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

2-fdmdxfdandtfm

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.

1-fdmdxfdandtfm

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!

smic11-finalkaiju

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

roughkids

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

rk0

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.

rk1

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.

smic11-finalkaiju

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

Save Music in Chinatown 11 preview with Chip Kinman of Ford Madox Ford, The Dils, Rank & File…

chip1

Since we started organizing the Save Music in Chinatown benefit shows, a lot of cool musicians from the neighborhood’s old Hong Kong Cafe days have come out to help raise money for music education at Castelar Elementary. There was Hector Penalosa from The Zeros, Chuck Dukowski from Black Flag, and Mike Watt from the Minutemen. And then there’s been The Gears, The Crowd, Channel Three, and The Adolescents. Wow.

Our eleventh show will be a double header of legends including the Rikk Agnew Band, with a key member of The Adolescents and Christian Death, as well a Chip Kinman from The Dils and Rank & File in Ford Madox Ford. Earlier in December, I went to Godmother’s in San Pedro and talked to Chip for a few minutes before Ford Madox Ford played a furious set that left his guitar destroyed.img_0640

You know, I found an old Hong Kong Calendar where The Dils played back to back nights. Do you remember those days?
I do and I don’t. I remember being there but I don’t remember the shows themselves. I remember the Hong Kong Cafe because we didn’t really play there that often. It was kind of special and it was kind of late in The Dils’ career.

But a two-night stand must have been a big deal.
It was a lot of fun and we were kind of a popular band, haha.

Although you didn’t play in Chinatown a lot, I love the idea of my favorite underdog cultures colliding there: my immigrant ancestors and Los Angeles punks. They don’t overlap much.
Not a lot. But I think artistically they did. In the early days of punk rock, when we first started, we were into reggae, Bruce Lee movies, and Burroughs. All that stuff seemed to blend together. One thing I remember about playing there was Golden City, which was my favorite restaurant at the time. I always get the same thing there, the noodles.

From the Grand Star, where our benefits take place, you can see the front of the old Hong Kong Cafe.
That’s awesome. I’m looking forward to it.

And old Dils songs like “Class War” and “Mr. Big” sound brand-new after the election.
They have legs, that’s for sure, and I do listen to it. A lot of the Dangerhouse stuff… I love punk rock.

chip2

What about new stuff?
I listen to all kinds of stuff. People might not believe this but I like a lot of hip hop. It takes more chances and I like that kind of stuff. But it’s nothing I’d ever do.

How amazing is it for your new band, Ford Madox Ford, to be on the same label as X and then be working with Chris Ashford, who recorded The Dils, Blackbird…
That’s the best. I’m making my next record with Chris, who I made my first record with 40 years ago! Chris is absolutely great–such a great should and such a good spirit. I would do anything for him.

I love the idea that you guys are not only lifer and survivors but are still doing cool new stuff.
I hope so! We’re having a great time and when we play a lot of people who used to go shows come out to see us. But I’m actually trying to figure out how to break out because we have Dewey Peek in our band who’s 21. He’s a total badass and I want his generation to come out and see him.

I feel like in L.A. we have RazorCake and Burger compressing everything that’s old and new, punk and garage. It’s all the same now.
It is! It’s funny because I used to say four guys for blues, we’re strictly a blue bland. But on the way here I thought, “We’re a fucking punk rock band.” What we’re doing is radical and fun.

chip3

What were you doing after Blackbird and Cowboy Nation and before Ford Madox Ford? Were you making music the entire time?
I put out something called My First Punk Rock Record by a band I put together with my wife, Dewey Peek, and Sean Antillon, and it was real ’77 style. All down strokes, all 1/8 notes, real fast–like 15 songs in 11 minutes. It came out on Fundamental Records from Chicago. It’s very hard to find but it’s a really cool record.

That’s some technical talk about punk rock. Did you take classes or anything when you were a kid?
I picked up guitar in high school, but my brother Tony was in high school band. He had more of a music education and could read music. Dewey took trumpet classes in school! It helped him out because he has a really good ear and hears stuff that I don’t.

So how did Ford Madox Ford happen?
We’ve only been together since last November, so it’s only been for a year and one month. My wife said, “Kids are grown up and out of the house. Start playing music. That’s what you do, so do it.” Supporting the family was pretty much a full time job, that’s for sure. So I said all right and dove right in.

