Here’s a blast from the past to keep to your PMA going strong. The members of Neon Christ, Atlanta’s staple hardcore outfit circa 1984 through ‘86—vocalist Randy DuTeau, guitar player William DuVall, bass player Danny Lankford, and drummer Jimmy Demer—tapped their kids to play the younger versions of themselves in a new video for the group’s classic theme song.
As Demer explains, “I had this idea that we should make a video for the song ‘Parental Suppression,’ and have our kids play us. I brought it to the rest of the guys, and everyone was into the idea, but then nothing happened. Later, William came to me and said ‘hey, let’s do this, but for ‘Neon Christ’ instead.”
The song “Neon Christ” originally appeared on the group’s 10-song Parental Suppression 7-inch EP. And, after all, it is one of the catchiest songs on the record.
When Neon Christ was a functioning band, DuVall performed using his childhood nickname Kip. Since 2006, DuVall has sung and played guitar with the band Alice in Chains. In 2019, he released an album of solo acoustic songs, titled One Alone via his DVL Records imprint.
On the audio side, DuVall took Neon Christ’s original tapes to Nashville-based studio Welcome to 1979 to be remastered for an upcoming DVL/Southern Lord discography LP, titled 1984. The record compiles all of the material from Neon Christ’s Parental Suppression EP and the A Seven Inch Two Times double 7-inch originally released in 1990, and is set to arrive June 12—Record Store Day 2021.
In the meantime, check out the video for “Neon Christ,” directed by Atlanta-based filmmaker Nick Rosendorf.
Stay tuned for more Neon Christ news coming soon!
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There’s a jungle inside the mind of singer and guitar player Andy Browne, and it’s teeming with life. The five songs that make up Lynx Deluxe’s Jungleland EP take shape as an enigmatic reckoning of the self, the spirit, and Southern identity. Heavy rhythms, subtle brass filigree, and percolating keys are pushed forward by arty rock leanings powered by enough muscle and confidence to uphold the group’s ambitions.
Opening number “Jane Goodall” puts a face on part of the music’s veiled metaphors, beginning with the sounds of a screaming chimpanzee in an ecstatic state. The closing song, “Steppin’ On Gold,” brings an even deeper allegory—steeped in the imagery of The Wizard Of Oz—to an intriguing point. Along the way, the musical journey from inner chaos to contentment reveals itself to be an exercise in catharsis, driven by evocative lyrical imagery and compositions that are as thick as English Ivy.
“Jane Goodall,” “The Struggle,” and “Mercy” are bound by a barreling spaciousness and momentum that falls into place with musical unity. Browne’s strained yet soaring and impressionistic voice is accentuated by the ambiance created by bass player Lucy Theodora, drummer Brad Mattson, keyboard player Billy Fields, and guitarist Greg Di Gesu weaving an intense musical web that matches the power of lyrics such as “It’s a struggle to break the chains / It’s a struggle to take the blame / It’s a struggle to let it go / To sit like Buddha in a perfect flow” in “The Struggle.”
Browne’s songwriting resonates with a deeply buried and universally shared note that rings out in all of our minds. In “Saints” and “Steppin’ On Gold,” that note shifts to bolster the uplifting and undeniably catchy essence of each number as they rise out of some vast and mysterious part of the imagination, giving rise to a sense of calmness that’s achieved equally through Browne’s words and the group’s long, interweaving instrumental chemistry. This alone makes Jungleland an engaging chapter for Browne, whose songwriting first left a mark in the mid ‘80s while he fronted Atlanta’s Southern post-punk rockers the Nightporters, a band that also featured bass player Tim Nielsen and drummer Paul Lenz of Drivin N Cryin. In more recent years, his songs fronting the Andy Browne Troupe have revealed themselves to be stepping stones leading to the baroque and Southern alternative rock and pop that Lynx Deluxe brings to life. Jungleland is a true band effort without allegiance to the past, present, or the future. The songs are open-hearted, complete, and flourishing with redemptive fodder for the imagination that’s mysteriously timeless.
