POSTPONED: Off! and Zulu play Terminal West on Wednesday, November 2

Off! Photo by Jeff Forney.

THIS SHOW HAS BEEN POSTPONED: Keep your eyes peeled for a rescheduled date to be announced soon.

Off! and Zulu play Terminal West on Wednesday, November 2. $22 (advance). $25 (day of show). 7 p.m.


With a new lineup in place and functioning like a well-oiled machine, OFF! is back on the road supporting the group’s first album in eight years, Free LSD (Fat Possum Records).

With Free LSD, Circle Jerks’ frontman Keith Morris, guitar player Dimitri Coats, bass player and Atlanta expat Autry Fulbright II (…And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead), and drummer Justin Brown (Herbie Hancock, Thundercat) have crafted a vibrant and essential art-punk rumination on the end times.

Earlier this year, I spoke with Keith Morris while he was passing through town with the Circle Jerks. This is what he had to say about the new album:

“We listened to a lot of Throbbing Gristle, Hunting Lodge, Can, Einstürzende Neubauten, Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters, Miles Davis. We spent time with a character named Enid Snarb who was in Bastard Noise and Man Is the Bastard. He turned us on to some of George Harrison’s work after he visited India.

Our engineer mixer guy worked with Kyuss and he mixed over half of Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating In Space. We went to a lot of different places, rather than the Bad Brains, Blue Öyster Cult, and Stiff Little Fingers.

Autry Fulbright is playing bass, and he co-manages Thundercat. Our drummer Justin Brown plays drums with Thundercat, so now we’ve got a jazz drummer playing rock, and you’ll hear it. There are times when he’s all over the place, and we really have to pay attention to what he’s doing to play what we’re playing. 

If your mind is free enough, and you’re able to see all of the different colors that we’re using, you’ll get it. There’ll be a lot of people that don’t, but we have no control over that.”

Read the full interview with Keith Morris.

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Genki Genki Panic: ‘This Is… Dungeon Surf!!!’


Anyone who’s paying attention knows that Genki Genki Panic cranks out new music at an alarming pace. It can be overwhelming to newcomers, but the group’s latest proper full-length, This Is​.​.​.​Dungeon Surf​!​!​!, distills the spirit of a full-throttle genre-bending haunted-house and surf-punk saga into 17 spooktacular cuts. What sets apart these Georgia-by-way-of-Tennessee misfits from run-of-the-mill Tommy Bahama shorts-wearing surf parrots is an increasingly twisted descent into the outsider fringes of the grotesque. These howlies prefer the eerie light of the full moon to the warm California sun, making their wide-eyed instrumentals all the more engaging. Songs such as “Ghouls On Film,” “Radon Chong,” and “Smells Like Teen Sewage” show off a reverence for the classic reverb and kerrang of the Ventures, Dick Dale, and the Trashmen as much as the creepy underworld soundscapes of Vic Mizzy and Danny Elfman. There’s also an undeniable sense of humor being telegraphed in those over-the-top songs’ titles. “Massive Severed Laphog In A Paper Bag” leads the firebrand charge with delay effects layered over tons of reverb, so much so that it actually sounds like the song is splashing out of the speakers. Other tunes, such as “Terror Vision” and “How Do You Like Your Hyperspace Maggots, Michael?” are utterly gritty and nasty—in the most appealing way those adjectives can be used. “Drac’d Raw Dot Com” and “Smells Like Teenage Sewage” carry the distortion of 8-bit dungeon synth sounds to horrific depths; a nod to which comes through in the album’s title, Dungeon Surf. One, possibly two songs willfully violate the rules with vocals, depending on how you’re listening to the album. The Bandcamp tracklist is different from what’s on Spotify, and the CD features seven songs that aren’t on the LP. “I Was A Teenage Were-chud” tells a wicked tale of heavy breathing and depravity in the graveyard under the pale moonlight, embracing the monster-movie nightmares that the group invokes from the cover art to the ghastly tongue-in-cheek song titles. Hainters gonna haint, but this is the essential GGP release so far.

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Bob Mould talks Sugar, Hüsker Dü, ‘Distortion,’ and ‘Blue Hearts’

Photo courtesy Merge Records.


Bob Mould is on the road for this “Solo Electric: Distortion and Blue Hearts Tour.” Before playing at City Winery on October 12, Mould took a few minutes to talk about returning to life in America after spending some time in Berlin, experiencing socio-political deja vu, and to reflect on his years with Sugar and Hüsker Dü.

