The return of Slug!


All band photos by Wild Don Lewis.

Worlds collided a few weeks ago when I introduced the legendary punk rocker Rikk Agnew to my friends and our hosts Steve and Max (a.k.a. Cyrano and Lotus) when we were guests on KXLU’s Molotov Cocktail Hour. I casually mentioned that Steve used to sing for a band called Slug, and Rikk immediately recalled being blown away by them at Bogart’s in Long Beach. In fact, he flashed back on them somewhat recently and had even dug up videos on YouTube. And then the very next day, the ex-member of the Adolescents and Christian Death sent me a text saying that he downloaded the recently remastered tracks on Bandcamp and to let Steve know that he was in Slug heaven!

I’m super excited about the return of Slug as well, fondly recall seeing them often in the ’90s when they were practically the house band at Jabberjaw. With a punk upbringing and indie work ethic but dimensions of industrial, noise, and dub, they could play with bands like Nation of Ulysses, Unsane, and Ruins as well as Fugazi. So how could I not ask Steve if he and some of the other guys would answer some questions about how the reissued music came to be, where the band is today, and whether or not they’ll ever get back together to play a show. And here are the answers.

The participants: Steve (vox), Todd (guitar), Michael B. (second bass), Tomas (drums).


Martin: Why now?
Steve: The reissues of the Slug material is something that has been in the works for a while now.  It was just a matter of finally pulling all of the threads together. The biggest incentive was how 2016 marked the 25th anniversary since we released our first single. As time goes on, we had a growing desire to  archive the documentation of Slug in one central source. Revisiting the music, the artwork, photos, lyrics, etc

Tomas: Let’s just say we talked about re-releasing this material in a variety of ways, CDs, vinyl, etc. for quite a few years but the 25th anniversary concept gave us a hard target to work around. And thanks to Todd for really providing the spark to this project by setting up our website, Bandcamp, and other entities, Steve for scanning rare photos, Damion for compiling, engineering, and remastering contributions, and all the other band members for their input. It was definitely a group effort on a lot of levels, just as our songwriting from this period was.

Todd: Tomas drove this effort. We’ve been discussing these reissues since before I moved to NYC 14 years ago, and Tomas was always the one to relight the fire after years of inaction and distraction among all of us. He spearheaded our digital presence on Facebook, drove coordination alongside Steve with our Jabberjaw friends during their recent anniversary and book release, and worked with Bandcamp and his marketing contacts to get the word out on these reissues. It wouldn’t have happened without his perseverance.

Michael B.: I don’t know what got the rest of the gang to get this going, but I’m just happy to finally have digital copies of these… I don’t have a record player so it’s nice to be able to pull these up and force my kids to listen to how “Dad used to be cool… I swear, a few people actually liked us! No, I’m not making it up! Yeah, well you’re grounded!”


Martin: How do the songs sound after not hearing them for a while?
Tomas: I think they do stand up. They were written in a certain atmosphere that suited the times with the available equipment and skills that we had, and given that few of us were trained musicians at all, these tracks sound original in their own way. We never had one aesthetic, like say noise rock or industrial noise as our anchor, we freely borrowed from tons of influences: experimental classical music, field recordings, ethic folk traditions, dub, industrial dance, punk, post-punk. It sort of all went in the Slug blender and came out as our sound. In my opinion, what I think really comes out now, is how solid Steve’s lyrics were. Sure, they were often buried in the denseness of our compositions, but reading them now, he captured the mood of our songs perfectly.

Todd: It’s interesting how some tracks sound very fresh to me and others I find haven’t aged as well, and some are even combinations of both. “Diesel” was an unreleased track we’d recorded in one of our first sessions and I hadn’t heard it in a long time. It’s a product of the time in many ways–musically it captured all of us really well at that early point in our evolution, with Tomas’ excellent fractured rhythms, a good mix of the various bass and guitar sounds we’d been hashing out, and Steve’s great lyrics railing on the then-raging Gulf War. But it also has a few elements in the mix I’m less certain of, like the machine gun sound effects at the outset and the dual vocal tracks that I remember thinking were great at the time but now sound a bit dated to me. All that said, I love the track and I’m really glad it has joined the others are out in the world.

Steve: Some definitely sound different than I remember. I think some aged pretty well, and others I hardly even remembered. And yes, aspects of “Diesel” are a little cheesy, but I think that song has a heart.  It’s been a strange voyage of discovery to hear something you were a part of (even the sound of my voice) and come back to terms with it so many years later. I’m still stoked on everyone’s playing–the inventive and deceptive rhythms of Tomas, the towering power of the basses, and fuzzy, murderous slices of guitars. It’s great to hear the alternate mix of Swingers, emphasizing different instruments and with added vocals from Carla Bozulich and Beth Capper.

Michael B.: I’d always been frustrated by how our recorded output never matched our live sound but Damion did a great job beefing them up, so to speak. My playing is a bit more buried in the mix which is a good thing because I was the least talented of any of the members.

Martin: Are there songs you didn’t like then that you really dig now? Vice versa?
Michael B.: “Diesel.” I didn’t even recognize it as one of our songs. It took a few listens to finally get the recognition brain cells firing and it is much better than I remembered as it was my least favorite of our stuff. Vice versa? “Horrible Skull.” It used to be my favorite song of our set in the early days and was bummed when everyone voted to drop it from our sets. Now I hear it and just kind of think “Eh.”

Tomas: Personally, as the drummer, I was pushing the band to play some of our early songs live when we played out, rather than just the newest things we’d written. There was some tension around that, but we did succeed in playing some early material, like “Elevator,” from time to time, and I really love the intensity of our earliest compositions. I liked the early tracks then, and I still like them now.

Steve: I always felt like it was impossible to capture our sound on record, but I’m not ashamed of anything. These two releases include the earliest recordings committed to vinyl, and I love the immediacy of them. I hope people can appreciate our raw imperative to make a ruckus and not fuss over it. There were no wrong answers in Slug and everyone’s contributions were valid. I always thought there  was an unspoken aesthetic with our band that we all understood and maintained — instinctively there were things we did or just did not do.  perhaps in collectively shaping our sound, we defined it. Thankfully, I think this process kept us progressing and changing all the way through our lifespan as a band.

