuller at the practice spot and holy crap! A totally different animal, kind of like the difference between Nick Cave crooning in the studio and being a possessed demon onstage. Badass and heavy as hell. They blew me away and, even better, are down to play for the kids of Chinatown.

To date the band has only performed at one show and have yet to do any press. So here’s a quick conversation to get everyone up to speed and ready for the afternoon of Sunday, October 19.

LPIII: Louis Perez III, vocals, guitars, accordion, synth strings, lyrics, songwriting
BS: Ben Solis, bass, keyboards, analog synth, glockenspiel, arrangements
LS: Lars Stalfors (not pictured), studio drummer, percussion, Mellotron, production, mixing
EF: Eric Fuller, live drums


MW: Louis, you already have a very successful, satisfying, and busy career as a tattoo artist. What drives you to create music on top of that?
LPIII: The tattoo industry has kept me very busy for over a decade, and for that I am eternally grateful. Tattooing also has given me creative freedom and the discipline to raise the ceiling for myself both visually and musically. I had been playing in bands long before I ever picked up a tattoo machine, and music is a hard habit to shake. Also, I don’t sleep very much and I find myself strumming into the wee hours of the night/normal people’s mornings…

MW: What’s the pre-history of Evil Hearted You?
BS: Our history is too long, idiotic, and beautiful to go into here. Louis and I have shared the most amazing times together and, as kids, we did some really stupid things together. Louis is a poet; I am a critic. Louis is a musician; I am a logician. In these roles, we are able to make an otherwise incompatible relationship productive. He’s my brother and, aside from Lars, the only person who has ever taken me seriously as a musician. I don’t even take me seriously as a musician. I guess Evil Hearted You happened because Louis remembered my musicality from 15 years ago–more than a third of our lives. He is obviously a gifted songwriter. It’s possible that I am one of the few people who ever took the time to remind him of that. This is starting to read like a love letter, so I must conclude my answer here.

LS: I had worked with Ben on other projects, and he introduced me to Louis. After we all talked a few times, I think we worked on two songs together to see if it worked. Even though we did tracking separately, we had a great chemistry, The three of us share a really great musical dialogue.

MW: Can you describe the band’s music making dynamic?
BS: Lars’s relationship with Louis is different from mine, but I imagine dealing with Lars makes dealing with me more tolerable. Lars is a producer, and he is very adaptable. When he works with Louis, I stay out of the way, and they wait until I am done writing my parts before commenting. It’s a mature process that way.

Lars probably has the most difficult job, because he has to speak two languages to communicate with Louis and me, but when all three of us are in the studio, we speak the same language. Louis synopsized it best when he said, “We’re all playing something totally different, but it works.” I think it gives the listener a lot more to grab onto. One fact is inarguable: Evil Hearted You is the raddest thing I have produced musically, and that has everything to do with the others involved.


LS: I usually work on project where the band is already in place but this was different: Ben showed me the first songs he worked on, and I had an instant vision of how the drums should be. The first track I heard was “Home.” It had a really interesting old drum loop in it, so I decided that the rest of the songs should feel like that. It really makes the record unique.

MW: Had you been drumming all along, or did you have to get your chops back?
LS: I probably play drums on a project once a year but, yeah, it always takes a few warm-up passes of a song to get back into the swing of it.

MW: Eric, Lars is a badass but are you given a lot of freedom to drum in your style?
EF: I had known about Lars’ work for years, and was really stoked to hear that we would be working with him. He laid down some really good drum tracks on the record, and I had the challenge of listening to the songs and trying to recreate what he did but also putting my own touch on it. It has been a real learning experience playing with these guys, and everyday I am trying to create the best sound for the band. As for freedom, I was given a great foundation to work on but they definitely do not restrict my playing.