Your current tour is titled the “Solo Electric: Distortion and Blue Hearts,” which sounds pretty straight forward. Are you playing a pretty comprehensive setlist?

Blue Hearts was the fifth album for Merge Records that was recorded with the same rhythm section—Jason Narducy on bass and Jon Wurster on drums—and with the same engineer, Beau Sorenson. Blue Hearts came out in September 2020. Obviously nobody was touring at that point. 

In October of 2020, the Distortion box sets started coming out on Demon Records in the UK. It was a 30-year career retrospective that took from the first solo album, Workbook, all the way through Sunshine Rock, which was the fourth solo album with Merge. In the fall of 2021, myself, Jon, and Jason did a pretty quick North American tour. Since then, I’ve mostly been doing solo electric stuff, touching on everything from Hüsker Dü and Sugar and the solo albums up to Blue Hearts.

The expense of touring is pretty high right now, and tours are still getting canceled left and right because people are getting sick. So for the time being, the solo electric thing is the easiest way for me to tour.

Most of the press that Blue Hearts has received hangs on it being about your return to the States after living in Berlin for a few years, and getting an eyeful of how much things had changed in a very short time.

The first half of Blue Hearts feels like a return to Hüsker Dü songwriting form.

Yeah, I felt like the fall of 2019 was a lot like the fall of 1983. The country was pretty unhinged, and sadly it seems to have gotten worse.

Staying in the fall of 2019, I’d been spending a lot of time in Germany. I was aware of what was happening in America, but when you come back to the US and you’re surrounded by 24-hour news cycles, and just all of the insanity that is America when things get like this, it felt very similar to my state of mind and my state of being, and how I saw the world back in 1983. It made me think about what I was doing back then, what the environment was like at the time. Most importantly, I was thinking about how I approached my work and the messages at that time, and how little resources a band like Hüsker Dü had in 1983.

The songs on Blue Hearts are more influenced by the reflection of those times and how it seemed like it was deja vu all over again. 

The songwriting was pretty direct, pretty political, pretty economical. The record is pretty fast and furious, so it got me thinking about how limited resources in 1983 led me to write and record—making it brief. Not dragging it out, not hiring an orchestra from Prague. Just the three of us in a room banging this stuff out? 

So 1983 was the Ronald Reagan era and 2020 was the Trump era. What differentiates these times? 

Social media. 

Through the ‘80s, we saw the ascent of Reagan, the Hollywood celebrity but, unlike Trump, Reagan was the governor of California. He had knowledge of how the political system worked. But televangelism was huge then—the moral majority. It was the beginning of HIV/AIDS, the cutting of mental health services in cities. That specific … Tony Fauci at NIH. It’s frightening to me some of the callbacks, whether it’s COVID or evangelicals, and all the sway that they hold over the Republican party. These are all things that I’ve seen before. It didn’t go well last time, and we’ve lost a million people to COVID in America. 

At my advanced age, I did not think I would have to go through this yet one more time. 

Did these songs come out of you pretty quickly? 

Yeah. When I settled back in at the end of 2019, it did not take a lot of effort to look around and write what I know, write what I see. The song “American Crisis” had been kicking around for a couple years. That was the first track anybody heard off the album, but I actually wrote the music and the words for that in Berlin. Those lyrics took five minutes to write. There’s nothing sophisticated about it at all.


The remainder of the record; some of the music had been written in Berlin, but a lot of the words, and most of the music was written pretty quickly at the end of 2019. I went out and did about three weeks of solo touring at the beginning of 2020, tried out a bunch of the songs, and then we recorded the album in February of 2020, and had it wrapped up by the middle of March. That was when everything shut down.

“American Crisis” is the first song that you wrote for this album? 

Yeah, that’s the North Star of the record. I had that one already put together in Berlin, probably later in 2018, and I just sort of followed the motif. The rest of the stuff came pretty easily. 

“Next Generation” sounds like classic Bob Mold to me. Of course, I see what sets it apart from some of your other eras of songwriting.In terms of the strength of the song, though, I want to place it alongside something like Hüsker Dü’s “Sorry Somehow,” or maybe even “Hoover Dam” by Sugar. When you’re putting demos together, do you have a sense of when you’ve got a hit on your hands?

To me, that one falls closer to the mid-to-late ‘80s stuff I was writing. As a writer, I sort of look at it and go, “Oh, that would’ve been a Flip Your Wig song.”