Going back and listening to things like “Horrible Skull” or the whole “Sore Thumb” single, I think there’s a youthful urgency and, at times, an almost naïve charm to them. Many times, we included moments of the humorous and absurd into our songs, as well as the obvious concussive waves of aggression and force. After we came up with “Godstopper,” it became our show closer, and it’s always been an icon of sinister menace and malice to me. Listening to it now, that songs seems to embrace my feelings of fear and loathing moving into 2017. As it was a 200 copy, tour-only single, I’m glad to see it out in the world.

Todd: Most of my mixed feelings have to do with the recordings themselves, some of which I’ve always liked more than others. I do wish we still had the studio tapes of some of the earliest recordings so we could go even deeper into remixing and cleaning up with modern digital tools, but that said I’m still happy with the way most of these tracks were captured and proud of what we did during this period.


Martin: Is the music like a time machine? Therapy?
Tomas: The music is a reflection of our aesthetic at the time. We were DJs into found sound, tape collage, William S. Burroughs, Test Department, Hafler Trio, and Malian traditional music, as well as very loud extreme music, Japanese noise, frenetic punk, and industrial music. We had amazing peers and musicians in bands like Distorted Pony, Waldo the Dog Faced Boy, Oiler, and Unsane. We reflected the fractured politics of that time too, Bush 1’s disastrous Iraq campaign, the L.A. uprising, and post-Cold War reverberations. So the music was our reaction to what we were seeing, hearing, feeling, and experiencing, and we made that our art and our lifestyles. All of us were very much serious about living our music culture, supporting other bands, going to shows, putting on shows in backyards and other spaces, doing zines and faux propaganda missives. It was our collective statement as friends and artists.

Todd: Agree completely with Tomas’ assessment. It is great to hear these tracks and remember much of what was going on among us and how we captured those moments in these songs. One of my favorite tracks from this period, both then and now, is “Godstopper.” It’s probably the best snapshot of our energy during that period, having been recorded right before we kicked off our first national tour. It was also written/recorded right around the 1992 L.A. riots, an event that I believe strongly reverberated in our music at the time. Plus “Godstopper” was one of our first recordings in Tom Grimley’s Poop Alley–Tom’s influence on our recordings can’t be understated, and the mix of “Godstopper” is a great example of how well he honed in on what we were doing.

Steve: Listening to it now, it reminds me of a time when Tomas, Todd, and I were living together; Rich was silk screening our shirts; and we were hand dying them and drying them on the clothesline behind our apartment across from LACMA. It makes me think of late nights at Kinko’s pasting up show fliers and art for the singles, meeting other bands, and making new friends as varied as Caroliner Rainbow, Unsane, Jawbreaker, and Lois. It reminds me of the bloat of the music industry before it was about to implode, a huge shift in the music scenes of L.A.  (the death of hair metal, the rise of Riot Grrrl) the true breakthrough of international music which we were listening to a lot of (Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Baba Mal, Master Musicians of Jujuka, Buddhist Chants, etc), the rapid growth of rap and hip hop, and watching Twin Peaks. Also eating toast at Ship’s coffee shop.

For me, our music was more like therapy when performed live. That energy onstage with the rest of the band was like being in the eye of a sonic tornado. I thought about the shows of other bands I liked and remembered best, and thought I wanted to do the same: to give someone in the audience a worthwhile performance. At the same time, I always ended up losing myself in the music and could just be in the immediacy of the moment. Listening to the recordings can also be somewhat melancholic, like seeing old photographs or hearing a story about an old friend who has passed away. It brings up a lot of feelings about the past and how seemingly simple those days were. You treasure them, are proud of them, but know those times are gone. What did David Bowie say? “Things that happened yesterday, only happened in our minds”?

Michael B.: Yes to both. It brings up a lot of memories–some wonderful and some very sad. After Slug, I went through a very troubled period of my life which got progressively worse (addiction, HIV, divorce, homelessness, and prison) so the songs definitely makes me reflect on a more innocent, less complicated time. For the record, I’m doing well now: 8-1/2 years clean, remarried, good health and back in school to get my Master’s in Counseling. Put that in your article to make me sound good!

Martin: When are the physical copies with photos and essays and stuff going to happen?
Steve: We’ve flirted with the idea of re-issuing the physical media over the years, but it just hasn’t come to fruition. I would love to have great pressings of the re-mastered songs out in the world. We’re open to ideas, suggestions, and offers if anyone cares enough. It’s something we’ll be pursuing as more Slug material is re-mastered by us.

Tomas: We’re seeking label partners with resources to help with that side of things. If there is interest and we can find a good label to work with then it’ll happen. We have the raw material (music, photos, text). We just need a good label to work with.

Michael B.: When you find out, let me know.


Martin: Has the process got a lot of you back in the same room or has everything happened via texts and email?
Michael B: Since I’m in St. Louis now, the only contact I’ve really had has been through the rare email with Steve (and Rich via Facebook).

Tomas: Texts and emails mostly, with personal visits when we’re in each other’s respective cities. Steve, Damion, and Dave Stone are in L.A., I’m in the Bay Area and Collin and Todd are Back East,

Steve: I still see Damion every week as he and I still DJ our radio shows back-to-back on KXLU. Everyone else has fled the coop, but I often check out pictures of Rich (McKinley) skating in Santa Cruz. I see Todd and Tomas once or twice a year and Michael B. and I talk once in a blue moon. I  run into Dave Stone around every so often, and Collin and I talk about music and meet up when he’s in town…Mostly the reissues has been facilitated through the miracle of computers, but sometimes over the miracle of coffee and pie, too.

Martin: Think you could pull of some of the songs live? Maybe just a few. On a small stage. Maybe at one of our Save Music in Chinatown benefit shows since Jabberjaw is no longer around…
Tomas: Ha ha! We’d love to do that some time Martin. Let’s hope fate makes that happen some time soon.