MW: And how did you get involved in the band?
EF: I met Louie when I was 18. I walked into a tattoo parlor he was working at in Fullerton, he scratched on my first tattoo, and the rest is history. I would hang at the shop with him, just shooting the shit, and we started talking about jamming together. This talk went on for a year or two before we finally met up one night at a studio and played for hours. I met Ben when we started working on new songs for the band. Once he got involved, our very sloppy sound turned into something worth listening to.

MW: Louis, was it difficult for you, especially as a visual artist who is used to being in total control of his work, to see the songs change and have a more collaborative effort?
LPIII: I stopped playing in bands but never stopped writing, so I had a ton of old and new songs. It was definitely hard to let my little babies go and watch them get spray painted blue, but then I realized they needed to be painted that color or maybe they were that color all along. It was definitely a difficult yet rewarding process to write songs and see them morph into the awesomeness that Ben and Lars created. I think being willing to let things change was key.


MW: Where do the lyrics come from? Do they stem from you own life? Stories around you? An overactive imagination?
LPIII: For the most part, they come from your typical “artist inner demons” scenario. Haha. Most everything I have written has roots in an experience, emotion,or even an opinion I have had on a person, place, or thing. I’ve spent most of my life moving around Southern California, and experiencing so many different, diverse landscapes has definitely had an effect on my views. I also tend to make big deals out of nothing, so my overactive imagination must definitely have a hand in it as well.

MW: Ben, after a career in the music industry, you dedicated yourself to academia and skateboarding. What is it about Evil Hearted You that brought you back to making music?
BS: I have always been dedicated to skateboarding, even during the periods of my life when I wasn’t skating. But when I heard Louis’s songs, I recognized them as a vehicle that allowed me to use my professional skill sets and my academic training. I wrote the arrangements and the accompaniment on the record, but I approached them as if I was writing a text. I realize now that I merely contextualized Louis’s work.

MW: What’s it like making music as an adult, a husband, and a dad? I know it’s harder to make time for it, but are there other ways that they affect or maybe even spur your creativity?
BS: Making music as an “adult” affects my creativity on a few levels. My professional background impels me to prefer anonymity. My age informs me to make age appropriate music without making Dad-rock. The husband in me wants to impress my spouse. As a father I am stoked every time my kid hears a song she likes and asks, “Is that you playing bass, Dad?” Beyond that, I could take it or leave it. I think we all could. I’m sure that inspires us all to take certain risks.

MW: As a parent, a musician, and a guy who know about L.A. Punk, can you give me some reasons to be psyched about playing the benefit?
BS: When I learned of Save Music in Chinatown, I immediately thought: Wow, this is rad: Adult D.I.Y. for a children’s benefit that simultaneously resuscitates Punk shows in Chinatown. I was very grateful when we were asked to play because we don’t have much of a live history as band, but the history we are authoring is pretty amazing according to our ethos. Save Music in Chinatown allows us to participate in the musical tradition that defines us while also providing the opportunity to productively engage the community. When I consider the historical arc of Louis’s dad’s band (Los Lobos), or my own identification with (and definition of) Punk, nothing could be more poetic.


LPIII: I am so excited to be taking it right back to where it started for me. My first band, The Villains, literally played our first gigs during the second wave of the Hong Kong Cafe in the early ’90s when they use to have the gigs in the back room instead of the front room so that the checkered floor wouldn’t collapse. Haha!  We went on to play Club Impala, the Peace and Justice Center, etc., until we were old enough to play Al’s Bar (R.I.P.). I would love to see a resurgence of great music back in the Greater Downtown area. It’s a great thing to be part of, and I thank you for letting us contribute.

EF: Being from Fullerton, I love any chance I get to play outside the city. It’s crazy to me to think that just three years ago I had never played in front of anyone besides family and friends, and in less than a week I will be playing with guys like Bob Forrest and Josh Klinghoffer.

