East Atlanta Village Strut 2022 Record Plug Stage at Sabbath Brewing Sat., Sept. 24

The East Atlanta Village Strut returns Saturday, September 24. Record Plug Magazine hosts a showcase of Atlanta and Athens-based noisy, punk, indie, and otherwise rock ‘n’ roll acts, including Loud Humans, Chrome Castle, The Soogs, Catfight!, The Pinx, Hunger Anthem, Small Reactions, and Rosser at Sabbath Brewing.

Free. Music from 12-7 p.m. 530 Flat Shoals Ave. SE.

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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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Q&A: Gentleman Jesse loses everything …

Gentleman Jesse. Photo by Riley McBride

When Gentleman Jesse Smith released his second album, Leaving Atlanta in 2012, the lauded local songwriter had gained a reputation as something of a power pop savant, crafting songs steeped in garage-punk minimalism and tales of heartbreak. Over the last decade, Smith has spent much of his time working as co-owner of seafood restaurants Watchman’s in Krog Market and Decatur’s Kimball House. Shiny Dimes Oyster Farm will open in Florida this year as well. Music, however, did not fall by the wayside. In December, Gentleman Jesse released Lose Everything, a 10-song return that finds him singing and playing every instrument — organ, keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, melodica, etc. — while eschewing the pop reductionism to embrace a layered and sophisticated approach to songwriting. On the heels of the album’s arrival, Smith took a few minutes to talk about how the songs have taken shape. 


Nearly 10 years have passed since you released Leaving Atlanta. Did you reach a point where Lose Everything felt like it was too much to make happen?

Yeah, after the first day of recording! I can play the drums but I’m not a drummer. I practiced a ton, and if I played a show you might think, “Jesse’s not bad …” But recording drums is a whole different beast than playing drums in front of people. The consistency of your snare hit will affect the way it’s recorded.

We recorded at Notch 8. Andrew Wiggins and Ryan Bell have a control room there, but because other bands had to practice and use the space, we had to record the drums in one day. So I recorded for 13 hours. By the end, I was just done. There are songs that just aren’t great performances because I was like, “I used to have the ability to play a song this way, but because I’ve been playing for 13 hours my hip hurts. I can’t do it anymore.”

You get through an entire day of that, and you’ve spent so much of your own personal income to do it, and then you hear the results, and you’re like, “Fuck it, we tried …”

Ryan talked me off the ledge by saying things like, “You gotta understand that we’ll layer things. We’ll mix the drums, the things that bother you will start to disappear.” I know every missed hit and and fucked up thing about the record. But you can sweeten the sound, and once you add bass, guitar, keyboards, and vocals it’s less distracting.

I often wonder if it’s a burden for musicians to bear — listening to music and focusing on the snare, the bass, etc., and not just hearing the mass. 

There are two different ways to listen to music: There’s the bird’s eye view, and there’s focusing on every little nuance. If you watch the Paul McCartney and Rick Rubin thing, one of the best things about it is a moment where they pull out one specific vocal track and play it by itself. One of their voices cracks, or gets a little gruff, and you’re like that’s the Beatles! So you realize that things can go away with a little mixing magic.

Stylistically speaking, the songs on Lose Everything are about as far removed from what’s on your previous two albums as you can get while maintaining a connection. 

That’s partially by design, but what you might not realize is that I’ve been sitting on the riff for the title track since Leaving Atlanta. Same with the intro riff from “Dead May Rest.” I’ve had that riff for a long time, but thought it was too indie-sounding for Gentleman Jesse.

Fun fact: You’re hanging out at a party during SXSW, talking with your musician buddies that you don’t get to see all that much. I was at a party with Jay Reatard and we talked about collaborating. He wanted to do one-off collaboration records and stuff like that. So I was saving that riff for Jay, but then I finished it. There are things that are stylistically different, but I’ve been incubating them for a long time. “God Is Blind” is one that I’d been working on for nine years. I finally finished it but a lot of the stuff would have been on the record if it had come out two years after. 

The second to last song on the album, “The Line,” is the only song that I wrote during the pandemic.

What is that song about? 

It’s about a lot of different things: It’s about a person’s connection with the place where they live. It’s about an idea of nature reclaiming man-made structures, and what the world would look like if we disappeared — how quickly our mark would go away.

Is the cover art a representation of that idea? 

That image is something that I drive by every day on my way to work. Specifically, I know the person whose house is where you would see it. I shucked oysters and worked an event at his house. I saw it out there and knew that it would be the cover. The original idea was going to be a burned out house. Lose Everything is a record about loss in all different forms, and I was going to take a photograph of myself standing in the rubble. Sort of like Leaving Atlanta style, but it’s just Gentleman Jesse loses everything. I think this is more tasteful. 