When I’m working on stuff, I sort of know. I mean, I have x number of ways and x number of styles in which I write. I sort of know when a song is coming in that first 15 minutes if it’s going to either be a type A or a type X song. Then, it’s just a matter of wrapping it up and tucking in all the corners. I’ve got different styles of pop songs, punk songs, folk songs, songs with strings, songs that lean more on keyboards. 

It’s sort of like, you get a couple free throws, you’ve rehearsed your free throws. You know how many dribbles you have, and where you’re gonna toss the ball.

Does it feel like there’s an uptick in interest in your songwriting right now?

I think people are still interested in what I do, both the work that I’ve done and the work I’m doing now. There are a lot of people that won’t be there in the future when another album comes out. In terms of politically charged punk music right now, a lot of the things that are coming out of the UK—a band like Idles being the main one that most people know, or Fontaines DC and stuff like that.

I’ve been a bit surprised that art in America hasn’t been as reactive as I thought it would be. Perhaps I’m not seeing it. Maybe it’s further underground than where I hang out, but for music specifically, it feels like more stuff has come out of the UK lately that is addressing the socio-political divisions we’re going through. 

Maybe it’s because I’m in Georgia, but Mercyland recently released their long lost record, We Never Lost A Single Game. That’s been the subject of many conversations recently, and I’ve had more people talk with me about Sugar and Hüsker Dü this year than maybe ever before. Maybe that’s because people are talking about Mercyland’s record, which brings Sugar, Bob Mould, and Hüsker Dü into the conversation. Also, September was the 30th anniversary of Copper Blue

That’s right! Hopefully I get to spend some time with David [Barbe] while I’m in town.

I think Copper Blue is just such a very disciplined, but really exciting pop record. I’m always happy that people have good things to say about it, and that every now and then it takes on a new life.

It’s tight and concise in ways that were very different from Hüsker Dü. 

Oh … Hüsker Do was like a bunch of planes trying to take off the same way all at once. That was a completely different beast. Hüsker Dü was so loose and constantly rushing forward in the tempo. That was what people loved about that band. For me, discipline came my way when I started working with my recently deceased colleague Anton Fier, who played drums on both Workbook and Black Sheets of Rain. Working with Anton was where I learned how to study things. He was an amazing drummer. He was a real stickler for time and keeping things pretty strict. Sugar was the next iteration of the rhythm section, and we brought that discipline to the studio. Live, sugar was pretty wild. 

What really set Hüsker Dü apart from many of the other bands of the era, like Black Flag, T.S.O.L., X, etc. was the savage tone of the guitar. 

It was. And with Hüsker, with Sugar, and with Jon and Jason, it’s the power trio. The guitar tone has to cover a lot of ground and fill in a lot of spaces. That’s something that Pete Townsend had to do with the Who, and something Hendrix had to do. It’s a certain style of playing where you have to be a really good rhythm player, but also be able to sneak lead guitar in there as well, and as you said, it was a unique tone that was necessary given that it was the only guitar. The tone that I’ll be using on these solo shows is not very far away from that tone. So calling it the Distortion and Blue Hearts tour is a pretty literal description of what’s on tour right now.

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Weathered Statues: The story of T.S.O.L.

T.S.O.L. Photo courtesy Jack Grisham

Looking back over the 42+ years that have passed since he co-founded one of Los Angeles’ seminal and most formidable punk bands, T.S.O.L., vocalist Jack Grisham doesn’t miss a beat when insisting that he is not a good singer.

“I do it, but it’s very uncomfortable,” Grisham says in a matter-of-fact tone. “I sound like me, and I am what I am. But when I got into punk rock, I never actually thought about singing. You just kind of screamed it. Next thing I know, I’m still doing it, still making records. … I like a lot of soul and pop music, and I like melodic punk,” he adds. “When I’m listening to punk it’s Generation X or the Jam, things that a lot of people don’t even consider punk. … Those guys could sing!”

Despite his detached self-criticism, Grisham is an iconic vocalist of Southern California’s late ‘70s and early ‘80s punk, death rock, and hardcore scenes. T.S.O.L. forged its fiery and confrontational sound and image amid the epicenter of LA’s early ’80s punk scene, alongside Black Flag, Fear, Cheifs, and the Circle Jerks. Blasts of Marxist and anarchist political leanings punctuate the full-on contempt in Grisham’s unrestrained voice, and the blistering tones and melodies summoned by guitar player Ron Emory.