MW: X’s Make The Music Go Bang! festival was your band’s live gig. What was it like to have an onstage debut among such stellar company? Also,  it seems like most band play lout before recording but you guys did it the other way around. Was that a conscious choice?
LPIII: Our first gig was definitely trial by fire, and we rose to the occasion better than I could have imagined because of the limitless support we have received from everyone–including you–that hears the music and immediately identifies with what we are doing. The offer to do the gig came up so quickly; we blinked and there we were looking at room packed with people cheering us on. It was and continues to be very humbling.

EF: Playing that show was a very humbling experience. Being surrounded by other musicians that have been playing longer than I have been alive is a bit nerve-racking. We were all a little on edge that day since it was our first time performing live together, but I had a blast being there and it was nice getting the first show jitters out of the way.

MW: Lars, don’t you ever want to play live, just for kicks? What would it take to get you to tour?
LS: Ha. I think I have closed that chapter of my life. A special appearance could be fun here and there, but touring isn’t something I feel like doing anymore.


Listen to Evil Hearted You on Soundcloud, follow them on Facebook, and catch their next gig at Save Music in Chinatown 4 with The Bicycle Thief and My Revenge on Sunday, October 19 at Human Resources. No other shows are planned so do yourself a favor (and save some dough) by getting advance tickets at Eventbrite.

Save Music in Chinatown 4


One week from today, my wife Wendy and I will be throwing the fourth Save Music in Chinatown DIY punk matinee/fund raising gig at Human Resources gallery to pay for music education at Castelar Elementary, where our daughter goes to first grade. This an unplanned and awesome extension of my days of writing about music and hanging out with artists when I edited Giant Robot mag. Getting to share and push culture on the printed page was a real gift. But to do something that happens in real life and try to make a difference in the community where my immigrant grandparents and in-laws have spent time is a different type of radical. Especially since Eloise goes to school there now.

The harebrained idea was spawned last year when our daughter started attending kindergarten. Her inner-city campus looks like a prison but it’s an excellent school with passionate teachers, bright kids, and a kick-ass dual-language Mandarin program that Eloise is thriving in. Then, in the first week, we parents received a flyer stating that the music program had been defunded. Could the households help pay the $50 thousand bill? In that particular mostly immigrant and blue-collar neighborhood, probably not.


Wendy wondered what we could do, since we’re not loaded and don’t do bake sales. It occurred to us that Chinatown has a punk rock heritage that can’t be beat (X, Zeros, Weirdos, Black Flag, Dils, Germs…) and a lively art gallery scene (post punk) as well. Although the scenes don’t overlap much with the locals outside of bars and restaurants, of course they’d help kids if they could. Especially for music. And since Wendy and I have ties to all three cultures, we decided to have punk matinees in art galleries to help the local kids. Wendy came up with the name: Save Music in Chinatown.

I was fortunate that my old friends Gabie from KCHUNG and Wendy from Ooga Booga Store introduced me to the crew at Human Resources right off the bat. The gallery’s vibe is perfect with its past lives as a kung fu movie theater, porno theater, and sweat shop before it was abandoned and was reborn as a gallery that specializes in difficult to show or sell art. Eric, Grant, Luke, and everyone else there have been nothing but super cool and supportive.

Save Music in Chinatown 4 flyer by Louis Perez III

And how awesome is it to have punk rock back in Chinatown. In the afternoon. I have a lot of friends who don’t get out as much as they used to because they don’t like staying up late or dealing with getting a babysitter. These all-ages matinees are a perfect way to get everyone out but also expose kids to cool music.

At six, Eloise has seen the likes of The Chuck Dukowski Sextet, California (with Jason from Green Day and Adam from Jawbreaker), Channel Three (with guest appearances by Maria Montoya and Tony Adolescent), Money Mark, Hector Penalosa from The Zeros playing with The Baja Bugs, and Bob Forrest from Thelonious Monster. Not to mention art rockers like Lucky Dragons, L.A. Fog, Deradoorian, Bitter Party… (Conversely, a lot of the artists who are used to playing late-night, sketchy venues dig being able to bring family and kids to our shows.)

