Here’s a great little promo video for the upcoming Nor Cal Noisefest weekend of noise in Sacramento Ca. Sept 30th-Oct 2nd. I’ll be performing Saturday Oct 1st (no time confirmed yet). There are many ways you can support the event even if you can’t make it. Check out the Indiegogo campaign. There are great perks within’ such as Music, T-shirts, Eye and Ear protection, Art and even some Gear!
I don’t drive, I’ve never had a driver’s licence, I’ve never owned a car, this has developed a certain drive in me that would’ve been otherwise neglected or unnoticed had I gone the way of the masses and joined that class of mobility.
I believe it takes a certain drive to exist in a world dominated by cars and industry. In the U.S. industry used to center around transportation of goods and people via trains and cars and the steel mills and automobile factories that used to employ so many people. The design of cities and their outlying suburbs created a need for this industry to thrive…it fed itself. In order to get to and from work, you had to either drive yourself or carpool, or rely on public transportation which rarely accommodated the outlying suburbs efficiently…you had to work in order to afford the house in the suburbs and the status associated with that. You had to have a car to get to and from the city and the ‘burbs, the ‘right’ car. You needed to work to pay for the ‘right’ car to get you to and from the city and the ‘burbs…all by design.
As a child there was also always an immense pressure with things like model car kits and Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars we grew up with as toys but these toys also conditioned us to believe how cool we would be when we’re old enough to own and drive the real thing. Most kids couldn’t wait to turn 16 in order to get their first car. Who at 16 needs a car? What career or job or task requires a 16 year old to have wheels? I never got that. Status…image, those are the driving psychological forces at hand. I never bought into it.
My grandfather worked for The Ford plant near Buffalo NY where I grew up. This was a part of the Rust Belt as it’s known these days. Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo etc. were all central to the steel and automobile industry. My grandfather was an alcoholic for years and must have suffered depression as the 70’s and 80’s were a pretty dire time economically and working in that environment must have been soul sucking for sure. He had a small car accident (a drunk driving incident in which he only emerged with a broken leg but it scared him enough into sobriety. Not more than a few years later he died of a heart attack at the Ford plant. We all thought he’d quit smoking too, but they found 3 packs of smokes on him! I must’ve been 14-15 at the time.
This must have informed my early opinions about cars and their inherent destructive properties. I never consciously decided that I was never gonna drive, I just chose to attempt not to engage in society in that way. I was also raised by a single mother who worked which made me a ‘latchkey Kid’. I started to ride the bus on my own by 3rd-4th grade, so my perspective of convenience in travel was already being informed.
By 7th-8th grade we had moved a bit closer to my grade school and subsequently my High School would also be just a 20 min. busride away, though I often chose to ride my skateboard or even walk! Walking took about an hour but I really grew to enjoy my explorations before and after school. I realized that I got to see the city and experience it much more intimately on foot. Even when I rode the bus it got to where I would squint my eyes and imagine what Elmwood Ave looked like before it was developed into a strip of boutiques and businesses, this street was once residential and if you looked beyond the store fronts you could still make out the lovely architecture of the old houses behind the facades, I time travelled this way.
By high school I was a full on ‘Skate Rat’ and my crew and I used to ride everywhere, exploring the city’s skateable architecture or simply ‘bombing hills’ all day everyday. We explored every neighborhood we could from The Lower West Side near what is now The Buffalo Waterfront district down near Lake Erie to the top of Elmwood where Albright Knox Art Gallery sits, near Buff St. to North Buffalo and sometimes even as far as where Main St, meets Transit in Williamsville…sometimes in one day!
Somewhere around the age of 19-20 I suffered a pretty severe ankle injury skating the banks outside of Trackmaster studios which is now GCR studios owned by Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robbie (Goo) Takac. This injury essentially ended my ability to even just ride a skateboard and prompted me to focus on playing an instrument which was a blessing, since I was really depressed I would probably never ‘bomb hills’ again.
I took the bus to NOLA and spent some time down there exploring, NOLA is a great walking city. Shortly after I returned to Buffalo to recalibrate and I worked at a record store for a bit. Apollo Records on Elmwood (the proprietor Gary Sperrazza has actually just recently passed away)
for a couple years, I spent 6 days a week at the record store and the rest of the time playing music and developing a couple of musical projects. I lived 2 doors away from the shop so my commute was a dream…
IT TAKES DRIVE TO LIVE IN LA WITHOUT A CAR
In 1996 I moved to LA (I took the bus from Buffalo) and against most peoples advice, really tested the carless existence! Everyone swears adamantly that you cannot survive without a car in LA. I did for close to 10 years! I worked at a couple of different record stores from Melrose to The Sunset Strip, within a few months I was playing with a seminal LA punk band and gigging regularly. I can’t say it was easy but it did take drive. for awhile I even worked in Van Nuys while living in Silverlake!
