Sunday, October 27, 2013

Punk Rock Redemption: Regi Mentle Rides Again, The Marks in Time interview

Regi Mentle was an active participant in the LA/SF punk scene from 1976-1981. Recently released from the California penal system after serving a 32 year sentence for 2nd degree murder, he's an artist, activist, agitator, poet and songwriter. The following interview was conducted by his longtime friend and collaborator Eden Felt on October 20, 2013 in San Francisco. 

Eden Felt: Regi Mentle! As this is your very first interview since gaining freedom I want to start off with an unofficial public welcoming of sorts – everyone obviously missed you tons and are thrilled to have you back. Can you possibly describe for us your feelings on the day you were released?

Regi Mentle: Well I thought it would never happen but it DID one word, unbelievable. All the way, while I was walking out the front gates (of the prison) when I was leaving the facility I was thinking “This isn't really happening”..but when I walked outside the front gate I remember kicking the dust off my boots, you know what I leave that shit behind..and I'm like 'God, am I really getting out after all this fuckin' time??' I finally have my life back!

EF: Absolutely..Let's start off by talking about your introduction to punk rock a bit. Obviously 1976 was a long time ago and the world has changed immeasurably since then. At the time you were a teen living in San Bruno, right? 

RM: Correct. I grew up in San Bruno and was lucky enough to be close enough to San Francisco when I was growing up to be able to get into the city. 

EF: Was there BART back then or how'd you manage that?

RM: By bus and BART. There was BART but a more limited version, it didn't go to San Bruno..the last stop was Daly City. So we'd take BART to Daly City and then hop the bus to San Bruno to return. But about to my introduction to punk, it happened on the streets of San Francisco. The first punk rocker I ever met was Johnny Genocide, and I can never forget 'til this day because I thought, if I looked like him, nobody would fuck with me, you know what I mean?? Cause being pretty young I still had the impression there were parts of the city you should be afraid of and all that...

EF: So Mr. Genocide was looking stylish...

RM: REALLY stylish..the way he was dressed. He had on a pair kung fu shoes held together with fuckin' duct tape wrapped around them..wearing spikes and shit..

EF: Decked out..   
RM: He was decked the fuck out...and basically we just bumped into each other and I started talking to him and we hit it off...and since day one, he was an incredible guy.

EF: I remember when we first started corresponding back in the late 80's, you mentioned his name and it registered cause I'd read about No Alternative years before in Flipside but perhaps cause I grew up on the east coast I'd never got the chance to really hear them.

RM: Well what do you think now?

EF: Well you know, soon after we started communicating, they became one of my top 10 bands, and still are I give you credit for that one!

RM: Yup!

EF: So I guess you knew him during the KGB-era of No Alternative...before they changed their name right?

RM: Yeah, as I recall I met him before he got the band together..I remember one night specifically when I was going to the Mab [Mabhuay Gardens on Broadway, SF], I was just getting there and he was leaving and we crossed paths at the tunnel and he had a KGB badge on and I said “What's that?” and that's when he first told me about his band...

EF: Cool. Do you you remember the very first punk show you went to?? 

RM: The first show I went to in '77 was when the Germs played at the Whisky, what later became known as the “Germicide” show, their first gig ever...and I didn't have any money to get in! So I hung out front of the club and listened to the show and that's where I first met Hellen Killer who gave me my “Germs burn” that night..

EF: Your initiation into the cult...

RM: Yeah! And there were these Valley kids who came in – who I guess heard about punk rock somehow – there was this one who dressed in a trash bag leaning against a pole facing the traffic and there were these kids who had like, aluminum foil on their glasses which struck me as kinda dorky at the time..but the first gig I got to go inside and actually visually witness was the Screamers.

(Regi Mentle at Germs show, photo by Jenny Lens)

EF: It's interesting how that first Germs gig became legendary, especially when ROIR released it on cassette a few years later..I remember it actually gave me a lot of encouragement early on learning guitar just hearing where they started from, from scratch basically.

RM: I know, I like that album a lot, the part when Darby's going “Whhaaaaat??” - I wanna use that as my ring tone! [laughter] “Whhhhaaat??”

(photo by Jenny Lens)

EF: So previous to meeting Mr. Genocide you hadn't heard punk music yet, right?

RM: Not much, I'd only heard the Ramones. “Beat on the Brat” on the radio like once before I met him, but it made a lasting impression...besides Genocide, one of the other first punks I met in SF was Dee Detroit..