While groveling for raffle goods is definitely the most awkward part of planning, I think it’s a key part of the fund raising. It allows us keep the door price low but raise some extra bucks. And it allows all sorts of friends and neighbors to contribute and build a scene. Regulars like Una from Keep, Mark from Donut Friend, Chris at Scoops Chinatown, and Vicki at Berndt Offerings, all the bands that sign records, artists who donate autographed books and prints, and everyone else–what would I do without them? And on the the bake sale end, gourmet goodies from so many parent/volunteers plus baked goods from Wendy’s pasty chef/cousin Linda, coffee courtesy of Julia and interTrend, and other treats add to the awesome experience (and funds raised) substantially.

And Sunday afternoons are ideal because there’s plenty of free street parking and everyone can leave early enough to grab some noodles in Chinatown before getting home at a decent hour and not being a wreck on Monday. A perfect day.

Save Music in Chinatown 4 flyer by Eloise
Save Music in Chinatown 4 flyer by Eloise

So please come to our next show. I still can’t believe Bob Forrest (Thelonious Monster) and Josh Klinghoffer (Dot Hacker) are playing their first hometown show as The Bicycle Thief in 13 years for our little matinee. And I love Evil Hearted You’s carefully crafted post-punk roots sound on their debut album but their live show is going to kill you. I’m not even going to get into how great Hector Penalosa’s mini set of My Revenge was at the second show–a perfect mix of power pop, garage rock, and O.G. punk–and how much I want to see a full set. All that tied together by the garage rock tunes spun by KXLU’s Molotov Cocktail Hour DJs? Damn.

I hope you can tell that although Save Music in Chinatown was born out of necessity, and there are worthwhile cultural angles that I’m interested in and proud of, this project is mostly just super fun for us. And I hope it’s that way for everyone who helps out by playing or promoting the gigs, donating raffle items, working the bake sale, or attending.

Save Music in Chinatown 3: with Chuck Dukowski Sextet and California (May 18, 2014)
Save Music in Chinatown 3 with Chuck Dukowski Sextet and California at Human Resources (May 18, 2014)

We can’t count on media, press, or calendar listings to get the word out, but friends with radio shows, blogs, and word of mouth all add up. If you can help spread the Facebook event page, Eventbrite ticketing site, or even this post, we would love it.

Have a blast. Build community. Help kids. Get advance tickets and save some dough on admission… See you there!

Hector Penalosa on My Revenge, Baja Bugs, The Zeros, and Save Music in Chinatown

The Zeros at The Troubadour (July 20, 2012)
The Zeros at The Troubadour (July 20, 2012)

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…

My Revenge at Save Music in Chinatown 2 (February 9, 2014)

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.

Baja Bugs at the San Diego Library (June 28, 2014)
Baja Bugs at the San Diego Library (June 28, 2014)

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!

The Zeros at Los Globos (August 16, 2014)
The Zeros at Los Globos (August 16, 2014)

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!

Los Globos (August 16, 2014)
Los Globos (August 16, 2014)

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!

Adam Pfahler on reissuing Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy

Photo by Wild Don Lewis circa 1994.

While dorking around Facebook just like everyone else does, I started seeing posts about the upcoming reissue of Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy. Of course, I had to hit up my pal, Jawbreaker drummer, and Blackball Records founder Adam Pfahler about it…

I last saw him in the spring when his new band, California, was in town and they even played our Save Music in California benefit on a double bill with the Chuck Dukowski Sextet. How awesome was that? Did I mention that he also played my wedding banquet with Whysall Lane? Crashed at my place with J Church?

Obviously, I’m a big fan of the man and his music so you probably can’t trust me when I say that 24 Hour Revenge Therapy is possibly the raddest Jawbreaker album–a perfect balance of being evolved yet totally ripping. Can’t wait to hear the alternate mixes when the thick wax reissue drops on October 14.