The latest single and video released from Disturbios’ self-titled debut album gives the Subsonics’ jangle-punk rocker “See Thru Rhonda” a minimal synth and dadaesque makeover.
The duo at the center of Disturbios, Matt and Rocío Verta-Ray, describe the song as: “Trailer park hijinks. A loaded pistol, a no-good boyfriend but Rhonda takes the consequences.”
In 1995, Matt produced the Subsonics’ classic third LP Everything Is Falling Apart—where “See Thru Rhonda” originally appeared—at N.Y. Hed Studio in New York City. Since then, he’s produced most of their albums including their latest offering, 2018’s Flesh Colored Paint.
The studio is a staple of the city’s punk and rock ‘n’ roll scene, and has turned out albums by everyone from Suicide’s Alan Vega and Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes to Elliott Smith and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion—Matt played in Heavy Trash with Jon Spencer, Speedball Baby, Madder Rose, and more. Both Matt and Rocío work on albums together at N.Y. Hed.
Disturbios is an intriguing departure from any of the aforementioned names. Each song on the new album is tied together in a wash of surf, yeye, new wave, and experimental pop inflections. “Surf Gnossienne,” their take on French composer Erik Satie’s “Gnossienne no. 1,” plunges the song’s rhythms into the depths of psychedelic and avant-garde mysticism.
“Jesus I was Evil” captures the chilling insolence, and the alluring danger of a band that hones a classic New York City proto-punk vibe, while keeping its gaze fixed on a saturated future.
Their reductionist sound paired with the writhing avant-garde imagery of the video reveals wholly new and mysterious dimensions hidden within the Subsonics’ classic.
Nearly four years have gone by since Sad Fish released the Take the Bait cassette EP (Godless America) in November of 2017. Much has changed since then.
With their latest single, titled “Deusa,” Sad Fish awakens from its long slumber wielding a more considered Brazilian pop sound, crafted by a new lineup that eschews the eccentricities of the group’s beginnings.
What began as singer, guitar and keyboard player, and main songwriter Arthur Cabral’s project has become a full band, as drummer, percussionist and engineer Lyle Baldes, and bass player Gracie Joo have settled in alongside Cabral and long standing drummer Emma Rubenstein. With the passage of time, and developing chemistry with a dedicated bass player and second percussionist, Sad Fish has learned how to articulate what the group’s previous concoctions of lo-fi Tropicália and psychedelic pop only hinted at—albeit sung entirely in Portuguese.
Cabral hails from Goiânia, Brazil. His innate musical inflections are an indelible part of Sad Fish’s sound, vision, and personality. Experimental time signatures, though, and a genuinely peculiar sense of humor have long been a part of the group’s identity as well. With “Deusa,” these elements are still there, but they’re employed with subtlety as the group remains focused on drawing out rhythms, melody, and a more sophisticated musical experience (a la Sue Jorge, Caetano Veloso, and Os Mutantes).
The video, directed by Bill Guzik, and starring Eliana Heiser, Bishop Harry, and Pete Though, brings the group’s surreal and cinematic inclinations to life with a noirish tale of trickery and human sacrifice.
“Deusa” is the first single from an as yet untitled album that’s due out this Fall—Sad Fish’s first proper full-length.
Sad Fish is playing a live-streaming set of unreleased songs from the new album at Casa Nova on Monday, April 19. Tune in via Facebook, and keep your eyes peeled for more details coming soon.
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One album later and Antagonizers ATL have ascended from Working Class Street Punk(s) into KINGS!
From the moment the bounding chorus of opening number “Worries” takes hold, a major-chord rock ‘n’ roll stride—carried in the organ and barreling rhythms—distills decades of boot-stomping, fist-pumping sing-alongs, and brotherly hugs into a sophomore album that’s a street punk classic-on-arrival. With KINGS (Pirates Press Records), the group keeps one foot planted firmly in the traditions of Fred Perry Polo shirts and Oxblood Docs. But singer and frontman Bohdan Zacharyj, singer and lead guitarist Richard Henderson, keyboard player Billy Fields, singer and rhythm guitarist Eric Antell, singer and bass player Wynn Pettitt, and drummer Don Tonic push themselves to rise above garden variety oi to become a great rock ‘n’ roll band, punk or no punk.