In the beginning, Grisham’s short-lived band Vicious Circle developed a reputation for stirring up an atmosphere primed for violent altercations with brutal, shotgun-style blasts of jagged punk songs bearing titles such as “I Want to Die,” “Love Of Hate,” and “Complete Kaos.”


But with the arrival of T.S.O.L.’s self-titled EP for Posh Boy in 1981, followed that same year by their debut album, Dance With Me (Frontier), lyrical poetry and haunted tones blended with a punk charge, giving rise to a proto-goth etherealism.

This year, a new documentary film, titled Ignore Heroes will chronicle the group’s early days, its triumphs, stumbles, and resurrection. Grisham, who directed the film, says it’s not your typical rock doc, and feels more like “a fucked up Ted Talk,” featuring stand-up, live interviews with people who were either with the band, who paid the band, or who tried to kill the band. … And some animation.

“No famous rock guys, no one saying we influenced them,” Grisham says.


In the meantime, T.S.O.L. (True Sounds of Liberty) is in the van, traveling across the country, powering through a career-spanning setlist touching on everything from 1982’s “Weathered Statues” 7-inch, to songs from their latest album, 2017’s The Trigger Complex.

“Before the pandemic cut our legs out from underneath us, we were playing 90 shows a year — a lot of shows,” Grisham says. “Now, we’re like those guys who play pro ball for 20 years, they make every game, and never have a problem till they slow down. Now, it’s like every injury, every fall we’ve ever taken is catching up,” he laughs.

Grisham, now 60 years old, says it was drummer and vocalist Grant Hart of Minneapolis’ avant-garde punk trio Hüsker Dü who inspired him to delve deeper into writing lyrics.

“I still have the rhyming book that Grant gave me,” Grisham says. “I’m not that much of an aware kind of guy, I just go around doing whatever, without paying attention to much of anything. Grant was the one who asked me, ‘Have you ever looked at this book?’ It’s just a little thesaurus-type of thing that’s filled with rhyming words — probably something that he got in high school.”

Couching Hart’s knack for crafting gut-wrenching melodies around simple, powerful punk charges reveals previously hidden layers of depth within T.S.O.L.’s litany of classic numbers.

T.S.O.L. circa 1981. Left to right: Ron Emory, Jack Grisham, Todd Barnes, and Mike Roche. Photo by Edward Colver

T.S.O.L. emerged at the dawn of the 1980s, in Huntington Beach. Grisham, along with guitarist Ron Emory, bass player Mike Roche, and drummer and former Vicious Circle cohort Todd Barnes bridged SoCal punk with the emerging hardcore scene by way of dark imagery, and a full-throttle guitar assault in songs such as “Superficial Love,” “Abolish Government,” “Sounds Of Laughter,” “Wash Away,” and “Code Blue.”

The latter number, which appears on 1981’s Dance with Me, is a necrophiliac love song blasting lyrics that feel tailor-made for scaring concerned parents in the Reagan era into sending their disaffected teens straight to the nearest psychiatrist — “And I don’t even care how she died. But I like it better if she smells of formaldehyde!”


“We always did whatever we wanted to do,” Grisham says. “There were times when I haven’t seen Ron or Mike in over a year, and I won’t see them until I walk onto the stage at the show and say ‘what do you want to play?’ … We’ll do that,” Grisham says. “T.S.O.L. was in Penelope Spheeris’ film Suburbia, and we played two songs — “Wash Away” and Darker My Love.” “‘Darker My Love’ wasn’t even recorded yet,” Grisham adds. “I said we wrote this one last week, let’s do it!”

While lyrics in other songs such as “President Reagan can shove it!” from “Superficial Love” place T.S.O.L’s mystique firmly in the 1980s, having songs such as “Sounds Of Laughter,” featured in the recent HBO documentary, Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off, helps bolster ongoing interest in the group with younger listeners.

“There’s always something like the Tony Hawk documentary happening for us, and there is a huge age gap with the people who come see us,” Grisham says. “We see little kids in the audience all the way up to somebody’s grandfather hanging out, and it’s because we’ve been playing for such a long time. If you were 30 years old when T.S.O.L. started in 1980, you’re 72 now,” he laughs. “If you were 40 years old back then, you are 82 now!”

On stage, it’s the physicality of performing their songs that propels each one forward. “Fuck You Tough Guy” from 2003’ Divided We Stand, is one song that Grisham says is among their most exhilarating numbers to perform.