Was the 24 Hour Revenge Therapy period a blur or do you recall everything?
Both. I’ve found in the process of doing press for this record that while I like to think I have a photographic memory, there’s all kinds of stuff I totally forgot. But what I forgot, Chris remembers. What Chris forgot, Blake remembers. But I will say, the things that I do remember are very clear to me. Also, I kept journals on all of our tours. They’re written in a sort of shorthand. I always thought that I would eventually flesh them out if I was ever inspired to tell our story. I’m thinking I might bring my 1993 book down to Giant Robot and just read from that in lieu of boring people with weak freestyle.

Is it awkward to listen to the old songs? Weird? Awesome?
I think we sound great. Objectivity is the benefit of being so far removed from the band at this point. I’ve said it before: Jawbreaker was so long ago, I’m not 100 percent sure I was in the band. But the weirdest thing is when I hear our music out of context, by accident. Like one time I was in a coffee shop and they were playing one of our records. It took me way longer than you might think for me to recognize it was us. But the cool thing was, I liked what I heard! Anyway, I find that it’s more awkward and weird to listen to new music.

You get pretty serious about the remastering part. Have you always had the ear for that? Is it something you learned?
My ears are pretty shot. The reason I spend so much time mastering then, remastering then re-remastering the re-master, then eventually going with the original is that I can’t really hear. I don’t trust my ears. There, I said it. Did you hear that? Because I didn’t. See what I mean?

For the reissues, do you read the reviews and comments when they get posted? People are either so serious or snarky it hurts!
One time a guy who wasn’t even old enough to have seen us play made a snide remark that we weren’t a good live band. Now, I don’t care if you don’t like my band. But I’m absolutely sure about one thing and that is that we were a really good live band in spite of what this prick saw on YouTube. So I wrote him back, “Fuck you in the heart.” That’s about as far as I’ve gone. Mostly, I just wash them out of my life.

Does your inner label guy have battles with your inner band guy about why there’s no shows to go with the re-releases?
I see where you’re going with this–because I’m both the label guy and the band guy. The inner struggle! Dr. Jekyll versus Mr. Heckle! Alas, what I truly want is for everyone to go out and purchase Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge Therapy at finer record stores in their area. Then I want them to listen to the record and be inspired enough to start their own band. Then one day when they’re practicing their craft, I want their copy of 24 Hour Revenge Therapy to be stolen from
their car when they absentmindedly leave it unlocked in a sketchy-but-affordable part of town. Then I want them to march right out and purchase 24 Hour Revenge Therapy again. But before they do that, I want their bandmate to be like, “It’s cool dude. I have that record. I’ll rip you a copy of mine. Or better yet, why don’t you just stream it on Spotify or Rhapsody or Pandora or BitTorrent or any number of illegal downloading sites that David Lowery warned us about?” Then I want them to go, “You know what? I’m buying it again. And on top of that, I’m buying an extra copy just in case this one gets broken or stolen. Wait. No. Fuck that. I’m going to buy three copies. That way I’ll have one to give away as a gift if the spirit moves me.” Then I want Jawbreaker to get back together and play Vin Scully’s birthday party.

Does all the producing make you want to drum?
In the past 33-plus years, the longest time I’ve gone without playing drums is precisely nine months. That was after my third shoulder surgery in 2006. I have three drum kits: one set up at my practice space, one set up at my house, one in cases in the basement waiting for the next show or recording session. Looking at my usual routine via GPS, it appears I’m never more than 5 miles or 20 minutes from a drum set to bang on. This is comforting to me.

Is California the next release on Blackball Records?
I give you my word.

Can we plan our spring Save Music in Chinatown show around California’s next tour, and what will it take to get Rachel on the bill?
You say jump, we say, “How high?” We ask Rachel to get onstage, we go through a number of receptionists at Third Man Records before finally
getting “accidentally” disconnected and continue trying to reach her through the That Dog Totally Fanatical Fanpage on Facebook posing as Todd Rundgren offering a proper paying gig. When she finds out it’s us, she burns an effigy of the band–a VHS copy of John Milius’ Big Wednesday–atop the lifeguard station on Santa Monica State Beach just north of Chautauqua.