Part of the group’s strength lies in its snarling three-guitar blitz. But at the core, each song is bursting with positive energy, culminating in an earnest and deeply personal celebration of do-it-yourself pride and allegiance to a moral code that transcends everything else.
“Black Clouds,” the album’s first single, is where Antagonizers ATL’s indomitable spirit and its message shine brightest: Build strength through self-reliance, watch your friends’ backs, and always maintain a PMA (positive mental attitude) no matter what obstacles life throws in your path.
Matt Henson of Tacoma, Washington’s NOi!SE joins in the chant with the lyrics: “Keep on swingin’ and I’m missin,’ too. At least I’m swingin,’ and not cryin’ the blues. I’d rather fail than not try. Give my all ’till the day I die.”
These words project a stylish clubhouse rule to leave your complaints at the door. This record is all about finding strength and integrity through endurance, in a time when knee-jerk hostility is the order of the day. In 2021, this whole dynamic is, once again, the frontier of punk and hardcore, and it’s a thread that ties together songs such as “Trouble,” “Problems” (featuring Chris Doherty of Gang Green), “Us Against the World,” and the album’s title track. … And For all intents and purposes, Antagonizers ATL might just have a hit on their hands with “Hold On Hold Strong.” Here, Monty Neysmith of British ska/reggae legends Symarip adds a touch of his signature Skinhead Moonstomping inflections for what is without a doubt a modern hardcore anthem. With each song, the group remains fast, furious, and proud, while leavening these qualities with genuinely powerful songwriting. Every step of the way Zacharyj, Henderson, and Pettitt reach deep, trading lyrics that transcend politics and expectations with a message of true positivity, delivered in 10 songs of working class punk and rock ‘n’ roll par excellence.
In January of 2020, Loony took the stage at 529 to play Radfest with Purkinje Shift and W8ing4UFOs—my birthday party. It was a Sunday afternoon “matinee” show that ended up going well into the night. Who knew we were so close to losing live music for much of the coming year?
A week before the show, singer Anela DeVille, bass player Silas Fiction, guitarist Scott Price, and drummer Isaac Makin got together for practice and recorded the “Dead Heat” demo that you see and hear above.
Over the last year, the group’s lineup has paired down to just Fiction and DeVille fleshing out six songs that they hope to release by this summer via Die Slaughterhaus Records. For these six new recordings that are currently in post-production, Price played guitar, and Amos Rifkin of A Rippin’ Production filled in as temporary drummer. While a permanent lineup has yet to take shape, Fiction and DeVille are pressing forward. First up: “Dead Heat.” Although this recording is a rough demo, it’s a solid sneak peek at the group’s full-throttle charge. It’s also an homage to one of Joe Piscopo’s finest/most absurd acting roles, Detective Doug Bigelow in the 1988 action-comedy sci-fi cult sleeper, Dead Heat.
“I had written those riffs, and later that day we watched Dead Heat,” Fiction says. We both loved it!”
Together, Fiction and DeVille penned the lyrics as a summary of the movie. “It’s so ingenious, and it had us laughing so hard,” DeVille says. “We wanted to make it known how badass this movie is. Those who haven’t seen it need to watch it in order to know what we are talking about.”
The music is inspired by So. Cal hardcore/nardcore Thrasher Magazine skate rock aesthetics of the ’80s. It’s music for fans of TSOL, RKL, Agent Orange, Agression, JFA, McRad, Doggy Style, Vision Street Wear, pulling off slappies and smith grinds, and getting awesome. Check out the lyrics below.
Dead heat Back from the grave Nothing to do No one to save
Dead man walking Cannot be shot down Terrorizing The entire town
Dead heat Back from the grave Falling apart Slimy decay
Infinite lives Soul cannot be found Decomposing Time is running out
Dead heat Back from the grave Dying to live Willing to trade
Time is running out!