“To move to those sounds … I play that song like I’m a fan and not a creator,” he says. “The bass starts moving, and I feel like I’m a kid listening to this band play, and I’m just dancing along to the music.”

Since 1999, original T.S.O.L.’s members Grisham, Emory, and Roche have remained in place, restoring order after a long stint beginning in 1983, during which Grisham left the band, and vocalist Joe Wood took lead the group. Eventually, the Wood-led T.S.O.L. saw a total turnover leaving none of the band’s original personnel in the group, as they adopted a prosaic blues-rock and hair metal plod. Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler famously sported a T.S.O.L. T-shirt in the 1988 video for “Sweet Child O Mine,” raising their profile with MTV viewers.

After leaving T.S.O.L., Grisham released a synth-driven six-song EP under the name Cathedral of Tears, and later fronted the sophomoric hard rock band Tender Fury. Later, he rebounded with the more pop punk-oriented sound of his band the Joykiller, and he explored blue-eyed soul and alt. rock with the short-lived group the Manic Low.

In his 2011 memoir, titled An American Demon, Grisham offers a brutal, true-life account of the depravity and extreme violence that surrounded the group’s defining years — much of it at his own hands. “When the book was finished, I really didn’t want to publish it, because it is so brutal,” Grisham says. “It is an absolutely true book, and I’m glad it’s out there.”


Keyboard player Greg Kuehn joined T.S.O.L. and added opulent piano flourishes to the songs on 1982’s Beneath the Shadows LP.

Drummer Todd Barnes died in 1999 after suffering a brain aneurysm related to excessive drug abuse.

All of the original members of T.S.O.L. have battled substance-abuse issues over the years, but post reformation, they have all cleaned up and remain sober.

T.S.O.L. circa 2022. Left to right: Mike Roche, Greg Kuehn, Jack Grisham, Antonio Val Hernandez, and Ron Emory. Photo courtesy Covert Booking.

The group’s current drummer Antonio Val Hernandez joined T.S.O.L. in 2017. As the story goes, he was a mail delivery carrier in bass player Mike Roche’s neighborhood. He was a fan of T.S.O.L., and one day looked in the window and saw a T.S.O.L. photograph. He realized that he was delivering mail to the same Mike Roche. Soon, they became friends, and after some convincing, he became T.S.O.L.’s new drummer.

With post-production work on Ignore Heroes wrapping up soon, and T.S.O.L. playing shows across the country, Grisham is also staying busy with a new book.

Maturity may be a bad word when mentioned in the same breath as punk rock, but for Grisham, if anything has changed over the years, he says he’s more aware of how his words and actions are perceived, and how they affect others.

“It’s kind of trippy, man, but I’m just more aware these days — I’m less willing to be hurtful to people, inflict damage.”

Still, T.S.O.L’s extremely catchy punk melodies still rage today with just as much urgency as the day they were penned.

T.S.O.L., Skin Jobs, and Twisty Cats play the Earl on Monday, June 13.

This story first appeared in the June 2022 issue of Record Plug Magazine

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Victory Hands ‘Braden’ 7-inch release party with MTN ISL, Skin Jobs, and Scratch Offs at Sabbath Brewing on Sunday, May 15

Victory Hands play the “Braden” 7-inch release party at Sabbath Brewing in EAV on Sunday, May 15. MTN ISL, Skin Jobs, and Scratch Offs also perform.

This show will mark Scratch Offs’ debut performance, so get there early.

… And if you don’t already know, Victory Hands releases are all named after journalists who were blacklisted by former President Richard M. Nixon leading up to his impeachment. Hence the titles of their previously released singles, “Bishop,” “Bernstein,” and “Anderson.”

Free. 2 p.m. (doors). 3 p.m. (show). 530 Flat Shoals Ave. SE.


Checkers Hot Dog Emporium will also be on deck. Check out Tricky Dick-themed menu suggestions below. … And yes, there will be veggie dogs for the veggie folks!


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John Doe explores ‘Fables In A Foreign Land’

John Doe. Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

The ambience, the tales, and the characters encountered throughout John Doe’s latest album, Fables in a Foreign Land, occupy a mysterious time and place in the imagination. They could have been plucked from the pages of John Steinbeck’s great dust bowl novel “The Grapes of Wrath.” Or they could describe the American landscape of the here and now — post the COVID-19 pandemic.