In reality, all it will take is a pack of Marlboro reds. In a box.

Eloise’s first pilgrimage to visit Adam at Lost Weekend Video (February 16, 2014)

Pre-order 24 Hour Revenge Therapy from Midheaven and follow Jawbreaker on Facebook.

ABC Nightline, eye jobs, and me


I don’t recall exactly how or when I became an “expert” on Asian eye jobs and cosmetic surgery, but every few years I’ll get a phone call from a TV show producer regarding the subject: Tyra, Dr. Phil, CNN, and now ABC News. It was unexpected but not totally shocking when I was contacted by Nightline on Thursday morning.

I respectfully informed the producer that the Asian pop culture magazine I helped make is long gone, and suggested that she find someone from entertainment or academia instead. Isn’t there someone with more authority or star power who is willing say something negative about cosmetic surgery being used to erase one’s ethnicity? Or at least get a woman to comment on a woman’s decision. But when she insisted that they really wanted my quote, I thought, “Hell, what the heck.

A cameraman came over that afternoon, a quick interview was conducted in my backyard via speakerphone, and here’s what aired on Friday evening:

More ABC news videos | ABC Entertainment News

There’s also a text version at abcnews.go.com.

It’s flattering to be asked for my opinion but how sad is it that a similar story keeps running year after year. If someone wants to change his or her look, that’s a personal choice. A lot of them will look great afterward. But what message are they sending to the world or to their kids (or nieces or nephews or kids they know)? What is beauty? What is real?

The is the first time I’ve done one of these segments now that my daughter is a little girl and not a baby, and I have to admit that the story hit closer to home as a result. Although Eloise will surely (and preferably) develop her own aesthetics and interests, I hope we can instill in her the security and confidence to overcome the monster that is The Beauty Myth no matter what direction she goes in.

Descendents and OFF! at the Fox Theater, ALL and friends at Los Globos


When the Descendents opened for Rise Against and Bad Religion a few years ago, my brother and many of my friends gladly paid the 40 bucks and drove down to Long Beach to see them play an early, brief opening set. How could we miss it? It might have been a decade since they last played a live show for the SoCal scene that spawned them, and who knew if it would ever happen again? It was a huge, cathartic, and sweaty singalong for all of us hardcore nerds–and a little poetic for my brother and me since the first time we saw the band was at Fender’s Ballroom (R.I.P.) just a couple of blocks away on their farewell/finALL/Milo Goes Back to College M.D. tour in 1987.

Of course, the band that couldn’t sell out a telephone booth have come back many times since the Long Beach Arena show and I’ve caught each of the sold-out shows: GV30, FYF, Musink… So how could I miss a gig in a non-festival venue perfectly matched with OFF! or a special follow-up gig with ALL (featuring 3/4 of the Descendents) to celebrate the release of the Descendents/ALL documentary, Filmage?


As much as I love the Descendents and know every song inside out, I am just as versed in the first three or four ALL releases. In the early ’90s, I used to see the band practically every weekend at the Anti-Club with either the Chemical People or Big Drill Car opening. They’d attract 20 or 30 people, which was a real shame considering how catchy, polished, and perfect ALL songs could be. I wasn’t shocked that they’d leave town to be somewhere more central for cheaper rent and easier cross-country touring.

But on Monday night Los Globos was packed for the band’s homecoming: a special two-part set with Scott Reynolds and Chad Price each singing half of the set. I’ve only seen Chad a few times but he’s a great front man with an effortlessly gravelly smooth voice and demeanor. Songs like “Fairweather Friend,” “Million Bucks,” and “Original Sin” came back fast after decades of not hearing them. Seeing Bill Stevenson play drums way up close in a tiny club was a real treat, too. He’s a machine.