Todd: It’s fun to think about abstractly, but when the idea was brought up as part of the Jabberjaw anniversary a few years ago, I had to vote against us participating. Besides the logistics of it, I’d selfishly hate to sully my personal memories of what we were 20 years ago by pretending to have any chance of capturing that energy again. Our lives are all very different now and, with that in mind, Tomas’ answer to question 4 above is probably the best argument against us playing live again.

Michael B.: I still have the same strings on my bass that I had for my last show with Slug (’94?) so my part would sound kind of skeezy. Then again, my stuff always sounded really skeezy in comparison to the other guys. (And before you ask, Mr. Writer Man, yes “skeezy” is a word.)

Personally, I’d love to have a chance to play one more time for nostalgia’s sake as I have no creative outlets whatsoever and hold onto my time in Slug as “my salad days,” kind of like the high school football player who still goes to the games long after he’s graduated. But I think the rest of the guys have pretty much moved on and grown artistically with other outlets. I have no contact with Damion whatsoever (I miss the little guy) but from what I understand, musically Slug is just not his thing anymore and I can’t imagine Slug being Slug without that wall of immenseness he created with just four simple strings.

Maybe I could be like Greg Ginn and do a Black Flag maneuver… I’d have to find some amazing musicians to mask my ineptitude, though.

Steve: I have no doubt in my mind we could pull off the songs live, but it would take some large efforts on all of our parts. We are scattered all across the U.S., so logistics as well as Father Time tend to put the kibosh on any realistic hope of getting together. Then consider practicing and stripping off enough rust to do the songs justice. I would be there in a heartbeat, but it’s highly doubtful at this stage of the game.

It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop seeing shows in Chinatown, though…


Check out Slug at and buy the music at


Hallo, Dave Laney from Milemarker


All photos of Milemarker at the Rock N Roll Hotel (August 26, 2016) courtesy of  Christopher Grady.

My friend Brian sent me an email asking if I knew any journalists out in L.A. that would want to cover Milemarker’s upcoming tour. My response was something like, “Not really, but how about me?” I loved reviewing everything off his Lovitt  Records label when I edited GR mag and would gladly cover the band’s triumphant return for my humble blog. And, oh yeah, Milemarker’s provocative blend of post-hardcore electronic music with pitch-black lyrics is rad.

Thanks to Dave Laney for answering my often uninformed and sometimes ridiculous questions with gusto and go see Milemarker as they work their way from Texas through California and back to Chicago. Right now. They’re based in Germany nowadays, so don’t blow it!

Here’s a Devo-related question… Your sound was kind of futuristic a decade ago. Is it vintage now?
I’m not sure how futuristic our sound ever has been. We’ve often sided on the more dystopian angle lyrically, and perhaps synths + dystopian lyrical content gives the impression of a futuristic sound, but most of the keyboards and synthesizers we began using were essentially bottom of the barrel Casio garbage that friends gave us or we found lying around, unused in someone’s garage collecting dust. At that point, they were already “vintage” so to speak, but not in a presumably “desired” type of way. It wasn’t intentional, rather more out of necessity as we didn’t have any money, and also because we tended to break them quite often on stage. We’ve always been more of a working-with-what-we-have band.

But to speak to the “vintage” question, I hope it’s not! I’ve always felt that our albums were quite different from each other, or at least that’s part of what we’ve always tried to achieve as a band.

How did you guys wind up in Germany? Playing songs again?
Al and I moved to Germany at roughly the same time, a little over seven years ago, but for different reasons. Al’s mother is German and he has dual citizenship, so he decided to try out a new place and has been working over there on his writing, comics, and art stuff. I had been spending a lot of time in Hamburg and married a German woman and moved there for that reason, focusing on and touring with another band I also play in which is currently based there. Al also had his hand in my other band from time to time, with recording and filling in on some tours. After a few years it seemed like we should be doing our own thing together again, so we asked a few friends if they’d be interested in playing together. It came together very naturally and smoothly, so we let it roll. The lineup has been the same for the last few years with Ezra Cale and Lena Kilkka.


Did the songs and song writing come right back? Was there some rust or was the muscle memory and chemistry there right from the start?
Well, we never stopped playing music together, nor did we have a time when we weren’t active with other touring bands, so the process of playing music is something that we’ve been doing for quite a long time. While writing the new album, it was fun to feel the influence of Ezra and Lena, who both approach music a bit differently than other people we’ve played with in the past. So in that sense, it’s always interesting to play music with new people and figure out what their strengths are and develop songs using those strengths of everyone.

That said, it was informative to learn some of the old songs again. We’re obvious in different places than we were in, say, 1997 – physically, emotionally, and interest-wise. I think Al and I both agree on the idea that some of the lyrical content would be written differently if we were to write the same songs today. But that’s an unavoidable consequence to learning songs that were written up to 20 years prior. I think we both realized that we were really angry then. And while we’re both still naturally angry with many things, we’ve been trying to focus more on the positive side of things in more recent years. That doesn’t necessarily mean mellowing out, but I’m implying a slightly different approach to life and dealing with negative situations.

 “Conditional Love” is a rad song but also a really cool looking 7″ single. Can you tell me about the design?
We wanted to keep it minimalistic.

LP Jacket-Outlines.indd

Has being in Germany had an effect on your music or lyrics? Lou Reed and David Bowie in Berlin, Kraftwerk being Kraftwerk, Clash in Hamburg. Is it as rockin’ as it seems from the outside? Does anyone call you Kilometer Marker?
Sure. I think any place people live has an effect on their music, and Germany is no different for us, not only in terms of just Al and I living there for a long time and the societal and political differences, but also from the influences of and musical interaction with Lena and Ezra.

Germany has a long history with good music and there are plenty of good bands there. No one has ever called us Kilometer Marker until just now.