When I think of what you’ve accomplished since Leaving Atlanta — opening two restaurants — calling the album Lose Everything feels like the stakes are high.

That’s one way to look at it. The title track deals with the idea that no one is anything, everyone can be whatever they want. We’re learning that more and more. But the idea is that you can change anything — whether it’s your opinions, or anything about your nature. You can lose the identity that you’ve created. You can shed that into whatever you want at any given moment. I thought this was a good way to wrap that idea. 

That song kind of sums up everything, and  brings everything together after all these other ideas are explored — losing a loved one, or losing your direction. The album is bookended with “Become Nothing” and “Lose Everything.”

I’ve been searching for a lyric in “Lose Everything” that ties it all together.

That song deals with abstraction, and it’s not something you can put your finger on. “Dead May Rest” has a lyric that sums up the idea of not being sure of anything — nothing is concrete. And that’s the line about whether or not destiny exists: “Scholars have wondered throughout the centuries if mankind was bound to destiny, and if so, why freedom of the will while we dance in circles ever still.”

Ultimately, we know nothing and we’re a blip in time. So none of this really matters all too much. 

The long, slow fade out in “Become Nothing” projects a lot of what you’re talking about. 

Yeah, and there’s a moment where I pulled a This Heat trick, and as the song fades out, I fade into the demo version of the song. So the audio changes to something of lesser quality.

Post-modern! A reference to a reference to a reference!

See! I’m not as one-dimensional as I painted myself to be with my first couple of records.

Has finishing and releasing the record lit a fire under you to continue with the next record?

Yes! Part of the reason I forced myself to do it all by myself is because I wanted to get this one out of the way so that I can work on more. I feel like I have a new angle, and I’m comfortable putting out more music as Gentleman Jesse.

This interview also appears in the January issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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Tom Ashton of the March Violets on the goth and post-punk legacy behind SubVon Studio

Tom Ashton at SubVon Studio. Photo by Mike White

In December of 1981, guitarist Tom Ashton co-founded the gothic and post-punk outfit The March Violets while attending Jacob Kramer College of Art in Leeds, U.K. Throughout the ‘80s, the band landed several singles on the U.K. indie and club charts, including goth classics such as “Snake Dance,” “Walk Into the Sun,” “Crow Baby,” and “Turn to the Sky.” The latter number earned The March Violets a cameo appearance in the 1987 film “Some Kind of Wonderful,” written by John Hughes. Over the years Ashton has also done stints playing guitar with equally lauded acts Clan of Xymox and The Danse Society, and most recently filled in on bass with Athens’ rising goth luminaries Vision Video. Ashton has called Athens home since 2001. Recently, a new generation of post-punk, gothic, and otherwise darkwave bands have all released music bearing the mark of Ashton’s SubVon Studio, where he’s also found a niche composing scores for various independent films.

What brought you to Athens from the U.K.?

I met my wonderful wife of 29 years, Rachel, an Athens local, whilst touring the US, playing guitar with the Dutch gothic rock band Clan of Xymox — or Xymox as they were known at the time. We met when the band was prepping for our tour at The 40 Watt, supporting the album called Phoenix on Mercury Records. I originally came from Scotland, where I grew up in a small town called Alva in an area called the Hillfoots. From there I moved to Leeds to play music. Years later, I moved to London for nine years before making the move to Athens in 2001.

When did you start recording at SubVon Studio?

SubVon kinda started around 2012-2014. I was recording March Violets stuff and working on a bunch of film scores for people up in Michigan and in Los Angeles. I built a room in our basement purely as a production suite, but when we later finished building out the rest of the area I realized there was room to fit in a whole band with a full kit. After a month or so I started mentioning the space to anyone who might be interested in coming in and joining the experiment. It was christened on January 1, 2018. The name just kind of popped out from nowhere, although the word Von is a nickname for Andrew Eldritch from The Sisters of Mercy, so maybe it’s a play on that for some reason.

The March Violets in 1983: Simon Denbigh (from left), Cleo Murray, Tom Ashton, Loz Elliott

Andrew Eldritch’s Merciful Release label released The March Violets’ “Grooving in Green” and “Religious as Hell” 7-inches. Did you ever join The Sisters of Mercy?