It may not make money, but it’s cheaper than therapy.
And it does make a little money, it turns out. There’s the 7″ single on vinyl

It’s great. I like the B-side even more than the A-side!
“Before the Fall” is the first song we wrote. It has a first song quality and is so bizarre because we don’t know what we’re doing. And then we have the digital release, “Let’s Work Together.” And we’re working on the album now, and it will be out in all formats in early 2017.

smic11-finalkaiju

Get more info at the Facebook event page and tickets at eventbrite.com

Save Music in Chinatown 11 and Ice Cream with Rikk Agnew

rikk1

I was on my way to meet Rikk Agnew at Scoops in Chinatown, when I got a text from him saying that he doesn’t do ice cream. Of course not, it suddenly occurred to me. How could the key member of Adolescents, Social Distortion, Christian Death, D.I., and so many other gnarly bands be seen in public eating something ridiculous like an ice cream cone? Oh man.

Then I replied, adding that Scoops has non-dairy options, and he was down. Whew! It turns out that Rikk, who has shaped the sounds of punk, hardcore, and goth, is a total sweetheart who doesn’t like dairy but loves nothing more than eating ice cream with families and is down for playing a benefit to help support for music education for elementary school kids in Chinatown.

Rikk has also just released a kickass new album called Learn.

pinkhalfnosideeyes

It seems like you’re genuinely having a blast singing and playing on Learn. After being an underground musician for 40 years, is it still just as much fun as it ever was?
Oh, yes. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s got to be fun first.

But after so many bands and all the ups and downs, it would be so easy to be jaded or bored or over it.
For most bands, it stops being fun when they get too concerned with being competitive, making it to the top, making money, and all that stuff. That doesn’t mix with art and music as far as I’m concerned, but it’s not like I’m going to turn down a million dollar check…

That would be a byproduct and not the purpose.
Thank you. Very well said. That’s not the reason at all.

So are you a machine who automatically cranks out song? Are you addicted to the process of working on them? Do you have a lot to say? How have you kept going for decades?
Well, it sounds strange but the only way I can describe it is that I have a connection to the cosmos, the muses, and the universe. The beats, the pulses–they come down to me. I can’t sit and write a song. It doesn’t work that way. It just hits me.

So does your brain catch hold of a melody? A lyric?
Actually, the whole thing just flows in.

The words, too?
Just the music. The words are a whole separate thing. Words are usually personal politics and everyday experiences that affect me emotionally. I’m a very emotional person.

Whether commenting on Kelly Thomas being beaten by cops in Fullerton or changing the world, I can tell the content matters to you.
It’s mostly experiences that I transform into poetry. I like to use a lot of tongue-in-cheek words and little excerpts from other peoples’ songs, like The Beatles and stuff. Usually, I put it together phonetically like a puzzle before trying to make a stream of a story.

There’s also a sense of playfulness with your spelling as well as your tone. I feel like you’re pushing people’s buttons as much as you’re getting on a soapbox.
Yes, and I like to create my own spelling of words. My brother Frank is the same way. We do it because it helps us to remember things.

Isn’t he connected to the cosmos in a different way? Isn’t he an astronomer or something?
Oh, that’s Alfie. He and a team of three other PhDs at Cal State Fullerton have been working quite a long time on the theory of gravitational waves that Einstein had set out to prove almost exactly 100 years ago. When they broke through recently, it made world news and I’m so proud of him.

Maybe there will be a star or something named after you!
Maybe!

Back to “I Can’t Change The World,” I was wondering who is the “we” that you’re singing to. People in bands? People in the crowd? Parents?
Basically everybody on the planet. I’ve belonged to this thing called Nichiren Shoshu of American and been a Buddhist since 1988 or 1989 and we believe in this thing called kosen-rufu. It’s a theory–well, I think it’s real–that if everyone in the world took one smile or be positive for just one second, the world world miraculously heal itself because Mother Earth is a living creature. We’re in a symbiotic relationship with her.

That’s a big audience, but you’re not going to reach everyone with that album cover! Where did you find those intense portraits?
Originally the album cover was just going to be a picture of my face in red and black, but the overseas booking agency said that the album needed something more intense. I thought, okay fine. That was five years ago and this picture will get people’s attention.