When discussing his latest solo album over the phone from his home in Austin, the co-founding singer and bass player for Los Angeles punk icons X clarifies that it’s the imagery of pre-industrialized America that lines up with his vision for this conceptual outing. According to Doe, the title for the record materialized after most of the songs had already been written, each one serving as different chapters from an unwitting hero’s journey across the country amid the late 1890s. The narrator, a 17-year-old kid, has left home because something there went horribly awry.

“There is nothing left of home to return to,” Doe says. “These songs are their adventures: what they do, what they hear, and what they see while making their way toward the West.”


All of the experiences and all of the places chronicled in songs such as “Never Coming Back,” “El Romance-0,” “The Cowboy and the Hot Air Balloon,” and “Travelin’ So Hard” are ventures into the great unknown. The narrator must keep moving forward to find food, shelter, and enough money to get to the next place.


“The reason this might resonate with what’s been going on over the last couple of years is because there’s a lot of isolation, loneliness, and hunger in these songs,” Doe says. “That was somewhat coincidental.”

The seeds for the album were planted in 2018. The song titled “Missouri” was the first to materialize, followed by the first single, “Never Coming Back.” It was then that Doe realized that he had a good song on his hands, one that could open up the rest of the stories that he wanted to tell.

And like all songwriters, there is a veiled autobiographical element hiding just beneath the surface of every note and every lyric.

“Like a lot of people, I am sick of modern devices, learning curves, and things like that,” Doe says. “I use them, I’m glad that technology is here and I can stay in touch with my friends and things like that. But I don’t think what we’ve gained through technology outweighs what we have lost. At one point, I realized that a lot of these songs could take place before there were cars, before electric lights, before all that stuff,” he adds. “I was disciplined enough to stay on that track, which became kind of an adventure in itself.”

Fables in a Foreign Land, out May 20, marks Doe’s first solo release with Fat Possum Records, following the label’s 2020 release of Alphabetland, his band X’s first album with its original lineup in place in 35 years.


For Fables in a Foreign Land, Doe is joined by bass player Kevin Smith, who’s on loan from Willie Nelson’s band, and drummer Conrad Choucroun. Together, they are affectionately dubbed the John Doe Folk Trio, crafting a sound that Doe quickly describes as his version of folk music. That’s not to say that he’s done an academic dive into creating traditional folk music by the numbers, but he does draw out a songwriting style that takes lessons equally from folk music, americana, punk rock, et al. — none of which are mutually exclusive.

THE JOHN DOE FOLK TRIO: Kevin Smith (from left), John Doe, and Conrad Choucroun. Photo by Todd V. Wolfson

Other guest writers contributing throughout the album include Shirley Manson of the band Garbage, Doe’s X bandmate Exene Cervenka, Louie Pérez of Los Lobos, and outlaw country singer-songwriter and painter Terry Allen.

One of the more poignant numbers from Fables in a Foreign Land taking place in the modern era is “Guilty Bystander.” Built around lyrics such as, “We came into town to watch the ponies race, we spoke not a word when a master whipped a slave, there was blood upon his back, he was trembling inside, we turned away from the terror and fright,” the song is a brutal account, written as a response to seeing George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police in 2020.

Doe explains, “I was thinking a lot about slavery, who’s a master and who’s a slave, and does it apply to people? Does it apply to relationships? Does it apply to the way people treat their fucking pets? That’s not to say these things are the same, but it’s about the idea of dominance, and it was sparked by George Floyd.”

“After the Fall” paints a picture of one of the album’s characters hiding in a pool of water, surrounded by reeds and cattails, and looking down to discover their own blood is dripping out into the water, and realizing that they’re in big trouble.

“Throughout the album, there are a lot of references to spirituality, leaving the earthly plane. I’m sure that’s because of my age,” says Doe, who turned 69 years old in February. “You have to confront mortality, think about what it means, and hopefully do it in a positive way.”

“Destroying Angels” is an honest-to-goodness murder ballad, the lyrics for which were mostly penned by Garbage vocalist Shirley Manson. X had done a tour playing shows with Blondie and Garbage. “At some point, Shirley said to Exene and I, ‘We should write a murder ballad.’ I thought, fuck yeah! You’re dark, why not? Then nothing happened.”

A few months later, they crossed paths again. Doe asked whatever happened to that murder ballad they’d talked about? Shirley replied, “I’ve got the lyrics,” and sent them over the next day. Originally, the song was written as more of a traditional folk-style murder ballad. Garbage layered it with chords, and imbued it with a big, heavy, gothic sound. “I wanted to reclaim it for this record, because the story was a good one, and it fit right into this, to this time, this era,” Doe says.