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A decade has gone by since Überchriist last checked in with their self-titled debut cassette via Fan Death Records. But the black metal duo featuring Colin Mee (vocals, guitar, and bass) and Shane Patrick (drums, keyboard, and vocals ) brings a combined resume to the group that bridges a much broader swath of time and music in Atlanta. Mee is a former member of post-punk institution Deerhunter, indie rockers Hollow Stars, and heavy metal mashers Chopper. Patrick is the former drummer and co-founder of the confrontational noise rock and post-punk outfits HAWKS, Aku You, and Illegal Drugs.
After so much time in the void, Überchriist returns with Et Veniens, a new four-song EP of riffs and growling antagonism that’s both scorched and chilling on a supernatural level.
In Latin, Et Veniens, means “The Coming.” Here, the title announces the arrival of a more evolved sound and vision, of which these four songs are only the first glimpse. “Colin and I have spent years writing new batches of songs and giving Überchriist a more mature sound,” Patrick says. “We are coming back to the world, and we plan on releasing more material in the near future.”
The songs for the new EP were recorded by Matt Greenia at Diamond Street Studios in Little 5 Points. Kyle Spence (Harvey Milk, Tom Collins, Dinosaur Jr.) mixed and mastered the material at his studio in Athens. The result of their efforts draws out a feeling that is distinctly more demonic than their previous offering. This singular sound—rest assured, it packs a scolding white-hot fist to your mortal soul—makes Et Veniens an ideal second coming. The new songs, featuring titles such as “Sanctuary Defiled,” “Abysmal Despair,” “Ubernaut,” and “Breaking Ov The Light” expand upon the group’s sonic reach with a foreboding haze of haunted animosity.
A new full-length album is lurking out there somewhere in the inky black ether, as Mee and Patrick are working on new material with Spence. Expect more from Überchriist to arrive by next fall/winter. “This is just the beginning,” Patrick says. “We’re showing the universe that we’re back on the map. It is a sign. The coming.”
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Sometimes, it’s difficult to find the right words that express just how much you care for that special someone in your life. This year, let Didi Wray’s guitar do the talking. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, the Santiago, Chile-based surf rock torchbearer offers an enchanting instrumental take on the Ramones’ classic crush song, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend.”
True to form, her cover clocks in at just under two minutes, rendering the Ramone’s most sentimental number in rose-colored hues of reverb and tremolo. Here, “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” drifts in a breeze of Didi meets Dee Dee, taking shape as a tender and campy redux that hones the Southern California surf influence underscoring the Ramones’ sound. It’s the often overlooked element that adds depth and texture to the brothers from Forest Hills’ signature rock ‘n’ roll blitzkrieg, and it’s brought to the front and center here. Press play and fall in love again!
Jayne County is an avatar of social and cultural change—a transgender trailblazer, and a rock ‘n’ roll provocateur. “I Don’t Fit In Anywhere,” her latest single and collaboration with former Sexual Side Effects guitar player and songwriter Am Taylor takes stock of her six decades-long journey, from growing up in rural Dallas, Georgia to performing for New York City, London and the world. She worked side-by-side with and inspired legions of groundbreaking artists including David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, the Kinks, Lou Reed, the Ramones, and too many others to name here (seriously, books have been written chronicling her fascinating story). She even acted in Andy Warhol’s theatre production titled Pork. Despite such a long and illustrious career, though, “I Don’t Fit In Anywhere” resonates as a mantra, and an anthem for a life spent perpetually on the leading edge of cultural change. Now, teamed up with Taylor, the two have forged a path into new frontiers of rock ‘n’ roll as religion, safe haven, and ammunition to keep fighting in a contemporary landscape.
County and Taylor sat down with me to talk about how they met, recording their first single for Cleopatra Records, and where it’s all going from here.
Chad Radford: What’s striking to me about the video is the chemistry between the two of you. How did you start playing music together?