I was looking up Krokodil on the Internet, and was under the impression that the person was suffering from Krokodil abuse. But then I dug deeper and found out it was caused by a virus caused by manmade toxins in the environment. But whether it was drug induced or created by toxins, it is still a shocking statement to say “Learn.” If anyone wants to figure out why, they can read the lyrics or talk to me. I’ll explain it.

How did Lisa from Frontier react when you told her about the concept?
She backs me up on it and believes in me. It’s like what punk was originally. We weren’t out to be nice or pretty. We wanted to shock and get attention. And then give the message. My message is always positive, even if it sounds like I’m bitching or angry. My modus operandi is to get people to be positive or, as Bill and Ted would say, be excellent to each other.

gdq

So you have the Rikk Agnew Band, which reminds me of early Adolescents and your All By Myself solo record, but you also play death rock with the Gitane Demone Quartet and what else?
I’m in five bands now! One of the others is called Ann B. Davis, with Casey Chaos from Amen who was also the bass player for Christian Death during the reunion. And then there’s the original bass player James McGearty from the Only Theatre of Pain lineup and we had George, but he’s a policeman in St. Louis and the commuting and work were just too much. We parted ways with him and now we have Hoss, the drummer who played with Mondo Generator. We’re recording an EP and then there’s going to be an album and then we’ll go out and blast it out there. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the band Amen but they were like Korn, Slipknot, and that sort of thing. I was in the band in the mid ’90s, but now we’re taking that sort of music and mixing it with Gothic deathrock. Good songs, amazing stuff.

The other two bands?
I’m in a band called The Only Theatre of Pain, which is kind of a tribute to the album with a singer called Steve Skeletal who’s a 6’5″ version of Rozz. We do the album and songs from back then so I’m in my own tribute band. They asked me to do it and I said, why not? And then I recently joined the Deadbeats. That’s a dream come true for me. I used to watch them in the ’70s at The Masque. The new double album is great. It’s a unique thing we’ve got going on with a unique stage show, too.

Playing in all those bands–your brain must on fire right now.
The nice things about being in multiple bands is you have multiple outlets.

One of your best-known songs is about living in Orange County. So when did you come to L.A.?
About three and half years ago. I’ve wanted to since the ’70s. We’d come up here and hang out for weeks at a time at the Masque with Brendan Mullen and the Controllers, or hang with Gerber or Jane Drano, but I never had the confidence that I’d make enough money to stay. Hung out frequently at the Church in South Bay for a spell.

Do you think L.A. is still good for being in bands with all the gentrification going on?
Yeah, and it always will be. It isn’t the location as much as it is the spirit and the people. And for people like Gitane, myself, and others who’ve survived, we’re not above anything. We used to play the Santa Monica Civic or Palladium and now we play little places Cafe NELA, but it’s fun. If we didn’t do it, I don’t know what else I would do! There are so many punks who got into acting like Lee Ving or got PhDs like Milo or Greg Graffin, My Brother Alfie, but they’re still doing it. Why? Because there isn’t anything more fun to do and they feel the same way.

And you can make a difference, too.
Yes.

I’m glad you include lyrics because they’re really smart. It’s punk that an adult can listen to, but it’s still bratty.
I have an inner child that’s in me that never leaves.

Does your daughter listen to your music?
She was assistant engineer for the Learn LP. She joins me onstage to sing “Amoeba” sometimes and has a blast doing it! But I almost lost her this past August when she was in a bad car accident. She’s healing up pretty well, but you know how it feels to be a parent.

I’m really proud of my daughter. She’s a great artist and an amazing singer. She’s been working for Disney for a while and has other jobs on the side, but she’s a really, really good person, a heart of gold. I couldn’t ask for a better child.

If our children aren’t creative and rebellious, we’re all screwed!
Someone interviewed Tony about that song “I Hate Children” and he laughed and said, “I love children. Children are our future.” It was a personal politic thing about begin the oldest boy taking care of four rugrat siblings when his mom was an alcoholic and his dad was nowhere to be found back then.

Every few Adolescent shows, I’ll hear him tell the audience why they don’t play that song. I love it when he explains that.
And he should. I love interacting at shows. Whether I’m on a big stage or a little one, there is no dividing line and if someone says something, I’ll answer.

I think it’s great how you stay in touch with old bandmates and the new record is on Frontier. It’s amazing and cool and telling that there’s so much love from your past instead of burned bridges.
We all go through our periods, but if you ask any of the punks who’ve been around and they’ll tell you that it’s all about love. It’s like Johnny Rotten sang in “Fodderstompf”: “We only wanted to be loved.” Everyone took it like he was being a smartass but he meant it. I just finished reading his book, Anger Is An Energy, and it’s amazing. He’s one of my heroes.