Now I reside in SF which is a much easier city to traverse using public transportation, yet we are clogged to the gills with cars! People want to claim the SF zip code though they work in the burbs! Things have completely reversed!
I’m 42 now and still haven’t entertained the thought of driving. I see more details in my surroundings, I don’t rush and allow myself time to move and explore as I head toward my destination…cars promote a stressful relationship with other drivers and you have to be at attention at all times. My mind likes to wander and I utilise the time on busses and subways to read and write and to work on music…I engage with people face to face and I don’t exist in a closed box on wheels. I don’t have envy of the world of tickets, accidents (often deadly), insurance payments and repairs etc. Where people think that driving saves time, I feel that not driving gives me time while at the same time increases my motivation, mental and physical health and above all…drive.
One of the things I took away from studying this scene when I was a teenager, was the sheer eclectic nature of the bands that formed and developed around that time under the ‘punk’ banner. You had The Germs, X, The Blasters, The Screamers, The Mau-Maus, The Flesh-Eaters, The Weirdos, Alice Bag Band (The Bags), The Gun Club, Circle One, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, TSOL and many more! None of those bands looked alike or sounded alike at all!
I could go into this more, but I’ll let someone who was there talk about the diversity of the og LA scene (76-77) which really centered around Hollywood before it spread to the burbs . This recent interview with Alice Bag gives a better perspective, here’s an excerpt:
“First of all, I don’t think The Decline of Western Civilization shows the scene I was part of. I don’t think that was the mission of that film to depict the early L.A. punk scene, because by the time Penelope Spheeris was filming it, punk was already spilling out into the suburbs and taking on different flavors. One thing she captured in the film was the growing hardcore scene. And I think that hardcore scene brought with it a lot of white male energy that wasn’t present in the Hollywood scene. And she showed that shift. And if you look carefully at the film I think you can tell which were the bands that were part of the early scene because they were quirkier. They were not quite what is considered punk nowadays. The images and sounds and behavior [of punk now] were not associated with the early punk scene. It was open-ended and inclusive — as long as it was different from mainstream, it would fit into that scene. So that’s why what you see in documentaries doesn’t gel with what you hear people talking about from the early scene. And I’m talking about ’77, ’78, even the summer of ’76. People were coming in from glam then — it was a transitional year.”
After 40 years of being essentially underground and operating under the radar, still in music and in other realms such as activism and art and education and Feminism (important stuff largely ignored by the mainstream) she has emerged with a new book and a new record
I was lucky enough to make it to her SF show at The El Rio to witness firsthand what to me has become a lost sound. There is a distinctly raw yet fluid delivery with diverse elements that embody that classic LA punk sound such as Rockabilly and that 60’s girl group sound mixed with some garage punk elements, abstract brooding dirges as well as all out blistering pogo punk beats and Johnny Thunders guitar solo bends all mixed together tastefully, never too much of one thing, add a heartfelt performance and socially conscious and very relevant lyrical content and you have the best of the best here. Great show, great band, see for yourself:
Alice Bag SF 2016 (Clips)
All pics and video by Jeff K. 2016
A bit of a side note:
One of Alice’s guitarists, who is also on her new record, is an old LA friend of mine Sharif D. and he has a new band called Sex Stains and they will be releasing an album soon too!
PLAYING WITH HEROES
Another really good read below from one of the drummers Alice has on her album, Candace Hansen. Her experience really resonated with me as I had a similar experience in the mid 90’s when I was tapped to join an incarnation of The Flesh Eaters who also came out of this early wave of LA Punk bands. It’s always a bit surreal to think that I got to play in a band that at one point or other contained members such as Bill Bateman and Dave Alvin (The Blasters) John Doe and DJ Bonebrake (X) Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) as well as some collaborations on Divine Horseman work by everyone from Exene (X) to Texacala Jones (Tex and The Horseheads) Kid Congo Powers (Cramps, Bad Seeds, Pink Monkey Birds, Gun Club) Jeffrey Lee Pierce (Gun Club). I can totally relate to Candace’s experience in becoming a part of a history that influenced us immensely as kids. It’s such an honor and we are very lucky to have had this experience.
I’ve been following sonicstate.com for a couple/few years now. Nick Batt does some of the best coverage of up and coming instruments and technology in the world of synthesizers and other studio gear. His coverage is thorough and even with the more technical stuff, he makes it make sense to follow somehow. It’s nice to see this short set from him for a change, where he doesn’t have to talk about what’s happening. Moody, heartfelt a well arranged set!