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

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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?

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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?

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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…

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Best blurry picture ^ v Gung hay fat choy!

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Tony Reflex, Steve Soto, and Lisa Fancher on the Adolescents’ La Vendetta

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The Adolescents were already one of my three all-time favorite bands and then they turned out to be the raddest humans, too. How stoked was I when singer Tony Reflex started supporting and then attending our humble Save Music in Chinatown benefit matinees out of the blue? And I never even would have dared to hope that he’d ask bassist and fellow co-founder Steve Soto to play one of our fundraisers for music education—only to turn it into a secret Adolescents show for about 150 damn lucky supporters including many unsuspecting elementary school students.

So with La Vendetta being released domestically on Frontier–rather just exclusively via German import like the previous four or five releases–how can I not be excited or want to cover it? The completely raging and supremely catchy batch of songs touches on social injustice (the unpunished murder of Kelly Thomas by Fullerton police) and international tragedies (Fukushima), as well as local legends (Jack Parsons Laboratories) and lost friends (Pat Fear and Mike Atta). After the afternoon gig, I hit up Tony and Steve and Lisa Fancher from Frontier Records, the Adolescents’ first and latest label, with some questions about the legendary band from Fullerton’s past, present, and killer new album…

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MW: You guys have played with a number of other bands and still do. What makes Adolescents special and still exciting after so many years? 
SS: I like doing the solo stuff and I have fun playing with other bands but the Adolescents is my first love. Every time we play a show or make a record, it all goes back to two kids who met at a show because the power was shut off and then went on to start their own band. Whether we are in Europe playing to thousands of people in a field or in a small club playing to 100 people, it’s all about that bond we formed back then and all that we have accomplished together since then. I don’t have that bond with anyone else.

MW: The band’s recent string of albums is super strong but they haven’t received proper U.S. distribution. How cool is it to have La Vendetta released domestically and then have it be on Frontier on top of that?
TR: It’s pretty great. We have really wanted to do another record with Lisa. Besides being a label I respect, Lisa herself is a really awesome person. I am glad we are collaborating again.

MW: Lisa, what is it about La Vendetta that made you want to handle it?
LF: I don’t think Steve or Tony will disagree with me when I say they were bad about playing me anything after O.C. Confidential. In fact, I still haven’t heard the LPs between La Vendetta and OCC! (Ahem, vinyl please.) But, in truth, I have not been releasing new material by anyone for a long time. I knew when I heard La Vendetta that they’d really been working on songwriting and production, and I think people will finally stop asking them about the Blue Album lineup. At least, I hope so!

MW: Back in the day, what made them stand about among all the other groups that were exploding from the punk and hardcore scene? Why did you want to release their debut album?
LF: Songwriting, for sure. They were light years ahead of other punk bands in L.A. or O.C. in that department. I think the age thing was something of a gimmick. Rikk Agnew is only two months younger than me, anyway! But I am still so incredibly proud of the Blue Album, considering the time and budget parameters I put on the band at the time. And, oh yeah, the producer Thom Wilson had never recorded a punk band before–just stuff like Seals and Croft! So hilarious that the Adolescents’ debut was called “over-produced.” I still give Jack Rabid shit about that. I wanted my records to sound good and look good, and I think that’s another reason the Blue Album stands the test of time. If you ain’t got the music, you ain’t got shit!  (I trademarked that–don’t try to steal it!)

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MW: Tony, how is writing songs with Steve different from when you guys started?
TR: I thought about this one a bit because if I simply said, “It hasn’t really changed much,” it would sound like I didn’t want to answer the question. But it really hasn’t changed much. When we first met, Steve and I lived a few cities apart. Orange County is huge. He lived in the Placentia area, which is in the eastern part above the 57 Freeway and I lived more or less in the central part where Stanton and Anaheim meet. Since neither of us had cars, we collaborated by land line telephone and tapes, and traveled by bus or bumming a ride. Now we live in different counties and are separated by more distance–including the time/schedule factors–so the fact that we have cars hasn’t really contributed to anything except getting together to hang out. Now we collaborate by cell phone and MP3 files.

SS: We started off writing songs over the telephone! But however I send Tony music, he always comes back with lyrics that blow me away. I love it when he is tracking his vocals because I will start picking out lines and be like, “Holy shit! Did you just say (insert great Tony line here)?” I have a lot of “holy shit” moments with Tony because his pen is mightier than most.

But the best part about our friendship is that we laugh a lot. We have a lot of inside jokes after 30-plus years of friendship and, even more importantly, during times when things have been truly bleak in my life he was right there with me.

MW: Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
SS: Hm. Can’t pick one. I love “The Last Laugh” because it’s about Bill “Pat Fear” Bartell. I miss Bill. I also love the energy of “30 Seconds,” and the story behind the lyrics is awesome. (Google “Jack Parsons.”) And then there is “Dish.” I had goose bumps when I heard the words the first time: “With this pen, I’m going to fuck you up.” The song was about Kelly Thomas but look at how timely it still is. It hit home again when people held up their pens for Charlie Hebdo. The pen is mighty and it will someday topple fists, Tasers, chokeholds, and religious fanaticism.

