Save Music in Chinatown 12 preview with The Alley Cats

The other day, someone asked me how we have persuaded so many legends of L.A. punk to play our humble little Save Music in Chinatown benefits: Chuck Dukowski Sextet, Mike Watt & The Missingmen, The Gears, Adolescents, Channel Three, FourEyedFour with members of the Flyboys, The Crowd, Ford Madox Ford with Chip from the Dils, Rikk Agnew Band… I still can’t believe my nine-year-old daughter gets to see bands like that.

In this case of our upcoming show on May 7, how did we get the original Dangerhouse punk band the Alley Cats to volunteer their time? Well, I’ve attended all of their shows at Cafe NELA over the last year like a groupie, had mutual friend Laurie Steelink introduce me to surviving/lifer member Randy Stodola while buying a T-shirt at a solo show in San Pedro, shared zines and flyers at other shows, and invited them to previous Save Music in Chinatown gigs. But it probably didn’t hurt when Tony Adolescent re-introduced me to Randy online, saying that The Alley Cats would be a perfect fit for one of our shows. I agreed.

So there you have it: Shameless, endless groveling and friends with big hearts.

Here’s a short Q&A with Randy, April Cady, and Matt Laskey to get you excited about the twelfth Save Music in Chinatown show (with Tabitha, Schizophonics, and My Revenge featuring Hector from The Zeros, as well as a reading by Alice Bag), going over The Alley Cats’ history in Chinatown and L.A. punk as well as its current lineup and new music…

MW: Got any thoughts about coming back to play in Chinatown, right across the plaza from the old Hong Kong Cafe and Madame Wong’s?
RS: Kinda funny but we did our first show at Madame Wong’s with The Zeros and our first show at the Hong Kong with The Bags… I’m excited for Matt and Apryl to be able to play there. It’s a cool part of town and it’ll be a new experience for them. I think it will be fun.

MW: Was the Alley Cats’ first show really with The Zeros in Chinatown?
RS: No, it wasn’t the Alley Cats’ first show. It was the first punk show in Chinatown. We played the first punk show at Madame Wong’s and later the first punk show at the Hong Kong. Actually, we were the first punk band to play a lotta places.

MW: You also played the infamous Elk’s Club Riot show with The Zeros. Was it as intense as people say?
RS: Yes. As the band before us was finishing, Dianne and I were sitting on the wide stairway that was packed with people and lead from the lobby up to the theater. Suddenly, a phalanx of police in full riot squad gear lined up in the lobby and, on signal without warning or provocation, suddenly charged up the stairway slamming people with batons and heavy flashlights. Dianne and I started running up the stairs as soon as we saw the police show up, so we were able to escape ahead of the onslaught, unharmed. But some people had broken bones and many were bloody.

I have never seen a group of peaceful people who weren’t protesting or doing anything at all suddenly be attacked in that way, without even a hint of warning. And since they did not warn the promoter or anybody else that they were closing down the show, the security thought that all these people suddenly running up the stairs were trying to crash the show and tried to hold them back. So people were trying to escape being attacked by cops on one side and were being stopped the hired security on the other.

The cops’ excuse was a claim that an drug undercover agent at the show had been verbally threatened by someone. I guess they needed an army of police to beat and attack everybody who happened to be there to rescue him, but the kids (there were something like a thousand people at the show) quickly reassembled in MacArthur Park and started throwing bottles and rocks at the cops (who, according to the media, eventually numbered 500) who were chasing them around. Helicopters flying overhead, cop car windows breaking, people yelling and screaming, loud bullhorn announcements over and over declaring that everyone had to leave the park or be arrested—it went on for hours.

MW: I love that you have not only regrouped the Alley Cats, but have such great chemistry and play often. Can you tell me how long this combo has been playing together?
RS: We have been playing together a little less then three years, I think. Both Matt and Apryl are wonderful talented people, and I am blessed to know and play music with them.

MW: Matt and Apryl, what’s the best thing about being an Alley Cat?
ML: Best thing is playing in a band I absolutely love; it’s all I ever wanted to do.

AC: I guess my favorite part of joining the Alley Cats would be playing music with good friends that come with meeting Randy and Matt, and all of the other people we play with and all of the adventures we have been through. There have been many adventures.

MW: Is it true that you are both transplants from the same hometown in Pedro?
AC: That is not entirely accurate. Randy and I both lived in Fargo for a part of our lives. Neither of us were born there, but it is a pretty cool coincidence.

MW: It seems to me like you sing in your own, cool style. Do you get some direction from Randy or do you just go for it?
AC: Alley Cats style singing is not very natural for me but I just try to go for it.

MW: Matt, do you try to stay true to the recordings or do you just go for it?
ML: I try to stick to the recordings, I love the songs, so why try and change anything? They’re awesome how they are.

MW: There are so many Alley Cats and Zarkons songs to choose from, and I love the sets you’ve been playing. How did the Avengers cover get in there?
RS: Always liked “We Are the One,” and it seemed appropriate to come after “House of Cards,” which is a new song. Actually 40-50 percent of our set are songs that were never recorded by the Alley Cats.

MW: Does that mean you have new songs ready to record?
RS: Yes…

MW: Our show is raising funds for music education at the elementary school in Chinatown. Can you share how you started to play an instrument and what it’s meant to you?
AC: Music is the most inspirational part of my life. I played in the high school marching band and I enjoyed that. I started playing guitar and bass when I was in high school, too, and it has always been something for me to relieve anxiet. I wish I could do it all the time. I love seeing young people getting excited about music and am looking forward to our show to raise funds for music education in Chinatown.