EF:..of UXA

RM: Right, UXA was a San Francisco band in the beginning..she, me and Timmy use to hang out in SF before they moved to Hollywood..and they use to practice at me and what's-her-name's place when I was living in Hollywood..I use to constantly go back and forth from SF to LA...another early friend in SF – my best friend at the time - was Susie Creamcheese

EF: I remember you telling me about her..great name!

RM: Ya, and I wonder if anyone out there knows what happened to her. She and I use to steal plum nail polish from the Walgreens on Polk Street and paint our fingernails black...I remember she was going steady with Johnny from the Silvertones at the time...

EF: Let's get back to the issue of punk as not just a music genre but as a movement. Looking back, what effect did it have on your life?

RM: When I first got into it and then going to Hollywood and getting even deeper into it, I came back that summer with the Germs single and the Randoms and X and all these singles, I was like, “This is what's gonna fuckin' change the world” and I'd play the singles for everyone basically thinking, “Fuckin' finally, something's really gonna break through in this world right?” And then over time...I guess a lot of us got too involved in drugs and stuff. It came to a point where I got sick of everybody just talking shit about the change they wanna do but not doing anything about it..they're just fuckin' doing drugs. So by the time Darby died, I was already getting disillusioned pretty much anyway but at the same time, it's been so much a part of me that I can't let it go, you know what I mean?

EF: Definitely

RM: Years later after being in prison a while I'd meet these young guys in there that were quote/unquote punk rockers, and they'd make me sick, they were completely clueless to what it originally was about from the beginning – no matter how much I tried to explain it to them...I remember living in Hollywood when finally the media started really noticing the scene and began putting out these really sensationalized stories about slam dancing and shit...around '79 I think, and all these fuckin' jockos from the Valley and the beaches came into and started ruining the scene. It was mock violence amongst us at best, but it was reported [by the media] as legitimate violence which I think fueled a lot of the later problems...the unity had dissolved which had been so important to me because I really believed in it as a movement..

EF: You recognized it's revolutionary potential..

RM: Definitely. While growing up, I was probably about 11 or 12, this being the 1970s, an early heroine of mine was Angela Davis I remember and for a brief stint I even volunteered for Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers of America union, joining their picket lines against people buying grapes at Safeway and that was just the way I grew all stuff that fuckin' scared society because it was about being truthful, that's what I lived for.

EF: Fast forward to 2013. Tell us what your impressions of the Punk Rock Homecoming weekend in SF last month, your essentially just getting released from prison after 32 years and walking into an event like that with so many awesome old school California punk bands and friends...

RM: It was the best weekend, it was fucking incredible...every weekend should be like that one..actually I think I'd be ok with it every day [laughter]..seeing all my old friends and shit, it was like being in punk rock heaven...that's my family..

EF: So that sense of community wasn't lost...

RM: Not at all. One intense part of the show for me - after being in prison so long – was when this one guy, the singer of the Job [Marc Olmsted], well his music actually made me cry. He was sitting down with his keyboard and did this type of spiritual love song and I felt this heavy connection of kinda releasing all the inner-fuckin' things that I had to bury in my heart for years to survive being in prison...being in there, there's so much that you can't fuckin' share with gotta put up a wall and you feel alone and it constantly stresses you out, you have to be “on point” all the time for violence and up until the day I left I was on point, so you're fuckin' stressed inside holding it all it all it all in...and finally when I got out, I did feel better, but at Homecoming weekend [those feelings] just went BOOM..they exploded.

EF: What about some other bands that weekend, what were some other faves?

RM: Fuck, I saw this new band, well they were new to me, Thrill of the Pull..

EF: Yeah I think they formed in '85 or '86..maybe the “newest” band that performed that weekend! I read they were influenced a lot by the Chameleons, which makes sense..

RM: And that's another band I don't know...

EF: Post-punk Brit band that formed around '81 I think, one of the finest.

RM: It was also fucking awesome to see Nervous Gender again

EF: Yes!

RM: ..and I really liked Silke Berlinn and umm, Frightwig, they were fucking incredible...

EF: For me it was interesting cause I hadn't seen Frightwig play live since 1990 – I think I last saw them at the Stone when they were a three-piece and L7 opened. So it was a big surprise for me cause watching their show I thought, “Sheesh, this band actually got BETTER.” Unexpected.

RM: What about when Johnny [Genocide] fronting for the Offs?? That was fuckin' GREAT!

EF: That was too good..sensational saxophone work especially...

RM:..and seeing Jack Grisham was a lot of fun, I took a good picture of him..also [earlier that weekend at the Kitty Litter Benefit] I got the whole Blowdryers fuckin' show filmed on my I was so happy to see The Blowdryers perform the song that Jennifer and I co-wrote too but I was bummed out that I had to leave early and couldn't watch No Alternative..really sucked, but I'm sure they'll be doing more shows..