Have you been playing shows in Germany? Is it still a blast being back on stage after so many bands, so many years?
We have been playing quite a bit around the EU. Being back on stage with Milemarker is a blast. Everything came together naturally and easily and we’re all having a great time doing it. If it wasn’t like that, we simply wouldn’t be doing the band. No reason to spend 3+ weeks at a time on the road if you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing.

Any cool bands, scenes, zines, or cryptoids in Germany we need to know about?
“Need to know about” could be strong phrasing (depending on one’s individual reliance on new things), but there are loads of things happening over there. It is a country of 80 million people with a rich history of interesting things in terms of music and art.

It’s too complicated to fully get into for a little Q&A, but what’s it like coming back to the U.S. right now? I think it used to be an adventure going to Europe from the U.S but now it might be the other way around!
Personally, I’m having a great time touring the U.S. I’ve been touring primarily in Europe for the last 9 years, so what used to be the “unknown” has become normal. You know the bad cities, the good cities, and probably how to get around a lot of them, at least in terms of finding that good coffee shop of the music store. So it’s more or less reversed roles with the relationship I used to have with the U.S.


On the other hand, there is a very in-your-face type of reverse culture shock coming back to the U.S. I’ve been in Europe so long that I’ve literally forgotten how to do some things in the U.S., and technology has progressed here at a dramatic rate compared to that which Germany has embraced. For instance, we “need” a credit card reader at the merch table now. That’s a new concept for us. I mean, we’ve heard about them but I’ve never seen anyone use one in Europe, and it seems that everyone here has one, regardless of their age or what they sell. Just taking a guess here, but I imagine vendors at flea markets here have them and the patrons at flea markets have some sort of type of app where they can find out the median price for a rusty candle stick made out of antler and iron.

On another note, I’m always amazed by how much trash we generate during a tour in the U.S., compared to the same length tour in Europe. That’s always a shocker to come back to. You wouldn’t necessarily think that 7-8 years of living outside the U.S. would be long enough to evaporate the rhythm of being here, but it is amazing how quickly one becomes acquainted to different standards. I saw a woman yesterday in a truck stop filling up a 1-gallon plastic cup with cola and immediately had the urge to take a photo of her as if she were a woolly mammoth in a zoo (I refrained). That’s the type of thing that seems “exotic” to me about coming back to the U.S., though it’s clearly something familiar to it all. Like finding a photo buried deep in a box I haven’t looked into for years.

But the obvious other element involved in your question is the current political situation. In that sense, it is a curious time to be touring here. Lots being said about that at the moment from every imaginable angle. In attempt to keep my bit on it short, I find it sad that there is currently such a tremendous divide between people, but I also find it encouraging and heartening to see the political push back that is happening. That gives me hope. Brian Eno wrote an excellent article on the current political situation roughly asserting that this was not the beginning of the end, but the end of the ending and thus the beginning of a new era. Everyone is disenfranchised and soon there will be a time that we all figure out how to work together for the good of everyone. Let’s hope the optimistic vision weighs out here and we can wrap up this ending.

Besides seeing Brian in D.C., what do you look forward to most about the U.S. tour? Foods, dudes, gear, classic rock while driving on freeways instead of autobahns?
Unfortunately we’re going to miss Brian as we’re not hitting the East Coast this time. But there’s a lot we’re all looking forward to. I love driving through the desert, so I’m excited to be going back there. Part of the idea of the tour was to escape Germany during the winter. It’s dark and grey there with very little fluctuation as to those elements: dark and grey. As such, we decided to go towards the best weather we could find. Texas to CA. Certainly can’t argue with those climates during February. So yea, call it our vitamin D and sunshine tour.

Check out the band at and and then stalk them at See em live and buy stuff from the merch table, too.

SoCal dates:
Tuesday, February 14 – San Diego at the Casbah
Wednesday, February 15 – Los Angeles at the Echo
Thursday, February 16 – SF at Bottom of the Hill

Public education’s not dead–yet


It’s safe to say that each of us who protested our 45th president’s appointment of an unqualified, inexperienced, and pro-privatization billionaire to Secretary of Education was horrified (if not surprised) when the Senate and Second in Command confirmed her place in the White House Cabinet this week.


The Secretary of Education’s lack of knowledge was displayed for all to see in public hearings and disapproval by authorities on education was overwhelming. That hefty donations from her family to conservative causes–not to mention every single Senator that voted for her–might be sufficient to secure her place in the Cabinet is outrageous and should be embarrassing to all Americans. Our children are up for sale, just like the environment.


DeVos’s vision for education is not clear–perhaps not even to her–but we can expect a push for vouchers directing more public money to private, virtual, religious and for-profit schools. We can expect less regulation when it comes to assisting and protecting  English learning, special needs, and low-income students. Her family donating millions to anti-LGBT groups should strike fear in yet another group of at-risk kids.


I’m hoping that this moment will not sink but galvanize supporters of public schooling for everyone. The day before the current regime took office, teachers and families across Los Angeles woke up early and stood outside in the rain to show support for their public schools. At least 30 of us met outside my daughter’s school in Chinatown, Castelar, and family and friends passed along photos of like-minded gatherings at Eagle Rock, Dalia, and Glenfeliz elementary schools.


The awareness and activism of parents has been swelling. Last year, the Castelar community fought off  co-location by a charter school, and we families shared information and strategies with peers at others’ schools who faced similar threats. This year and moving forward we will  continue to work together to protect and improve our public schools in spite of federal leadership or lack thereof.


Public education is not perfect, but many of us are willing to work on it and fight for it.

Thank you for Save Music in Chinatown 11: Rikk Agnew Band, Ford Madox Ford, Rough Kids, Florida Mistakes


My friend Daryl said that our eleventh Save Music in Chinatown show might have been his favorite one so far. And who am I to argue with a guy who holds down the fort at RazorCake magazine and KCHUNG?


Of course Daryl and Gabie at KCHUNG are two friends who always carve out time from their radio shows to help us get the word out. I think it’s really cool that Gabie’s Crystalline Morphologies program is not only scheduled early enough that Eloise can go on the air, but is also archived for streaming and downloading.