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MW: The recent one-year anniversary of Fullerton police officers going unpunished for killing the unarmed and innocent Thomas really makes it feel like a fresh wound.
TR: The Kelly Thomas verdict was something that affected all of us. In fact, Steve’s family and my family were out on the marching lines, and so were Rikk Agnew and his family. The murder of Kelly Thomas stands as one of the most devastating acts of cruelty in the history of Fullerton, and it is something that brought all of us together.

Throughout the history of the band, we have tried our best to deal with contemporary issues without sounding dated. I think we have done that well, and that is why our records transcend generations and any specific time frame. They sound fresh whenever you hear them. That’s part of the reason that they work. And, yes, I think most of the Adolescents’ recorded catalog is great–with the possible exception of Brats in Battalions.

MW: Are there fans who see your set list and think “Let It Go” is a song from Frozen?
TR: Haha. Spoken like a father who has heard the Disney song a million times. Actually, believe it or not, I haven’t seen Frozen and only learned of the song on news radio and the byline was “how to get annoying songs out of your head.” But I haven’t had anyone comment on it before. Maybe they are closet AM Disney fans that don’t want to be outed.

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MW: Can you tell me a little bit about how Dan, Ian, and Mike came on board? They’re rock solid!
TR: Dan Root is a great guitarist. He was in a band called One Hit Wonder that was on Nitro and had toured the world pretty extensively. Remarkably, of all that he is done, that is the band I hadn’t seen! I did see him when he played with Jack Grisham in Tender Fury, as well as the years he worked with our mutual friend Rik L. Rik and, more recently, with Steve in CJ Ramone’s band. He brings a great dynamic and, like Mike, a sense of humor and friendship.

SS: Dan is awesome. We became friends back when he was playing with Jack in the mid ’80s. When I was in Tender Fury very briefly, Jack called me up and said, “You and Dan goof around too much. I need you to help me keep Dan under control.” I thought, “Screw that. I like Dan out of control!” He is an amazing guitarist and a great hang.

TR: Leroy was a great player but he was really clear that he could only record, so that was that. Ian Taylor, on the other hand, has made the commitment by driving up from San Diego to be a part of this. He has a rich musical history, having come from the desert area and playing in Unsound and Mondo Generator, and I was a fan of his band Furious IV in the ‘90s.

SS: Right when we were starting to look for a new guitarist, Tony ran into Ian randomly, called me, and said, “Hey, I ran into Ian and he said, ‘If you ever need someone…‘“ It was so random, yet makes perfect sense because he is a great fit.

TR: Mike Cambra is a dynamite drummer. As much as bringing a great style, he is just a really cool guy. Interestingly, his uncle was in the Tubes.

SS: Mike plays in Death by Stereo with my friend Efrem. That’s how we met. An awesome drummer and great dude.

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MW: Lisa, do you remember exactly when you first met Steve and Tony?
LF: Actually, I don’t. I remember talking to Frank on the phone and making a deal to record the Blue Album while I was working at Bomp! Records. I think the first time I met the whole band was the first day making the Blue Album at Perspective Sound in beautiful Sun Valley, CA. Steve didn’t bring his bass. But anyone can feel free to set me straight on this. This is why history books of any kind are so utterly suspect…

MW: But now you’ve got this great new album coming out, essays in photo books, appearances in record collector documentaries, and anniversary shows–are you on a roll or what?
LF: I guess? You left out co-owning my distributor (ILD) and launching my own radio station (KXFU, February 2015)! It would be bitchin’ if any of these things resulted in a paycheck but it’s the “being so insanely busy I don’t know what day it is” that really counts. The Dangerhouse show was the high point of last year for me, so I really look forward to putting on Part II with Part Time Punks this summer!

MW: With everyone’s other bands, projects, and lives going on, is it remotely possible to support La Vendetta with shows?
TR: There will be at least 40 shows. We are scheduling 10 in South America and 30 in the United States and Canada.

MW: And of course I was totally shocked and super stoked that the Adolescents played our benefit. But Steve, I really dig your solo work, too, and was excited about the idea of you playing those lovely, sad songs for us. Can you tell me about them?
SS: I started writing my first solo record after my divorce. It was liike my attempt at doing Elvis Costello’s Blood and Chocolate. I wrote one of my favorite songs on it with James Achor of the Royal Crown Review. I love Steinbeck, and was thinking about The Grapes of Wrath and the Okies that headed west for a better life. “West Coast Bound” was my take on leaving my relationship behind and moving west. And it was actually true. I mean, I already lived in Long Beach but I moved four blocks closer to the beach…

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Get the new Adolescents record straight from Frontier Records (value priced with free shipping in the U.S.!) or keep checking the band’s Facebook page for tour dates and buy it from the merch table (that’s how I’ve been acquiring the recent imports a couple at a time).