The Scott Reynolds era is my sentimental favorite, since I saw that lineup literally dozens of times. His set kicked off with “Crazy” and included “Dot,” “Mary,” “Scary Sad,” “She’s My Ex,” and so many other super catchy cuts that should have been hits. After playing “Frog,” even Scott had to admit what a dumb song that was. It was great seeing him jump, crawl, and work his way through the set like we were in a time machine.

The Dave Smalley era was represented by Chad singing “Paper Tiger,” and what I would have given to hear “Daveage” or “Just Perfect.” Seriously. I would have offered to personally pay for Smalley’s plane ticket from Virginia just so I could hear him sing “#10 (Wet)” with ALL but the thought didn’t occur to me until it was too late.


Following ALL’s set, a succession of guests came out to for a Descendents karaoke session. London May from Samhain sang “Descendents” and Milo from The Last sang “I Don’t Want To Grow Up.” After the show Milo told me that he actually auditioned to sing for the Descendents when the other Milo went to college, so this was kind of like a peek into that parallel universe where it worked out. The Filmage creators got a chance to take on “Cheer” and then Scott returned for “My Dad Sucks” and “I Like Food.”  It was pretty cool to hear Jen from the Bombpops sing a dude-oriented song “I’m The One,” and it was also cool that Chad got to sing “Thank You” after the crowd got amped up.

I think Marko from Sugarcult was the only guy in the house that needed a lyric sheet for “Get The Time,” but maybe his pal from the Posies knew them better. It was awesome to see Dennis from Refused/International Noise conspiracy/INVSN singing “Hope” and then “Silly Girl.” Wow. I didn’t recognize Davey from AFI when he sang “Myage” and “Bikeage” but spotted Jim from Pennywise in his Dodgers cap earlier and was stoked when he cranked out “Suburban Home” and “I Wanna Be A Bear.” Matt from Blink-182 finished things off with “Clean Sheets.” I understand he handled the Q&A following the movie screening at the Downtown Independent earlier that evening… If this description sounds manic, that’s how it was. You shoulda been there, and props to Filmage and Vannen for making it happen.


The night before was a dream bill with Descendents and OFF! and their histories overlap and intersect all over the storied landscape of L.A. punk and hardcore. No city on earth can top the musical past or present of Los Angeles, and this show at the lovely old Fox Theater in Pomona provided evidence.

Opening up was a transplant from San Diego, The Bombpops. Great to see a slightly younger band featuring some women in the veteran sausage party, and they cranked out a totally fun, tight, and compact set. Perfect!


OFF! are always great, but this was my first time to see the combo with Dale Crover from the Melvins sitting in on drums while Mario is on tour with Rocket From The Crypt. No one can drum like Mario, who seems like he’s going to destroy his kit and leave the room as ruins whenever he whales. But with Dale you get the feeling that he is going to kill someone with his drumsticks. Heavy. Dark. Evil. A different and great fit.

Keith didn’t do too much editorializing during OFF!’s opening set. Maybe he had packing on his mind since the band was about to embark on a European tour. Maybe his spiel wasn’t flowing since the show was a one-off. But one can always expect 100 percent intensity from one of the raddest punk singers and thinkers of all time. He touted the new album but those songs don’t seem new any more; they’re just the latest part of a ripping catalog with O.G. hardcore anger, veteran chops, with DIY intensity that a zillion dollars of production can’t buy.


Keith did joke that 99.9 percent of the venue was there to see the Descendents and couldn’t give a crap about OFF! Sadly, I think that might have been true. So weird. Maybe Pomona was just too far for the crusty L.A. punks to make the drive on a Sunday night.

By now in the Descendents’ reunited state, everyone knows what to expect yet always leaves blown away. They have the tightest lineup, the most likeable singer, and catchiest songs. Mixing up the best songs from Milo Goes to College all the way through Cool To Be You, their playlist is supreme. They can do no wrong. The biggest differences between this killer set and the others is that there were no kids helping out with the “All-o-gistics.”