Like him, you have explored different genres and defied fans when you easily could have kept making the same type of music.
You have to satisfy yourself first. If you don’t, you’ll become a slave to the people and you won’t be where you should be. Even if it makes a lot of people scratch their heads and wonder, “What happened?” As an artist you get bored doing the same thing, so you jump ahead not for competitive purposes but just for fun. It feels like you’re on a mission to keep things rolling and keep perpetuating.

So are you going to tour to support the Rikk Agnew Band album?
Oh yes. I want to do the world.

Is it hard getting all five members to take time off and commit to it?
They’re great and they’re faithful and I want to be on the road for most of 2017 to promote the album. And if they can’t take time off work to make it to Europe or wherever, I have people there who can and they’re all good with it and won’t feel insulted. I’m lucky.

Will you play stuff from all of your bands, as you’ve been doing, or will you just play the new stuff?
Well, more of the new stuff because we’re promoting the album but we’ll also play longer sets. I like to say that we’re like a wedding band because we play old songs, new songs, borrowed songs, and blue songs from the Blue Album.

What do you think about a playing matinee that is not only for music education at the public elementary school but one that will have little kids in the audience?
Well, of course! They can witness who and where the funding comes from firsthand (an education in itself–public relations, organization, hands-on assistance even!) as well as have the best experience of the whole process. The excitement and spirit of the music. The bands. The people. And the interaction between the performers and kids is such healthy and different dynamic. Lots of love, lots of fun.

Is there anything cool about playing in Chinatown? Can you share any feelings or memories of the plaza where so many cool and key shows happened?
There’s everything cool about playing in Chinatown: It’s cultural, festive, and fun. Great feelings, too,

Too many memories and shows to remember but: The Plastics from Japan in 1980 at Madame Wong’s and sitting outside on the curb drinking beer and smoking weed across from Madame Wong’s when Robert Fripp did His Fripptronix thang.

And shows at the Hong Kong Cafe: The Germs – Didn’t get in, got arrested outside by an LAPD undercover sting sweep that nabbed Dez Cadena, Janet Housden, and other punks. I was on many hits of acid! Aaargh!

The Slashers – My band at that time was scheduled to play but we were frying way too hard to play with the Outsiders, The Humans, and an opener.

Adolescents – We played there a couple times, once on Halloween with the Stingers, Speed Queens, and others. Agent Orange and I forgot who else, it was the first time I saw anyone do a stage dive (1978-1979). The OG diver was a blonde waif of a boy that was barefoot and insane looking: Tony Bones a.k.a. Cadena a.k.a. Bee.

Nervous Gender – With Phranc and Don Bolles on board, they were strangest sounding band at that point–more so than the Screamers or DEVO.

El Duce- I first met him there, He was doing an impromptu manifesto post show behind a podium in the back room area, We all gathered, speechless.

I could go on, but wait and read that chapter in my book.

rikk2

Get more information at the Facebook event page and ticketing page on Eventbrite. Seeya there!

 

The Love Witch by Anna Biller will smite you

bluerobe20_2

I remember interviewing Anna Biller in Griffith Park when Viva came out in 2007. Her dedication to cinema was beyond obsessive–not only writing, directing, and starring in the feminist reconstruction of ’70s smut but actually crafting era-appropriate props and costumes by hand. The film went beyond being an eye-popping, 35mm homage to trashy movies by Russ Meyer or David Friedman and was a true labor of love just like theirs and not just cheap satire or ironic regurgitation. It was her vision and her art.

So how could I pass up a chance to see her long-awaited follow-up feature, The Love Witch?

ritual_gahan

Like Viva, every frame of it is lovingly colored and composed by Biller with shades and details that reveal not only meticulous research but a real passion for the era of inspiration. Unlike Tarantino, who is inspired by genre flicks to create big-budget movies, she slavishly recreates the B-movie feel to the point of overkill. There’s a Renaissance Fair scene that is almost painfully correct, and it should be added that the UCLA and Cal Arts graduate even wrote the songs played by the scops.