Am Taylor: We’ve known each other for about 10 years. We met through our friend Jen Belgard at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club in Little Five Points. Obviously everybody knows Jayne, and she knew of my old band the Sexual Side Effects. One day, Jayne messaged me on Facebook and asked if I wanted to get together and write some songs.
Jayne County: I had played a few shows at the Yacht Club and at the Star Bar. Amber was there, and once we started talking we clicked immediately. I was looking for someone to help me out with some songs I’d written. She volunteered, and she understood what I was saying when I talked about how I wanted a song to feel, how it was structured, and what a song said. She picks up on all sorts of stuff, and adds her ideas, and makes it better!
AT: When Jayne messaged me, I’d been a hermit for a while—a recluse in my home—and was burned out on playing music. I’d done a lot of art and writing—I was taking courses and waking up every morning and doing object writing. I was in songwriter mode, and it was cool to have a collaborator. Jayne would hum a melody to me, I would craft the chords around it, and we’d have a song. That’s literally what our writing process has been.
JC: I don’t know where the songs come from. All of the sudden there’s a tune in my head. I’ll take it to Amber and say it goes like this [hums]. She picks up her guitar and plays what I hummed. Before long she’s playing the whole song!
Have songs always just come to you?
JC: Yes they have, they just descend down on me. Where do they come from? I’ve got that thing where there’s a constant humming in my ears—tinnitus. Sometimes that’s where the songs come from—my tinnitus hums a tune at me. I might be driving in my truck, feeding my cats, cooking, or doing anything, and a tune will come to me. If it disappears, it disappears. If it keeps coming back to me I know it’s catchy, and it will probably be a good song. I’ll record them into my phone. Then Amber works on them.
AT: I have my own process with my songs—I have a factory! I’ll sit down at the kitchen table or wherever, and write down an idea that comes to me, and that’s one session. Another phase: I’ll drive around in my car and rate the ideas that I have, one-through-five. Then I’ll have another session where I’ll piece the songs together. Then I’ll write a first draft. Then I’ll rewrite it and make it better. Then rewrite it again! I usually go through about four drafts. I spend a lot of time on my songs. With Jayne and it’s easy because she comes to me with ideas and it’s like boom, boom, boom, done. We’re a productive team.
JC: We can have one rehearsal session and come up with two or three songs.
AT: She’s into all of this ‘60s stuff and comes up with cool doo-wop and surf stuff that I wasn’t aware of. Working with producer and engineer Andy Reilly, we made our song sound really cool. He knows Jayne so it’s still rock ‘n’ roll. But with the new stuff we’re going to have a production that’s something like the Viagra Boys: loud drums, driving bass. But we’re adding some ‘60s elements. I’ve been playing through a Marshall, and I’ll have these Queens of the Stone Age sounds. With Jayne, I’ll play a Fender and get a James Bond surf rock sound.
JC: I like the folk-rock twangy kind of sound, too. You can hear it in “I Don’t Fit In Anywhere.” To me, the music of the ‘60s was great because it was taking rock ‘n’ roll but adding elements from Indian music, classical music, adding sitar, flute, harpsichord. There was a lot of experimentation with music going on back and then, and a lot of it stood out.
AT: I love Ennio Morricone who composed soundtracks for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Danger: Diabolik, Deep Down. The soundscapes that he created were so weird and different and even the soundtrack for Barbarella: I love the guitar tones. We play music the way we do, but I want to bring those production elements into it as well.
What did you have in mind when you wrote “I Don’t Fit In Anywhere?”
JC: I am a big fan of protest music: “Eve Of Destruction,” P.F. Sloan, the Byrds, early Bob Dylan when he was still a protest singer—before it became really boring. “I Don’t Fit In Anywhere” came from out of nowhere, and the tune came with it. It’s along the same line as the Kinks’ song, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.” We have this structure called society that says there are certain things that you have to do, and certain things that you have to believe in. Anyone who can’t do it, just can’t do it. They stick out, and that’s what that song is about. By that I mean not fitting into the gay world, not fitting in with the trans world, the straight world. It’s about being one creature—on your own in the world—but not letting it get you down. Making it work for you.