There was one surprise. I spotted my friend Tony from the Adolescents in the middle of the show and started catching up him after the set ended when he was suddenly grabbed by Stephen and whisked onstage to sing a version of “No Way.” Holy crap, that was awesome. The whole band but especially Bill had a huge smile on his face and during the entire song.

One weird thing I have to add is that I usually hate it when someone sings along at shows and acts like a fool. But at a Descendents show, everyone really should be shouting along every lyric, jumping around nonstop, and having the best time ever. The amps are cranked up so loud, no one can hear you sing along anyway. That’s how it was at Ramones shows, too…


But the night was still young. Thanks to the magic of social media, I had begun corresponding with Chris Shary, who illustrates a lot of Descendents and ALL merch. Since he also did a lot of Chems merch back in the day and they had a song called “Donut Run,” I thought we might go to one of my favorite 24-hour eateries after the show. When he agreed and said that Milo might come along, I didn’t argue. And since Tony also a friend of theirs–and a fellow Donut Man fan, to boot–I invited him, too.

Some of my favorite bands. The last weekend of fresh strawberry donuts. Hanging out with Milo, Chris, and Tony at Donut Man. Can it get any better than that? (Without having my wife and daughter around, of course…)


In your quest for ALL, I recommend you pre-order the Filmage DVD, check out the art of Chris Shary, and blast every record by the Descendents and Adolescents nonstop…

Glen E. Friedman’s Rules


Last Thursday, I went to Arcana Books in Culver City to get the new book by Glen E. Friedman and have it signed. If there’s such thing as a role model, it’s GEF. Not only is he a kickass photographer who captures and pushes subculture that matters to me (Dogtown skateboarding, the rise of hardcore punk in L.A. and New York City, the Golden Age of Hip Hop) but he also works strictly according to his own tastes and always on his own terms.


I’ve had the outspoken vegan peace activist sign books before–and even got to run some of his photos in GR–but that was before I was a dad. This time I had my daughter Eloise present to join in a photo with the man. Earlier in the day, I showed her some of GEF’s photos of people that she’s met or seen in concert: Tony Brandenburg, Chuck Dukowski, Keith Morris, Milo Auckerman. Pretty rad that she’s starting to get where he’s coming from at the age of 6.


The book is by far GEF’s largest and nicest volume yet. Many of the images were previously included in his previous collections but in My Rules they are not only enlarged but color balanced. The images’ details pop extra hard and there is no sacrifice in punch. There are plenty of lengthy new essays, too, by heavy hitters including the aforementioned Tony and Chuck, not to mention Ian Mackaye, Ice T, Tony Alva, and many of the the other usual suspects. I also appreciate how the binding is quilted instead of having a dust jacket that will inevitably get mangled. (More details comparing the books on my Imprint blog.)


GEF’s homies always seem to come out to support his signings, and they always gladly sign their pages. Jeff Ho, Jim Muir, C.R. Stecyk–serious legends of Dogtown. Eloise was getting hungry so we had to miss the video with GEF and Ian Mackaye and subsequent Q&A (and I think Dukowski) but there’s a fine line between being a rad dad and a lame one, and I never want to cross it.


It was also awesome to see so many friends. We carpooled with my friend/filmmaker/photographer Wing Ko and met up with our mutual pal Eric Matthies. Matthies helped shoot and screen the video that showed at the bookstore. And the first guy we saw was Dave Naz, another art photographer with roots in L.A. punk. More on Naz and his upcoming art show at Coagula soon…

Everyone at Arcana could have been cheap and bought the book for way less on Amazon. But shaking the creator’s hand, supporting a cool bookstore, and being part of a community is important, too. Not all of us can be iconoclastic culture pushers, but we can all enjoy it, support it, and grow it better when we leave the front door. And why not give that example to your kid, too?