RS: When I was about 5, my sisters who were 7 and 9 years older then me, both got guitars and a book with first-position chords. But they never played them, so I borrowed them and learned the chords from the book. Not having any songs to play, I wrote my own. No record player, no song books, no one else to play music with or teach me—I didn’t have much choice isolated out in the country in North Dakota and then Upper Michigan. But I think that maybe that made it funner for me, just playing for myself many hours a day, alone just for fun. And it is still fun. It’s hard to quantify what it has meant to me, but I was lucky to have an instrument available to play at such a young age. Can’t play music unless you got something to play it on.

Follow the band at facebook.com/AlleyCatsSOB and get tickets for Save Music in Chinatown 12 at eventbrite.com.

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Save Music in Chinatown 8 preview/interview with Jerico from Bombón

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After seeing Bombón perform at a RazorCake party, I knew they had to play one of our Save Music in Chinatown shows because they were just so. Much. Fun. As soon as their set began, the first two rows of the converted office called Pehrspace became a raging dance party. The San Pedro band’s infectious, totally indie, and mostly instrumental surf tunes touch on Link Wray, The Cramps, and Annette Funicello, and it was impossible not to be smitten by them. In the parking lot, I gushed to one of the members (it was dark and I don’t remember which one) and then hit up the band that very evening with a message inviting them to our next benefit as my guest (and was politely informed that they were busy).

But I persisted, we kept in touch, and it turns out they are not only able to play Sunday’s benefit but they are also friends with Bad Cop/Bad Cop and the other bands love them, too! To get us all extra-amped about the show, I sent over some questions and Jerico (drums) answered on behalf of Angela (guitar) and Paloma (bass).

You three seem to have the best time when you play and you mentioned that you like to play benefits. Where does this PMA come from? And how long have you all known each other and how did you meet?
We’ve been a band for almost six years. Paloma and I went to high school together, but really became friends because of punk shows and our love of music, which is also how we came to know Angela a few years later. We started the band just for fun and it has always been about having a good time. Angela said, “Hey, I wanna start a surf band. You in?” At the time, Paloma and I had little experience on our respective instruments, so we were like, “Sure, why not? We can learn…” And we did. We figured out enough to play a set, started playing shows, and just went from there! It’s been wild. I think we’re able to keep our PMA mostly because playing together is how we escape our otherwise busy, hectic lives. We get to go fun places and meet great people, write, and play rad music. It’s always something to look forward to.

Mike Watt, Saccharine Trust, Recess Records–Is San Pedro as punk as it seems to be?
San Pedro is definitely its own unique island. Pedro punk has a really strong DIY foundation, which is definitely embodied by people like Watt and Todd Congelliere (Recess Records). Our buddy Craig Ibarra wrote a really great book on the history on San Pedro punk (A Wailing of a Town) if you want to know more about it! We have a definite and strong sense of pride, but I also feel our punk community is also extremely welcoming. It’s got friendships and connections all over the globe; once you’ve got a friend in Pedro, you’ve got a friend for life.

I used to see surf bands all the time, from the Phantom Surfers, Bomboras, and Man or Astro-man? to the Pebbles and 5-6-7-8’s, but there don’t seem to be as many of them in the punk circuit these days. How did you get into the genre?
The idea came from Angela. She’s got a really awesome, range in her musical taste which she has shared with us. One of the standouts that I think inspired our sound would probably be Link Wray, but we definitely find inspiration in everything from rock ‘n’ roll to Latin rhythms!

I love your song titles: “El Cowboy,” “King Tut at the Beach,” “Swedish Fish”… Do you come up with riffs and then name them or think of fun ideas and then make them happen?
Thanks! We usually name our songs from the feeling or attitude coming off the riff. “El Cowboy” has sort of a lazy, bouncing along a dusty trail or Wild West showdown feel to it… Our song “Cosmic Surf” brought visions of barreling through deep space on a surfboard, haha! Stuff like that. Our pal Dickey from Tucson named “Swedish Fish.” I forget why. Maybe he was eating the candy. But we try to keep it lighthearted.

What exactly is your connection to Cali Mucho? When I click on your website, I am intrigued.
Cali Mucho is made up of our good pals Rawl (who happens to be engaged to Paloma ^_^) and Kevin. They started their DIY silk screen business in the basement of our old creaky house in Pedro about 10 years ago. They’ve done so much for us over the years–from printing every piece of Bombón flare to helping us get our first record made to traveling the South with us on our first tour. They do a lot of great work here in Pedro and now Kevin is printing it up at a second location in Portland.

At least one of you works with kids. Can you tell me a little bit about why you think it’s important/rad for them to have music education in school?
I’ve worked with children from preschool age to middle school for the better part of the last decade, and I can honestly say that music is so important to early education. Kids  love lto dance and sing, but it goes much deeper than that. Music is so beneficial to young children developing cognitive, social, language, and motor skills. Learning an instrument or being part of some other music outlet can teach children patience, focus, and responsibility and be really great for developing self-esteem. And I know from experience, finding music in my teen years really helped me grow into my own and form friendships and relationships with other music fans. Plus music is fun! And kids need to have some of that in their lives, for sure!

Any thoughts about playing in Chinatown, right by where the old Hong Kong Café and Madame Wong’s used to be?
We’re stoked! Chinatown is awesome. There are so many rad and historic places to play in L.A. and we definitely feel lucky to be part of such a vast scene with so much history.

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Get the latest info on Save Music in Chinatown 8 from the Facebook event page and save some dough by getting advance tickets via Eventbrite.