Jayne, you were a teenager in Dallas, GA during the Civil Rights era, you moved to New York City and participated in the Stonewall riots, and you were there when punk rock was forming.
JC: I was a little before punk, they’ve often called me proto-punk.
You’ve been a harbinger of cultural and social change. Do you look at contemporary society and see the results of what you’ve been a part of? Do you still feel like you don’t fit in?
JC: I have thought about this before: How much of an impact did I really make? I have always been anti-establishment, or whatever the established norm is. I truly do not fit in, so I try to change things for the better for everyone. I can see that certain things have changed as the result of some people being on the frontlines, and not being afraid to make change. You can’t be afraid, or change won’t happen. People have to be on the frontlines to build the different kinds of roads to go down. I had to make my own road to go down.
And yes, I still feel like I don’t fit in. I built my own road to go down, and that road always leads back to me not fitting in. But that keeps me going and working harder. If I fit in I probably wouldn’t be Jayne Country anymore.
Maybe that’s where the frontline is now: In the wake of social media, people need to find that road to embrace their identity.
JC: Yes, and younger people need to know more about history. People are really dumb about history now. I’m a history buff; people have done a lot of really shitty things in the past, but nobody seems to ever learn anything from it.
AT: I’m a history buff, too. The Roman Empire: I have a song about Julius Caesar called “Blood Moon,” and a song about Winston Churchill called “The Darkest Hour.” Instead of writing a song about how a boy or girl broke your heart, this was a different way of writing a song. I studied all of these eras and learned about their stories and pulled imagery from the locations and the people. One is Julius Caesar’s revenge as a ghost, which was cool. It was a lot like “Game of Thrones,” or something. Julius Caesar gets his revenge in the end.
JC: Ancient Egypt is my thing. If you look at the walls in my living room they’re covered with nothing but Egyptian stuff. Hundreds of statues of Bastet, Anubis, Tutankamon. I do a lot of painting with Egyptian themes, but my last two shows have been postponed because of the pandemic.
I have a three-legged cat named King Tut, but we just call him Tut. Most of my cats are rescues. Right now I have about 13 cats.
That’s a lot of mouths to feed!
JC: Oh I know it. My cat food bill is way too high, and I think I feed them too much. But they’re safe and they’re happy here. I leave dry food and water out for them, and I mix wet food with treats. All I have to do is shake the bag of treats and they come running!
Amber, when considering Jayne’s legacy, do you feel pressure to raise the bar for yourself?
AT: The way that I can raise the bar is by thinking about us together—making the songs the best that they can be. I think about how we work together, and respecting Jayne’s ideas, and giving her the space that she needs. I do a lot of rewriting of songs. Sometimes a great song isn’t complete. With “I Don’t Fit In Anywhere,” we didn’t have the hook at the beginning. We tried a bunch of different things, so that’s how I raise the bar.
There’s this trick that Radiohead and the Smiths do to make songs sound weird and cool and creepy, called using borrowed chords. You write out each note of the scale within a major scale and then pick the minor scale. For each one of those notes within that scale is a chord, and you create a chord progression. You can then swap out that chord—the fourth note in the scale is the fourth chord—and you could swap that out for the minor scale version. That’s what a lot of Beatles songs do, and you hear that in a lot of my songs. How can we make this cool as shit? How can we make it like the Smiths?
What would Johnny Marr do (WWJMD)?
AT: Yes! He does all of these inversions, and weird jazz shit. I want to add that into it as well. Make it go to an all new level of cool.
JC: No. I’ve been thinking about updating “Man Enough To Be A Woman,” but we’re concentrating on writing new songs.
AT: We have about five songs, and we’re getting more together for an LP.
JC: Among those five songs there are still ideas that haven’t been pulled out and worked on yet. But when we get 10 songs together we’ll be in good shape for an album.
You did the new single with Cleopatra Records. Are they interested in releasing an album?