We get help from so many friends. There’s also Cyrano and Lotus (a.k.a. Steve and Max) at KXLU’s Molotov Cocktail Hour. On their show, we had Rikk Agnew on the air to pick songs from the great new Rikk Agnew Band LP, and vintage solo stuff, Adolescents, and Christian Death, and share Hong Kong Cafe anecdotes from his storied punk rock life, too. Super cool!


At the show it itself, we saw a lot of old friends coming out to support the cause. There was LP3 and Carrie. Louie played for us with Evil Hearted You way back when and will return with LP3 & The Tragedy sooner than later.


Bob Forrest has played for us twice, solo at our first show ever and then with The Bicycle Thief. Holy cow, I can’t believe that reunion happened at one of our little shows. Were you there?


And how about longtime supporters Lisa Fancher from Frontier Records and David O. Jones from Alice Bag Band, Carnage Asada, Deadbeats, and a bunch of other cool projects coming out early enough to see Rough Kids?smic11-rough2

More old and new friends: Paul from Rough Kids with Paul and Nick from Escape Artist. Nick played for us in FourEyedFour and will come back with 16 Again one of these days!smic11-roughflyboys

There was an Alice Bag sighting, too. How rad was it for her to come out to Chinatown and say hi to Chip, who was co-headlining our show with Ford Madox Ford. Decades ago, they used to play in the Bags and Dils, respectively, right across the courtyard at the Hong Kong Cafe!


I was especially happy to see my friend Jaime not only get time off from work to attend the show but jump on stage to sing with the Rikk Agnew Band. When I was in college, I used to go to the Anti-Club almost every weekend to see him play with the Chemical People on bills with ALL and Big Drill Car.


After seeing him so often at shows and then Hollywood Book and Poster we became friends, breaking the barrier between stage (even ones a foot tall) and crowd. One small step on the way to putting on these benefit shows…


Of course, there was my good friend Nate who helps behind the scenes of every single show. Although he’s elusive like Bigfoot, this time I got a blurry picture of him with Chip and Scott from Ford Madox Ford. But how did I miss photos of Vicki, Horace, and Clare–the latter two all the way from London?smic11-chipnatecrew

Besides being excited and grateful to the Florida Mistakes, Rough Kids, Ford Madox Ford, and Rikk Agnew Band and everyone who showed up, I don’t have a real story to tell except that a lot of people out there want to make a difference and help out in some way.


I don’t have a radio show, play in a band, release records, or make awesome cookies. But if I can help those people get together to help kids in Chinatown receive music education at their public school, what can you do? What difference can you make?


Thanks again to the Grand Star, the bands, the bake sale crew, raffle donors, everyone who came, and everyone who spread the word. We’ll do it again at the Grand Star on Sunday, May 7 and be ready for some top-shelf garage punk rock ‘n’ roll…


Best blurry picture ^ v Gung hay fat choy!


Damon & Naomi and Dear Eloise


It was pretty cool to find out that my friends Damon & Naomi were going to tour China last year. Are there nicer people who play more gorgeous music? And at this moment is there a more interesting scene for underground music than China? Carsick Cars, Birdstriking, Chui Wan, P.K.14–there are so many awesome bands I love out there.

And how great was it to hear that Naomi went on  make a video for Dear Eloise, a  P.K. 14 offshoot with Yang Haisong and his wife Sun Xia playing dreamy and fuzzed-out shoegaze. How could I not ask Naomi about the trip and the video?

How did the China trip/tour happen and where did you go?
We were invited to China last September by a Chinese tour promoter. We were so excited as we had never played China before (although we have played in Hong Kong and Taiwan) and had no idea what to expect but we were eager to see what it was like and to see the country. We played in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hubei, and Beijing. We had an amazing time — we were surprised and delighted to find we had long-time fans in China even though sometimes our music has been hard to find there. The fact that people really had to work to have access to it was very moving to us. We were told that in the early ’90s people had to buy black-market indie rock cassettes — discarded from factories where the tape had been cut up to prevent resale — and splice them back together by hand in order to hear the music. Having to do so much to have access to music floored us.


Were you more excited about playing or traveling there?
I was excited about both — and about eating there! Although I admit I was more than a bit nervous before we went. My father was Chinese and he left as a child in 1937 during the war with Japan and never went back. So China has always been meaningful to me — a sort of strong identification with something I didn’t have any personal experience of at all except second or third-hand. The idea of actually playing there was intimidating just from the weight of family history. To add to that, our first show was in Shanghai, where my father’s family was from (though he was born and grew up in Suzhou, about 45 minutes away) so it really was making a return trip in place of my father. But the show in Shanghai was wonderful, a beautiful and unforgettable evening for me. Really, I couldn’t have been happier.

What setup did you and Damon bring?
We had our basic duo set-up: I was playing keyboard, Damon was playing acoustic guitar and we were both singing.

Did you play with any cool bands?
The only place that any other bands played with us was at the Festival in Hubei — we were the only band on the bill at our club shows — and unfortunately, typical for a festival, we didn’t really get to see any of them. But the location of the Festival was incredible, way way out in the countryside, 4 hours from the nearest airport — the stage was literally built about a half a mile into Tenlong Cave — which is about 20 stories high so just a huge place. When they had told us we were going to play a cave I kind of imagined some random rock wall/small cave but this was just an enormous scale. The reverb was crazy — and it was damp and cold! It was a cave!


How did you meet Haisong? Were you already fan of his?
We were already fans of P.K. 14 and the Maybe Mars label. Damon had done a lot of looking into Chinese music before we left and had found a lot of music online. So when we heard we were going to Beijing we invited Haisong to our show and asked to meet him. We hit it off right away and the next thing I knew I was delighted to be making a music video for Dear Eloise. Damon also scoured all the record stores in China and quizzed everyone and came home with a lot of interesting Chinese music both new and older.