Hello, Lisa Fancher of Frontier Records/Dangerhouse Records Night at Part Time Punks

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Right: The Weirdos at The Echoplex (December 13, 2013)

Cracking open the Dangerhouse singles box distributed by Frontier Records is like opening a can of kickass right in your face. The raw, explosive sound of first-generation L.A. punk is loaded with art, rebellion, and fun. And what a mixture of styles: Way-out noise from the Weirdos, dug-up roots from X, leftist muckraking from The Dils, straight-up punk from Avengers, the conflicted sounds of The Bags, art damage from Black Randy, rock that doesn’t suck from The Alley Cats… And who was in the Eyes, Bags, and Deadbeats again?

So when I heard that Frontier’s Lisa Fancher was setting up a concert with many of the Dangerhouse bands, I bought a ticket right away. And upon discovering that a friend of mine was handling press for the show at the Echoplex, how could I not send her some questions about it? Check out Lisa’s answers and see you at The Echoplex on Sunday, November 9 when The Weirdos, Avengers, Deadbeats, Rhino 39, and Alley Cats are gonna rip it up.

Can you tell me about the connection between Frontier Records and Dangerhouse?
I’ve known David and Pat ever since they brought Dangerhouse singles into the Bomp! Store circa ’77 or ’78. Actually I knew David from The Screamers, too. After the Me Want Breakfast comp, I thought all the Dangerhouse material should be out officially. Let’s just say it was a hellish process!

What instigated this awesome concert?
Michael Stock and I literally started talking about it the night of the Frontier show. We were high on how well it did and  several tumblers of victory Jameson. The Frontier show was a nightmare of logistics and bands jockeying for the best spot. The Dangerhouse show has been painless, which I find terrifying.

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Left: The Weirdos at The Echoplex (December 13, 2013)

Your Frontier show with the Adolescents, T.S.O.L., The Middle Class, the Avengers, etc., was amazing and there is some crossover between the two lineups and label rosters. I like to think punk was kinda like that back in the day with lots of incestuous but awesome mixing of families. Am I way off?
Well… Not many of the Dangerhouse bands crossed over into the hardcore years. Most broke up in the very early ’80s. There was some mixing of my earliest bands, though–yes!

I love how Frontier has been selling rad music nonstop, from punk to hardcore to Paisley Underground to pop. Do you think that confuses a lot of music fans who can be Nazis when it comes to styles of music?
Yes, and not necessarily in a good way. Punks hate everything that isn’t Frontier punk and they’re really missing out on the genius of Thin White Rope. One day maybe the twain shall meet!

I also love how you never stopped selling your old titles–the first Adolescents and Suicidal Tendencies records, for starters–and keep them out there and priced for the people. Do you have a philosophy behind that or that just how you do it?
All the records mean a lot to me and I insist on keeping them all in print because I think kids will always dig them. Some are only in print as MP3s as there’s little demand for physical product. I need to revive more titles in vinyl, but haven’t been able to keep everything available due to the economy crash. I’m still here, though!

The Burger crossovers are cool, too. How did that happen?
I think Danny Benair said I should approach them to do our cassettes. I did and they’ve been doing it ever since… Great guys but they need a vacation!

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Right: The Weirdos at The Echoplex (December 13, 2013)

Our mutual pal Adam told me that you came really close to releasing Jawbreaker. Got a story behind that?
Ugh, I can’t even talk about it–too painful. I begged them to let me put out Unfun when it was clear that label wasn’t treating them right… I loved JB so much, I was a stalker! I think I had a shot before Adam re-released them on Blackball but I wasn’t officially offered them. I think it’s great they control their own masters but Adam knows that if he gets bored, I’m just waiting in the wings!

How awesome is your essay in the new GEF book? I wish you’d do more writing because I’m sure there are way more stories… At the very least there should be an oral history of Frontier. Yes? No?
Glad you liked it, that was really a struggle… It’s sooo hard to remember stuff that happened 34 years ago. Glen has a great memory and totally busted me for fudging on dates. I even forgot he did his first LP cover for Frontier! Whoops. Writing I can nail in my sleep; I just need a memory transplant.

But yes, someone else needs to tackle my memoirs!

So is a second Frontier Records fest going to happen with The Three O’Clock, Red Cross, and Circle Jerks or what?
I’m gonna say no but Michael and I are nuts, so you never know! Liz from the Echo and I are gonna work on a new record swap meet, though. Stay tuned for news on that one!

Visit Frontier Records to stalk Lisa and get the goods and then visit Ticketfly for tickets to the show on Sunday, November 9. Unless, of course, you’re cheap like me and go to the Echo box office on a no-fee Friday to get yours for 20 bucks flat!