AT: Cleopatra said, “Let’s see how things go with this one, and we’ll figure out what to do from there.” We’re still learning the business side of things. From this go around we’ve learned that Jayne has a huge following in Germany, Scandinavia, and Sweden. People were Shazaming the song an awful lot over there.
JC: Iggy Pop played the song on his BBC show. He played “Paranoid Paradise” on the show, so I sent him the new video. His response was, “It’s good …” He didn’t say he was gonna play it or anything like that. But he did!
AT: He said I was a “shrewd rockin’ chic!” I’ve never been called shrewd before, but that has to be Iggy’s stamp of approval, right?
Absolutely! You don’t want him to call you a goody two-shoes!
AT: I guess we did break into a church in the video, but at least we went to church, right?
It’s a long story, but our video turned into something much different from what we thought it would be. Initially we were going to go to all of these places and get kicked out. But since we didn’t have a lot of time or budget we shot it all there and at the Star Bar. As it turned out, he Star Bar had closed down a few days before we were supposed to shoot, but we got in touch with the new owners and got in there. Video Rahim is great, he had all of these ideas like “why don’t you smoke a joint in church, or somebody should grab this girl’s boob here.”
We were lucky to get Justin Welborn, who plays the preacher. He’s our friend, but he’s a TV star now. He was in The Signal, Unforgiven, the reboot of MacGuyver. He has a great look … Great priest! We just asked, “Hey, would you be in our video?” We have all this crazy extra footage of him freaking out and screaming about us going to hell. He’s such a great actor.
What’s next for you?
JC: When we recorded “I Don’t Fit In Anywhere” we also recorded another song called “Too Much Information.” We’ll make a video for that next.
AT: That song has extreme James Bond guitar in it, like spy hunter sounds.
JC: I talk about Facebook and Youtube on it: “Leave me alone/Youtube is on” … “Smart TV/MP3/Can you download your love for me?” Stuff like that.
Have the two of you played live together yet?
JC: Not yet. I’ve thought about doing an invitation show, where we play the songs in front of an audience. There’s a new song we’re working on that I’m excited about, called “She’s On A ‘60s Trip.” The lyrics are tongue-in-cheek, and the verses are constructed using titles from all of these ‘60s songs put together as verses, like “Come On Baby, light my fire, break on through to the other side,” ”Trapped in the house of the rising sun,” “I wanna hold your hand at the revolution.”
AT: We’ve only kind of worked out the acoustic part for it. It will start to morph a little more when we go into the studio and start doing demos. I’m big into creating soundscapes with music. I play a bunch of instruments, and I want to create these soundscapes behind things, so you know the ‘60s stuff that we keep talking about will be fun.
JC: I met them at Max’s Kansas City years ago, and we’ve known each other for years.
I get the impression that, in the mid-to-late ‘70s, you were either a Max’s Kansas City band or a CBGBs bands. Some groups played both, but there was a perceived loyalty to one or the other. What was the line in the sand?
JC: Max’s was more diverse. CBGBs got to a point where it was suburban kids driving in with their punk clothes in the car. They’d dress up in their punk clothes in the car and go to the show. Afterward they’d go change out of their punk clothes, and get back into their office gear for work the next day.
Max’s held up the real freak scene. The real artists scene. There was a big gay clientele there, but it wasn’t a gay club. Gay people were welcome; everyone was welcome. CBGBs became kind of homophobic after a while. A war between CBs and Max’s started in about 1976, because Dick Manitoba from the Dictators jumped up on my stage one night at CBGBs. He’d been in the audience calling me all kinds of names. He jumped onto the stage and I thought he was going to attack me, so I clocked with the mic stand. He fell over and hit a table and was hurt really badly. I felt absolutely terrible about it. That started a war: A lot of people at CBs were taking the wrestler’s side—Handsome Dick Manitoba. People Max’s took my side.
He pressed assault charges against me, but he wouldn’t show up in court so the case was thrown out. He was embarrassed because word hit the streets that poor ol’ Dick Manitoba got his ass kicked by a drag queen.