By some miracle Biller managed to find a perfect surrogate to play her latest protagonist, a “love witch” who uses black magic to seduce men that are doomed to perish after inevitably disappointing her. Samantha Robinson has ample boldness and disaffection to channel vintage softcore, and she looks as natural in uncomfortable undergarments as she does with a bloody knife in her hands. Perhaps she will even inspire a mini spike in the popularity of wigs and eye shadow.

elaine_rug_01

Although fans of both vintage nudie and gore movies will be attracted to The Love Witch, the amount of lovemaking and blood splattering is actually rather tame and this is no feel-good fantasy. It is not like a video game where dudes get to live out their fantasies from a hot chick’s perspective. Biller’s goal is not to help audiences get off or gross them out but create a 35mm time machine that reframes typically male-defined genres from a female point of view, and the trail of bodies and puddles of bodily fluids are accompanied by consequences and questions.

Despite the complexities in characters and concept, the movie is a blast to watch and demands to be seen in a  theater to appreciate its gorgeous colors and opulent textures. Artsploitation like this is most effective and best enjoyed in overwhelming, dizzying, and far-out quantities.

Screenings begin on Friday, October 11. Look for locations and times at thelovewitch.oscilloscope.net and follow Anna Biller at lifeofastar.com.

Save Music in Chinatown 10 recap with SISU, Carsick Cars, Chui Wan, and Alpine Decline

smic10h-sisu2

I was even more stressed out than usual about our tenth Save Music in Chinatown show. Was the previous evening’s Long Beach gig, which I also helped set up, going to turn out alright for the bands that were coming all the way from Beijing? Wasn’t it going to be extra difficult for the musicians, helpers, and attendees to make it to the Grand Star with Ciclavia happening on the same date that we set way back in the spring?

smic10a-alpine

It was less convenient getting to the Grand Star and parking cost twice as much, but everything turned out fine. Actually, excellent.

smic10b-chuiwan1

Really, how could those who made it to the show not be blown away by the raw chemistry of the Alpine Decline duo, soaring and psychedelic musicianship of Chui Wan, or buzzsaw riffs of the power trio Carsick Cars? The urgency and excitement of a new generation of artists who are out of their minds and inspired by the entire history of rock being unloaded on China all at once?

smic10c-chuiwan2

I was first introduced to Carsick Cars along with P.K.14 way back in 2007 when I stalked them for a magazine article and have been obsessed with Beijing’s underground music scene ever since. How amazing to see them in Chinatown.

smic10e-carsick1
And then there were the dark, swirling sounds of SISU. I became familiar with the band when I interviewed Sandy as one of the Dum Dum Girls and became a fan of her main musical outlet as well as a friend.

smic10d-chuiwan3

At first, SISU agreed to come out of seclusion to play as a stripped-down version for the cause but it wound up being a full-on headlining set with all four members along with a projector and fog machine!

smic10g-sisu

And then they played a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Little Trouble Girl,” arranging for a handful of kids including Eloise and her cousins to go onstage and sing backup. Wow.

For my favorite bands to play all-ages matinee fund raisers to support the unfunded music program at my daughter’s public elementary school in Chinatown is surreal. And for us to be embarking on our fourth year of shows is really incredible. We had no experience when we started this project and have gotten by only with the help of so many supporters.

smic10f-jimkaa

There are awesome bands, old friends and new friends, all of my family and so many community members, killer bake sale, and super cool raffle to make it a completely unique and excellent afternoon. But even better is the community that has grown over the years. To not only raise money and awareness to help kids but also create a scene in Chinatown is something we never anticipated and are always humbled by.

bakesale

Thanks to everyone who makes our shows possible, building on the punk rock tradition of the old Hong Kong Cafe and Madame Wong’s, and helping the largely underserved kids who live in Chinatown today. It not only gives them access to music education and a creative outlet, but empowers them with the DIY aesthetic.

smic10i-sisu3

The next Save Music in Chinatown all-ages matinee will take place in January or February. Follow this blog or like facebook.com/SaveMusicInChinatown for news.

crew

See you there!

 

Kim Nguyen for Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge

kim1

Everyone is looking forward to having their voices heard on November 8, but even the hardest core voters become less confident in their selections when it comes to Superior Court Judges. I think Kim Nguyen is worth your consideration for Seat No. 158 in Los Angeles County because she stresses fairness for underrepresented people. And may I add that she went to Castelar?