Tell me about the Dear Eloise video.
Dear Eloise never performs live and it wasn’t feasible to have them come to the US for a video shoot, so I decided I would have to make the video without them in it. I found the lyrics very moving (translation below!) — sort of about isolation in a city, and some kind of nostalgia for a different place or time. So I started with these ideas and worked with a friend, Laura Kenner, who was a fashion model and now is at Harvard in graduate school. We were lucky enough to be shooting the day of the Harvard/Yale game and we spontaneously decided to go shoot amid the debris of the pre-game tailgating parties. The melancholy of the after-party destruction was pretty great. I also incorporated footage of two lovely young girls I know who are best friends, their sweetness and innocence evoke a sense of nostalgia for me.

How are we going to get Dear Eloise to tour the US with D&N and play a Chinatown show?
Well, no problem with the D&N appearance! But you have to convince Haisong to play live with Dear Eloise!

“Something Beautiful to Share”

I wish there is something beautiful to share with you
But everything changes so quickly, is anything speaked out worth to be trusted
Maybe every city is doomed in a kind of mood, you and I are a part of it
So where can I find you something beautiful to share

Then write it down on a notebook and take it as the future direction
Elephants will come back to the plain again and you will be peaceful as a new born baby
But still I wish there is something beautiful to share with you
But still I wish there is something beautiful to share with you

But everything will be lost you don’t understand so you flow away just like a boat
But still I wish there is something beautiful to share with you

You can wear your flowers and walk around in city streets
You can listen to people talking about things they are interesting in on buses
You said yes, yes I want a life like this and that
But still I wish there is something beautiful to share with you


Save Music in Chinatown 11 preview with Matt from Ford Madox Ford and Cameron from The Florida Mistakes


I was actually okay with The Rikk Agnew Band, Ford Madox Ford, and Rough Kids comprising our next Save Music in Chinatown benefit show. What a rad lineup featuring two legends of L.A. punk rock (Rikk from Adolescents, Christian Death, D.I., and a ton of other crucial bands as well as Chip Kinman from the Dils and Rank & File in Ford Madox Ford) and some of my favorite local punks, Rough Kids.

Then Matt from FDMDXFD mentioned there was this new local group called The Florida Mistakes that he really dug. And, oh yeah, his daughter Cameron is in it.

Whoa. How perfect would it be to have a father and daughter–each playing bass–at one of our benefits for music education? Here’s a quick Q&A with Matt Littell from FDMDXFD and Cameron Littell from The Florida Mistakes. Both excellent bands that I’m stoked to have play for our cause.


MW: Matt, when did you get into bass?
ML: I started on guitar when I was 14 living in upstate New York. We had a college radio station in my town that was playing an amazing selection of punk rock and it really got me fired up to play. Literally no one in my town played bass so I bought a ’70s Gibson SG bass, spray painted it pink, and made the switch. That turned out to be a amazingly fortuitous decision and I’ve been in love with the bass ever since!

MW: What are some of the bands you’ve played in before Ford Madox Ford?
ML: I’ve played with a laundry list of bands thought the years. The ones that make the most interesting cocktail party stories are Terri Nunn (Berlin) and Quiet Riot.

MW: You can’t not tell…
ML: It sure seemed easy to “make it” in Los Angeles: It’s 1990 and I’m fresh off the boat in L.A., couch surfing and looking for work. Only days in, I answered an ad for “major label band seeks bass player” and mind-bogglingly found myself on salary playing bass for Terri Nunn’s solo record. She had just gone solo from Berlin and was trying out a more rock vibe. With the phenomenal Randy Castillo on drums (Ozzy Osbourne, Lita Ford), I felt like I won the lottery. Terri eventually ended up going into a less rock direction with other players. Fortunately, one of the tracks Terri, Randy, and I had recorded, “Confession Time,” was used as the lead song on her debut solo release.

MW: And Quiet Riot?
ML: The day I played bass for Quiet Riot: Apparently Chuck Wright, Quiet Riot’s then bass player missed his flight or some such snafu. The year was 1995 and after falling far, far from the heights of US Festival headlining status and “Cum on Feel the Noize”/MTV mania, the rest of the band was now valiantly holed up in some low-budget hell-hole studio in the valley trying to resurrect their career.

They had hired a songwriter I had once worked with to provide the song that they hoped, mistakenly, would put them back on the charts and turn it all around. The chosen song was a upbeat number called “Pretty Pack of Lies,” super catchy and memorable. This was the peak of the Seattle grunge sound and QR was hoping to hitch on to that bandwagon with this single.

They had tracked the song but it was in danger of being cut from the album if they couldn’t record a bass part and mix it by the release deadline. With their bass player awol and the song in jeopardy, my songwriter friend could feel his song publishing windfall evaporating and reached out to me to play. I had played bass on the publishing company’s demo for the track and he knew I had the song down.

At this point Quit Riot was in that very awkward stage where they were no longer cool in a “cool” way and were not yet cool again in an ironic/sentimental way. Offering a album credit I didn’t want at the time and saying that they didn’t have anything in the budget to pay me, I said no.

After receiving multiple calls from my friend refusing to take no for an answer, I caved and found myself spending a day with Kevin DuBrow, Carlos Cavaro, and Frankie Banali in the studio. They turned to be really sweet guys and it’s a blast to be a (tiny) part of Quiet Riot history.

MW: Cameron, did you grown up watching your dad play in bands? What did you think? When did you pick up a bass?
CL: I knew my dad was a bass player from band memorabilia around the house but he took bunch of years off so I didn’t see him play until I was a teenager. When he started playing again professionally I thought was it was cool! I started playing bass when I was 18. I got offered the bass spot in The Florida Mistakes and I’d never played bass before. I grabbed one of my dad’s basses out of the living room and jumped in.

MW: When you were starting out, did you go to your dad for tips or want to figure it out on your own?
CL: I figured it out myself. Bass playing is not rocket science…

MW: Tell me about The Florida Mistakes–what you do, how you got together… I don’t know much about your band yet!
CL: The Florida Mistakes started from a senior year high school project. In my English class they let us pick any creative outlet we wanted and work on it one day a week for 20 percent of our grade. We got an “A” and just kept rocking! We just released our debut EP and you can hear us on Apple Music and the other streaming sites. Check it out!