Over the past two-and-a-half years, the John Doe Folk Trio led the way in terms of playing numerous live-streaming shows. But now that the pandemic is receding, it’s time to take the show on the road, which is an essential next step as he prepares for the arrival of Fables in a Foreign Land. But getting back out there is easier said than done.

One of his first shows between COVID spikes was playing in the East Bay area near San Francisco, and the experience was somewhat overwhelming. “I was 30 seconds into the first song, and I had to stop playing, because I was so choked up,” Doe says. “This tsunami of gratitude and love coming towards me, and me feeling that back in the audience… It was somewhat embarrassing. But there’s a reason why people have done this for years and years,” he adds. “There’s a sense of community in music that you just can’t get anywhere else.”

Having time off and working with Smith and Choucroun to create the songs and the sound of Fables in a Foreign Land was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But the lack of scheduling and of traveling made the prospect of retiring seem all the more appealing.

“I could be very happy taking the money that I’ve got, buying a piece of land with a house on it outside of Austin, where I could fool around with my horses and just chillax. But I need to work,” he adds. “It’s a daunting task, and not having done it for so long, you get rusty. But now people can go out and see live music again, and nothing can replace that.”

This story originally appeared in the May issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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Create Your Own Culture! Emory’s art, punk, and DIY fest returns on Thursday, April 7

After two years in the void, Emory University’s DIY fest returns on Thursday, April 7. Check out live music from Loony and the debut of El Matador (feat. Katy Graves from Catfight, Randy Gue of Final Offering, and Chris Pollette).

Stations will be set up for silkscreening T-shirts, making buttons, woodblock prints, learning how to write graffiti with Mad Clout, and more + Randy’s famous tower of pizza will be in full effect. Come hungry and pre game for the Spits show at the Earl later that night.

Free. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Emory’s Visual Arts Building and Campus Life Pavillion. 700 Peavine Creek Drive. Parking is available in the Peavine Parking Deck at 22 Eagle Row.

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Kim Gordon’s ‘No Home Tour’ feat. Mary Lattimore comes to Variety Playhouse on Thurs., March 24

Kim Gordon photo by Natalia Mantini.

Kim Gordon‘s (Sonic Youth, Body/Head) “No Home Tour” feat. Mary Lattimore comes to Variety Playhouse on Thurs., March 24. $30-$59. 7 p.m. (doors). 8 p.m. (show).

Tickets go on sale for the general public on Fri., Jan. 28. Pre-sale begins Thurs., Jan. 27 at 10 a.m. Use code: KIMG22

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This is Gang of Four

Gang of Four. Photo by Jason Grow

Gang of Four drummer Hugo Burnham recalls reading a quote from his former bandmate, guitarist Andy Gill some years ago. Burnham had parted ways with the group in 1982, only to return for a brief stint between 2004 and 2006.

Fast forward to 2012 — Gill and Gang of Four vocalist Jon King announced that they would no longer work together, leaving Gill as the only remaining original member still performing with the iconic Leeds, U.K. post-punk outfit.

During an interview around that time, a writer asked Gill about moving forward with a new lineup. His reply, as Burnham recalls, was that Gang of Four is more than a band, it’s an attitude and it’s about ideas. “I don’t even need to be in the band for it to be Gang of Four,” Gill told the writer.

“I had never really thought about what that meant,” Burnham says.

Gill died suddenly in February of 2020. Since then, the gravity of his words has taken on new depth for Burnham, as he reconnects with the band’s legacy, and its incendiary attitude and ideas.

A recently released box set, titled 77-81 (Matador) makes clear its assertion that despite nearly 40 years spent releasing dozens of albums, Gang of Four turned out its most commanding works between 1977 and 1981. Those first five years encompass the group’s first three albums: Entertainment!, Solid Gold, and Songs of the Free. Throughout each of these albums, Burnham, King, Gill, and bass player Dave Allen — the latter of whom was replaced by Sara Lee for Songs of the Free — crafted terse anthems that sharpen their teeth and claws on everything from Marxist philosophy and the dangers of materialism to the trappings of love and maximum entropy.

Songs bearing titles such as “To Hell With Poverty,” “Not Great Men,” “Damaged Goods,” and “I Love A Man In A Uniform” are propelled by muscular rhythms, avant-garde grooves, and the jagged energy and freedom that their British punk rock forefathers in the Clash and the Sex Pistols had exposed.