Along with our pal Danny, my wife Wendy and I met Kim over coffee in Chinatown earlier this week. I followed up with some questions:

I was surprised that you’d meet just three of us for coffee at Philippe during crunch time. Are you doing a lot of that sort of thing these days?
I try to sit down with members of the L.A. community as often I can, and have been doing so since starting this campaign almost two years ago. Between a full-time job, two school-aged kids, and running a countywide campaign for judge, it can be hard to find time. But I make time because judicial elections are critically important and voters are entitled to learn as much about the candidates as possible. Plus, I was curious to see the breakfast scene at Philippe–for me, it’s always the place to go for a French dipped sandwich before a Dodger game.

Is it possible to briefly recount why you want to be Superior Court Judge?
Judges of the superior court play a critical role in our judicial system by making sure that every person (regardless of income level, language abilities, gender, ethnicity, LGBTQ identification) has the opportunity to tell their story and to present their case. Not every person who walks into court will win their case or get the relief they want. But every person is entitled to a fair shot at justice, and judges can help to ensure this. This is important work; it’s work that I would be honored to do.

We had chatted about how serving as Superior Court Judge is more than just executing laws that already exist. Can you get into that, too?
In many areas of the law, judges are required to exercise their discretion. And this discretion can be exercised in a number of different ways depending on how the judge interprets the law and how the judge applies the law to the facts. Judges aren’t robots. You can’t feed a judge a set of facts, push a function button, and expect the same ruling from every judge. That’s why it’s important to elect the most qualified judges to the bench. (Shameless plug: I was given a “Well Qualified” by the Los Angeles County Bar Association after a thorough vetting process.)

kim2

I was wondering when you became interested in public service. Was there a mentor? a moment?
It really started when I clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit a couple of years out of law school. I enjoyed the responsibility of knowing that I was an integral part of our justice system and that I was contributing to a greater good. I currently serve the public as a Deputy of Attorney General, where I represent the State of California in many different types of civil litigation. In my spare time, I volunteer with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, and help immigrants become U.S. citizens. It’s deeply satisfying to be able to use my training and skills to contribute to the community and the public at large.

What turned you on to law?
My dad (the prototypical strict Asian dad) often said when I was growing up: Kim, you can be whatever you want, so long as you become a doctor or a lawyer! I didn’t relish the idea of years of organic chemistry, so I chose the law. And I am so glad I did. I’ve been fortunate to have a challenging and rewarding career litigating in the trial and appellate courts. (A highlight was arguing before the California Supreme Court when I was 30, years ago.)

Now the law has led me to running for Superior Court Judge. Judges preside over some of the most important issues in our lives: child custody disputes, the care of abused and neglected children, landlord-tenant disputes, employment discrimination, and criminal matters, to name just a few. A judge who is intelligent, hardworking, fair, and empathetic–all qualities I believe I have–can help people in meaningful ways and make a difference in our community.

Harvard and UCLA are excellent schools, but can you expand on some formative experiences at Castelar Elementary and in Chinatown?
I have so many memories of Castelar and Chinatown: chatting with Dr. William Chun-Hoon on the playground of Castelar, dancing in the Chinese New Year parade with a floral garland, buying persimmons from the fruit vendors on Hill Street, eating strawberry whipped cream cake at Phoenix bakery, getting pink boxes full of dumplings and baos from Long’s Family Pastry. Although these experiences were indeed formative, it’s hard to spell out exactly how in any linear fashion. They live inside of my mind and my heart in a tangle and make me who I am: a daughter of refugees from Vietnam who found a warm and safe community at Castelar and Chinatown.

Besides Chinese food and Dodger games, what are some of your other favorite things about L.A.?
Where to begin? There are so many things that I love about L.A. I love the rich mosaic of so many different cultures, communities, and identities that make up Los Angeles. There’s a strong sense of tradition based on the multi-generational families who live here, and an equally strong sense that anything is possible because of L.A.’s creative community, vitality, diversity, and openness. L.A. is admittedly tough to love sometimes–the traffic congestion, the sprawl, the heat and smog. But on those days when I can wake up and go to the beach with my kids, stop at Zankou for chicken tarna sandwiches, and sit outside during a warm, breezy night talking with friends and neighbors for hours, I know there is no place I would rather live or raise a family. L.A. is in my blood.

kim3

For more information on Kim check out kimforjudge2016.com, and don’t forget to vote on Tuesday, November 8!