MW: Matt, it seems like everything you can get jaded about (from holidays to going to shows to Disneyland) becomes more interesting and fun again when you have a kid. Is it like that at all with music?
ML: Yes, I love Cameron’s band The Florida Mistakes. They rehearse in my living room and I find listening to them to be inspiring. It truly brings me back to my teens hearing it. They have been packing clubs at all their shows and a massive mosh pit always breaks out. It takes a lot of willpower to keep myself from jumping in!

MW: Cameron, now that you’re in a  band do you have access to your dad’s gear?
CL: Hell yeah! I literally have access to the coolest vintage gear a bass player could ever dream about; 70’s P-basses and vintage Ampeg SVT rigs!

MW: What do you think of playing a show together?
CL: It’s going to be awesome, I don’t have to shlep all my own gear!
ML: It’s a high point in my life for me. I can not wait!

MW: The benefit is for music education at the public elementary school. Any thoughts on the cause?
CL: It’s an awesome cause, I wish my elementary school had offered music education.
ML: We are stoked to contribute to this cause. Music education funding has been reduced or eliminated everywhere and it’s unfortunate. Thanks for including us in this, Martin!


Check out Ford Madox Ford and The Florida Mistakes and as well as the Save Music in Chinatown event page on Facebook and ticketing on Eventbrite!


Save Music in Chinatown 11 preview with Rough Kids


The first time I saw Rough Kids they were opening for Dillinger Four along with Night Birds and Underground Railroad to Candyland. What a bill and Paddy from D4 kept saying that anyone who didn’t pick up the Rough Kids LP was an idiot. So of course I bought the record and it ruled. Kind of like the power of The Buzzcocks and hooks of The Plimsouls–or is it vice versa?

I immediately thought of Rough Kids when I was trying to round out the upcoming bill with original L.A. punks Rikk Agnew (of Adolescents and Christian Death fame with his new Rikk Agnew Band) and Chip Kinman (from The Dils and Rank & File with Ford Madox Ford). Rough Kids have an old school punk sensibility but are firmly part of today’s underground. I hit them up cold and less than 10 minutes later they agreed to play. Hot damn!

A few weeks later, I crashed one of their practices to hear some new songs and do a short Q&A to get you all ready for the show…

E: Ethan – Vocals/Guitar
T: Tsubasa – Guitar/Vocals
P: Paul – Bass
L: Luis – Drums


M: Were you ever kids while being Rough Kids?
E: I don’t think so. It formed at the end of 2008 and we were in our mid-20s. Not kids.

M: So in the tradition of Sonic Youth and Adolescents, not kids.
T: Not Kids isn’t as good of a name, though.
P: We have kids.

M: Isn’t it a challenge getting out when you have young children?
E: We didn’t have kids when we started the band. Now we all have kids except for Luis but he’s the newest addition and the closest one to being a kid. For as much as we play, though, I don’t think we’d playing more if we didn’t have kids.
P: This band’s very low demand.

M: Low demand on you or low demand from fans?
E: On us.

M: You guys all have balance in your life.
P: I don’t think we’d do it if it were incredibly taxing.
E: We practice once a week, maybe play six shows a year.
T: We try to play more, but we didn’t do a lot this year.
P: We have our second LP out so why would we want to play shows? They  could just listen to the record.

M: How did you wind up on Sorry State? I had your 7″ shipped to me way out from North Carolina!
E: We met Daniel, who runs the label, when he was touring with Shitty Limits. We had to buy a generator because we wanted to play with Shitty Limits somewhere behind a bunch of downtown fabric stores. Everything was tagged up and we had to cut our way through a fence to get back there with our equipment. Daniel’s band, Logic Problem, was touring, too, and we tried to get him to do our second 7″ single but never heard anything back from him. Later, we saw him post that it was one of his favorite records of the year! So when we recorded the LP, we hit him up again and he wanted to do it.

M: That cover song hidden at the end of the new record is pretty tricky and threw me off for the longest time.
E: We wanted to do what the Johnny Moped LP does. On the first track there are two separate grooves you can get started on, and either runs seamlessly into the second song. But we had to settle.


M: When I was a kid I had a Mad Magazine flexi that had different endings to a song!
E: Kind of like that, but we were told that no pressing plant would guarantee our record if we tried. So we had a 45 RPM single in the middle instead.

M: Does the song start exactly where a 7″ would be? You could slice off the rest of the record and put it in a jukebox!
E: I never tried that!

M: A RazorCake reviewer called it one of the most brilliant cover songs ever and said you beat him to it.
E: He’s a super fan of that track. It’s from Shock Treatment, the Rocky Horror sequel or prequel. The movie’s not great…

M: I dug the cover because midnight movies used to be a subculture like punk rock.
E: I wanted every record we’d do from there on out to have one silly punk song from something from an obscure movie or TV show.

M: LIke Redd Kross singing a Partridge Family song?
E: More like punk songs that have been on TV shows like the Queen Haters from SCTV.

M: Fake punk from Quincy.
P: First generation punks covered “normal” songs like “Louie Louie” and “Good Guys Don’t Wear White” because that’s what there was. Now but we’re covering weird, bizarre stuff.
E: Songs we think you should know about but probably haven’t heard…

M: Is “Annima City” from a movie or cartoon or something?
E: No, I just didn’t want to call another song “Animosity,” so I made up a place called Annima City. Real clever….
P: Not clever.
E: Not only spelled wrong but differently in different places on the record.

M: And “Into the 2000s” wasn’t written in 1999 or 2000 because your band wasn’t around yet.
E: That was the 2010s, probably.
P: I joined in 2010 and it was already a song.

M: Was that retro future like when Disneyland redid Tomorrowland in bronze?
E: I just wanted to write a song where I could say “the ohsies” because I don’t like “the naughts” or “the oughts.” I’ve been using my made-up word forever and thought it would be funny to make it into a song.