At one point in ’81, Andrew did try to filch me from the Violets, and I did play one show with them playing guitar. It was a great time, and later he said, “If you want it, it’s yours.” I would have loved to do both but I felt I couldn’t do it under the circumstances. I had moved from Scotland to play music with my best mates, and I didn’t want to screw them over. At the time, we were all good mates — I was mates with Craig Adams and Gary Marx from the Sisters. We used to all hang out at Andrew’s house. He was the only person that any of us knew who had a VCR, so we’d all get high and watch “Alien” over and over again.

There is an identifiable scene emerging around your studio work. Bands like Tears for the Dying, Hip To Death, Entertainment, and Vision Video come to mind. What’s the underlying thread that connects them all?

This scene kind of reminds me of the special time back in Leeds and West Yorkshire in ‘81-’82. Bands like Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Sisters of Mercy, Danse Society, Southern Death Cult, Skeletal Family, and The March Violets all combined and developed our own take on punk, post-punk, and goth. Most importantly, we had our own way of doing it. I am lucky to be in the right place at the right time not only once but twice. And I would certainly add We Hunt Kings — Henry from Entertainment’s project — to that list. Pale Pose’s Doorways; The Exiter is another notable album which I mixed and mastered, definitely some dark and beautiful poetry there. And although not strictly gothic in nature, T.T. Mahony sometimes enters some very dark territory with his French People album which I mixed last year.

I think sometimes it all comes down to a quirk of timing and geographical location. The law of averages dictates that at one place and time a similarly minded group of people will cascade together and feed each other their energy and ideas. Once it’s realized it becomes acted upon and is further enhanced. Leeds circa 1982 felt like this, and to me, now Athens and Atlanta have a similar sense of purpose and amount of talent to throw it out to the rest of the world successfully.

Aesthetically speaking, I’d say there is a wide range of styles and influences in the mixing cauldron of these bands, and I see it as my job to capture and collate, collaborating in a way that enhances each individual voice.

Do you have creative input when it comes to the musical choices that these bands are making?

Yes, but it can vary quite a bit according to each individual track. Sometimes a reimagined backing vocal, or subtle orchestrations in the background. I’m very much an ears-and-mind-are-open kind of producer, and I’ll never get in the way of someone else’s vision. I’m just there to help it flow and wrap it in the sheen I always like to hear.

VISION VIDEO: Dusty Gannon (left) with Jason Fusco (drums) and Tom Ashton filling in playing guitar during Historic Athens Porchfest on October 10, 2021. Photo by Mike White

How did you start working with Vision Video?

Ashton: In pre-COVID days, Dusty Gannon ran — and will again no doubt — a fantastic night called Make America Goth Again. I was there one night when Dusty was DJing. We’d never met before. He played “Snake Dance,” and a mutual friend pulled us together and said, “This is the guy who plays guitar on this song!” We hit it off, and he sent me some music he was working on in 2018, I think. I loved it! Even back then it sounded like Vision Video. The track was called “Organized Murder.” Basically we just hit it off with too many similar interests to count and hung out a lot and got drunk!

Are you currently working on any projects with any of these groups?

Dusty from Vision Video is already sending me some wonderful sketches for the next album, and we are discussing ideas and approaches on how the progression will go. I’m still in the middle of mixing We Hunt Kings. Tears for the Dying has a new lineup and are sending me the demos for their next album which sounds fab too.

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on various masters for a March Violets CD box set for release in the near future through the U.K. label Jungle Records. There will be never-before-heard material included, and some classic Violets tracks that never had a proper release. Vision Video will be in to record the next record in January or February, and Tears for the Dying start recording their next release with me in mid-December. Until recently I was working on a score for a film called Dwarfhammer by a Michigan-based director named Daniel E. Falicki. I also recently began mixing and remixing tracks for Tennessee-based band Palm Ghost. I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into the future!

Read the print version of this story in the December issue of Record Plug Magazine.

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Record Plug: Warm Red

When you’re out and about this weekend, hitting up records stores, coffee shops, or just grabbing a beer somewhere, be sure to pick up a copy of the September issue of Record Plug Magazine.

For this issue, I had the chance to catch up with Warm Red before their show at the Earl a little earlier this month, and to talk about their debut album, Decades of Breakfast (State Laughter). Press play below.

Also, this issues features cool write ups on AthFest (Sept. 24-26), Skin Jobs, Entertainment, the upcoming Southern Surf Stompfest (Oct. 2), and a whole lot more.

The website is here, but print is where all of the stories live, and copies are strategically placed all around metro Atlanta and Athens. … I grabbed my copy at Drip Coffee in Hapeville, but I saw it at Wax-n-Facts and Wuxtry as well.

Keeping scrolling downward to read my Warm Red feature story, and check out those killer live shots courtesy of Mike White at Dead Designs photography.


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