After that, for a time, Patti Smith talked about it in her shows, saying: “You can’t judge people by what they look like, or by the clothes they wear.” … All because I whooped him. I only did it because I felt like I needed to. He’d been yelling homophobic things at me—just saying horrible things. When he jumped up onto the stage it scared me to death. He had a beer mug in his hand, and he turned at me. I thought he was going to hit me with that beer mug. Later, he said, “Oh, I was just trying to get to the bathroom.”
You moved to London soon after that, correct?
JC: Yes, I moved to London in ‘76 and started playing the clubs there. In ‘77 I went on tour. The Police were my opening band!
When people talk about the golden era of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, they think about the Talking Heads, Ramones, Television, that era at CBGBs. Over at Max’s there was Cherry Vanilla and later came the Misfits, the Victims, the New York Dolls. You were there before those scenes took shape, but you are one of the artists who laid the groundwork for that whole era to begin …
JC: People say that, but it’s hard for me to judge things clearly. I’m so close to it all, and it’s hard to think that was really even me—the person—who was there.
You really were there, and you really did kick Handsome Dick Manitoba’s ass at CBGBs.
JC: He tried to make it make it out like “Oh, I was just going to the bathroom and this big ol’ mean drag queen attacked me, a poor little ol’ wrestler.”
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Didi Wray was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but has spent much of the last decade living in Mexico, Brazil, and in Santiago, Chile, where she currently resides. Surf music and wild rock ‘n’ roll are coursing through her veins, and if her travels have revealed to her one universal truth about music it’s that the most powerful recordings harness the energy of everyone playing in the room together, feeling the energy, and sharing the moment. It’s the chemistry between players—the strength of the performance itself—that turns so much reverb, rhythm, and tremolo into the stuff of magic heard throughout her second album Misión Tango Surf.
The CD was released by Surf Cookie Records in 2019. Two years later, Augusta, GA’s Missing Fink Records has reissued the CD and pressed the songs onto vinyl with new cover art by Stephen Blickenstaff, who’s best known for creating the artwork for the Cramps’ Bad Music for Bad People LP. Misión Tango Surf harbors 13 cuts of traditional surf sounds and old-school rock ‘n’ roll played with taut authority and nimble dexterity. The album’s opening title cut moves at a measured, psychedelic pace, blending classic kerrang and reverb with Latin flourishes. Songs with titles such as “Amazonic Hully Gully” and “El Sombrero” find balance in subtle restraint weighed against the full-throttle tremolo picking of “Por Una Cabeza,” and “Terremoto Stomp!” When placed side-by-side here, each song carves out a smooth and cohesive body of instrumental jams.
All told, there are nearly 40 musicians and engineers dubbed Liga Americana del Surf coming in and out of the frey. It’s a fellowship featuring a survey of South American and Mexican musicians including members of Brazilian acts the Dead Rocks and the Pulltones; Chilean groups Los Kanibales Surf Combo, Sindicato Tango Surf, and Los Yawares; Peruvian group Los Protones; Estereofónikos from Argentina; and the Tango-Surf Combo from Mexico.
More guests are sprinkled throughout the album as well. “The Godfather of Mexican Surf” himself, Daddy O Grande of Los Straitjackets brings winding grooves to “Blue Tango” and “Cielito Lindo.” Fellow Los Straitjackets guitarist Gregorio El Grande amps up the pace in “Pisco Saico Twist.” Caleb “Sr. Ramírez” Franco of Lost Acapulco brings steel-string heat to the closing number “St. Katharina Twangwest.” Each of these players dutifully serve the unified, oceanic ambiance of Wray’s vision.
With so many players lending a hand, though, the most Herculean feat here is Wray’s ability to rein in such an impressive cavalcade, and focus on creating unfettered, uncluttered music. Misión Tango Surf pushes the heavily-mined waters of surf and rock ‘n’ roll to thrilling and mysterious new places, while bolstering her flair for Latin cadences and melodies, offering a little shoreline beach break for the hodads and the hardcore alike.
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