M: So our benefit show is in Chinatown right next to the Bruce Lee statue and old locations of Hong Kong Cafe and Madame Wong’s… Have you guys ever played Chinatown?
P: I used to drive through it a lot when I lived in Highland Park. I looked it up and apparently Chinatown moved.

M: It used to be where Union Station is, but then they kicked everyone out and razed it to build the train station. The new Chinatown has Chinky or movie set architecture so everything has curved roofs and stuff. But I dig that my daughter goes to elementary school where the Weirdos, Dils, and Black Flag played. And now she gets to see bands like yours help raise money for the music program and and get exposed to DIY culture.
E: She’s into that stuff?

M: Totally! And yours?
E: Not really.
P: My son’s almost three. He’s into coloring and that’s cool.

M: You can skip right over kids’ music and play AC/DC and the Ramones.
E: Oh yeah, we force it upon them.
P: They don’t have a choice.

M: But this is a good show to take them to because it’s early and there are cookies.
T: I’ve been looking for a show like that so I can take my kids. The oldest one is six and I gave him his first guitar for Christmas. It’s a smaller Les Paul Jr. type made in Japan. We’re pretty stoked.

M: I think it’s super important for kids to see that concerts aren’t just for Staples Center and YouTube.
E: All my daughter knows is that I have to go play a “band show” every now and then, but she’s all right with it.

M: And when did you guys start playing music?
P: I was 10 or 11 when I got a guitar.
E: I was 12 or something.
T: 13 maybe.

M: Did you have hip parents?
P: I just whined a lot until I got one.
L: I got a drum kit to be in a band when I was 13. My parents were fully supportive, wanted me to stay out of trouble, and figured me bashing on the drums was one way to do it.
E: What was your first instrument, though?
L: My first instrument was bongo drums! I used to have some that my parents got for me from TJ. I got into it because we had a 1971 Ludwig in our living room. I went on it and figured, “All right!”

M: What were you listening to at the time?
L: Nirvana. I starting doing everything Dave Grohl did and realized how easy it was. That paved the way for me, man. But my mom plays piano, my dad plays drums and sings, my aunt drums, my uncle plays bass, my other uncle plays guitar, my grandpa was a singer and songwriter… So it was just a matter of time for me.

M: Do you ever play together, like on Christmas or something?
L: Actually, when my parents ask me to play for their church I’ll do it. I’m supposed to do it in three weeks. My mom makes me practice with them right before the gig like it’s a regular show. I love playing with my parents. It’s fun!

M: You just have to try not to spit between songs.
L: Like spit on the floor? I don’t have to do that with my parents. It’s easy. But with these guys, I gotta keep myself from throwing up on stage.
P: Do they put you behind the plexiglass on stage? That’s so weird.
L: No, but I’ve done that before. No fun!

M: How many years have you been with Rough Kids now?
L: Two years.

M: And were you a kid then?
L: I’m 29 now so I guess not!

M: So were those new songs you were playing in your space?
E: That was all new stuff we’re working out.

M: Is the process or are the songs different than the first two albums? Grappling with anything new?
E: Lyrically we don’t have anything old or new to say. Musically, maybe it’s a little different. A little more laid back and darker. mid tempo.
P: It’s our third LP, it’s gotta be. It’s an unwritten music law.
E: We have to go down that road. Do you like that band M.I.A. at all?

M: The Orange County punk band?
E: Yeah, the first albums were more on the hardcore side and then that third one took a real dive into darker, mid-tempo stuff.

M: And then Frank and Mark formed Big Drill Car… Hey, have you ever played a actual all-ages show with little kids dancing around?
E: Nope.

M: It’s like a real-life Peanuts cartoon! But you don’t have to worry about taking out cuss words or anything. Just play like you usually would.
E: Our lyrics are super clean.
P: It’s not like you can hear them anyway!

M: If you play six shows a year, how often do you do interviews?
E: No one wants to talk to us too much. This is the first one we’ve done in a while.
P: We’re pretty off the radar.
E: You just saw us at the Dillinger Four show, right?

M: Yeah, and Paddy sure pumped you guys up, but I read a RazorCake interview before that!
E: Oh, that was a while back–right after the first LP came out. We were probably getting okay by then.
T: We did an interview with KXLU…
E: I think her name was Hillary. My wife was in a band that played on KXLU 10 years ago.

M: She’s so much cooler than you!
E: Well, she had better connections. She was in a band called Christ Crunchers that didn’t last very long.

M: I’m still blown away by how you agreed to play our show 10 minutes after I asked, explaining that “Rikk Agnew has that effect on people.” That was the greatest quote ever. What are your favorite Rikk Agnew records?
E: All By Myself or the Adolescents LP.
L: Only Theatre of Pain is brilliant.
P: I was in an art show with him!

M: Tell me about your art.
P: Mostly screen printing. I did show posters in my free time for a real long time, but mostly collage now.

M: Is the collage like Jack Kirby’s weird Negative Zone stuff or Winston Smith?
P: They’re negative. They’re gross. And Winston Smith’s work is rad.
E: Paul did our last album cover, too.

M: Tsubasa, did you move from Japan to L.A. to pursue punk rock? When was that?
T: Pretty much, in 2004. I was 21.

M: What was going on then?
P: I graduated college.
E: I was in San Francisco.
L: I was a junior in high school trying to graduate.
E: A lot of bands were reuniting that you were playing with.
T: That’s true. My old band, Plastic Letters, played with The Gears and Weirdos. Nikki Corvette started playing again. A lot of old punk rockers.

M: You were living the dream!
E: I think you were responsible for getting them back together.
T: They were back together before.
E: I moved down here from San Francisco not longer after that.

M: You poached him from Plastic Letters?
E: No, they were already done.

M: And now you’ve lasted longer than most bands.
P: Rough Kids never die, man.


Check out Rough Kids on Facebook and get tickets for Save Music in Chinatown 11 at Eventbrite.