Alongside British counterparts such as the band Wire, and American band Mission of Burma, Gang of Four’s first three albums have come to define the post-punk canon.

Following Gill’s death, Burnham and King have reconvened under Gang of Four’s banner to bring the group back to the stage. But who could fill Gill’s shoes playing guitar and bring the songs back to life?

They had their eye on a handful of potential candidates. Marissa Paternoster of New Brunswick, NJ trio Screaming Females was in the running, but the pandemic complicated the group’s early efforts. Then, in the midst of their search for Gang of Four’s next guitar player, Burnham’s friend Patrick Ferguson, a drummer with Athens, GA’s indie rock band 5/8, got in touch.

Ferguson hosts the Crash and Ride podcast, which had recently featured David Pajo as a guest. “Patrick said, ‘My god, I’ve just interviewed David Pajo!’ I hope that David forgives me for this, but I said, ‘Who’s that?’” Burnham laughs. “‘Cause you know, he’s a youngster!” 

Pajo’s resume boasts of playing and writing with dozens of seminal early ‘90s indie rock luminaries such as Slint, Papa M, The For Carnation, Tortoise, Stereolab, and dozens of other acts.

“So I started digging and listening, and thought, oh god, this guy is good,” Burnham says.

As a founding member of Slint, Pajo is aligned with the early beginnings of math rock in the ‘90s. Semantics aside, his musical DNA blends quite well with Gang of Four’s rigid, angular songwriting style. 

Ferguson introduced them to each other via email. After exchanging a few messages, Pajo recorded videos of himself playing guitar along to three of the group’s signature numbers, “Natural’s Not In It,” “To Hell With Poverty,” and “What We All Want.”

“It was chronically, cripplingly obvious that this was the only choice to make,” Burnham says. “We really didn’t want to have just another boring or predictable old white guy in the band,” he adds. “David is neither boring, nor predictable.”

Pajo instinctively adapted to Gill’s percussive style, and how the guitar parts intertwined with the group’s fast-paced rhythmic presence. “He was digging deep into the recordings, alternate versions, and different live things, trying to get [Andy]’s take on everything,” Burnham says. “I said, great! Learn the songs as [Andy] would play them, but make them your own. We are not a Gang of Four tribute band,” he stresses. “This is Gang of Four, here and now. David is in the band, and it’s as simple as that.”

Burnham, King, and Pajo were in place, but bass player Dave Allen opted out of rejoining the group for a round of North American tour dates.

Former bass player Sara Lee was the obvious choice to complete the lineup. After leaving Gang of Four circa ‘84, Lee had gone on to perform as a member of Robert Fripp’s band the League of Gentlemen, and has played with everyone from Robyn Hitchcock to the Thompson Twins, as well as with Georgia acts, the B-52’s and the Indigo Girls. Her 2000 solo debut, Make It Beautiful, was also released by Ani DiFrancos’ Righteous Babe label.

“When I called Sara, I didn’t quite know how to get to the point. Finally she says, ‘I’ve been sitting here on the phone, waiting for you to ask me if I’ll play!” Burnham laughs.

Gang of Four. Clockwise from top left, Jon King, Sara Lee, Hugo Burnham, and David Pajo.

With Lee in place, Gang of Four took on a new configuration, and started breathing new life into the music. On their current tour, the group is sticking mostly to the classic material from those first three albums, but they’ll pull out a few numbers from later albums as well, including “I Parade Myself” from ‘95’s Shrinkwrapped LP. “We’re not being assholic about any of this,” Burnham says, “We’re playing that song because it’s such a great song. But there is such a breadth of stuff that we can dive into from those first three albums, which is more like ‘77-’83.”

The million dollar question: Will Gang of Four record new material with its new lineup? Burnham pauses with a sheepish, tight-lipped smile before joking that for a million dollars he’d record with any lineup. “I hate to hyperbolise, but this has been a lot of fun,” he says. “There is no stress, no anger, no overwhelming control issues. David is a versatile and disciplined player who has done seriously great work leading up to joining us,” he adds. “It would be silly not to make the most of this lineup, even if it’s just for ourselves. We’re not kidding ourselves into thinking that the world is waiting for new stuff — but we’re waiting for it.”

Gang of Four and Pylon Reenactment Society play in Hell at the Masquerade on Friday, March 11. $29.50 (adv.). 7 p.m. (doors).

This story appears in the March print issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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