(From l to r) John E. Valium and Regi Mentle, New Years Eve '77/'78

EF: Ok Regi, as this is for Marks in Time, we've got ask some punk-related Go Go's questions...

RM: Yay Marks in Time..

EF: You remember seeing the Go Go's in their earliest incarnation. Where was their first show you recall seeing – was it in LA or SF?

RM: First time I remember seeing them was at the Masque cause I was crashing there with Donny Rose - who later played bass in Death Patrol - me, Donny and Rover were actually living there at the time..this was the early, early days. We'd go out during the day and chase down the Hari Krishnas on Hollywood Blvd [laughs] was fuckin' fun.

EF: And how about the Scientologists, I remember their big Dianetics headquarters was right on Hollywood Blvd too..

RM: Ya, I remember sitting down for a recruitment interview with them once which of course just went smashing..

EF: ..mid-way through the interview they're probably freaked that you were one of those types who'd wanna take over and start your own cult

RM: That's right..

EF: So you were living at the Masque...sleeping in their luxurious basement accommodation, and of course a lot of different bands practiced there at the time.

RM: Right, they had all these individual practice rooms there so I got to know all these fuckin' bands, a lot of them nobody's ever heard of almost like the Snotpuppies who I became best friends with their drummer...that was what was so cool about it because all your friends were in a band and there wasn't any rock star shit at all..everyone I knew was a band..why didn't I get into a band?!! [laughs]

EF: Well that's a interesting question, maybe we'll come to that one that's where you became aware of the Go Go's because they had a practice space there with X.....and you became good friends with Exene and John Doe of course what were your first impressions of them?

RM: They were the coolest people in general, we hung out a lot. I remember me and Johnny Valium going over to Exene and John's place and smoking angel dust – for no particular reason that non-event sticks out in my mind including me starring at Exene's tattoo on her wrist with the letters inscribed “Temptation.”

EF: Ok, and your impressions of the early Go Go's, what'd you think of them, did you see them live first or was it just through their rehearsals at the Masque?

RM: Actually, the main problem I always had with that band, was that they're too dirty for me and they're sluts...[laughter] Seriously, I met them before I ever saw them play, and the one I became friends with was Margo..but they were all cool people.

EF: What are your recollections of Margo?

RM: Margo was awesome man, I still love her...the her that I remember at least! I mean I haven't seen her since 1980 but I doubt she's changed THAT much. If you're that incredible as a person then you probably still are now...I remember me, her and Johnny Valium use to hang out a lot.

EF: Have you had a chance to check out her later band Brian Brain yet?

RM: Well when I was in prison I use to go through Goldmine magazine and I actually sent away for the Brian Brain album but it's in storage right now and I STILL haven't gotten to listen to it yet.

EF: Martin Atkins (ex drummer of PIL) was actually in the band too along with Geoff Smyth and they did a national tour I recall and had a few different releases.

RM: What she doing now, anybody know?

EF: I think Elissa's still in touch with her, you could ask her...So returning to the Go Go's, what were your impressions of them sonically?

RM: They were fukin' punk rock, they were raw..and the thing was, back then I loved bands who had their own original sound, their own style. What turned me off to punk rock in prison to a degree was how many bands tried to sound like Bad Religion or whatever.

EF: Fat Wreckords bands, Epitaph bands..

RM: Right, and that's not what it's about but the Go Go's had their own sound and they fuckin' knew how to write first some people said they couldn't play well, well so what, the Germs couldn't either.

EF: Totally...what early songs of theirs do remember that you most liked..

RM: I liked Fashion Seekers a lot, Blades, B-Movie..

EF: Screaming was another fave of yours right...

RM: Yup, and that song they were doing in that Bugle Boy commercial, that's my all-time favorite [laughter]..just joking!

EF: You had me for a second there!

RM: I loved their early version of Walking in the Sand..which incidentally was always one of my favorite songs when I was a little kid

EF: Not many people know this but the band recorded that track in the studio actually, I think it was either in late '78 or early '79.

RM: Wow

EF: Elissa Bello [original Go Go's drummer] mentioned it to me that the band recorded it in the same studio, using the same sound equipment the Doors had used..which I'm guessing was about one decade prior. And it was that recording that initially exposed me to the band. When I was 12 or 13 and I use to record these late night underground radio shows on WMNF in Tampa – and someway – I don't know how – the DJ had a copy of that studio version of Walking in the Sand and he played it. The only bummer is that years later I had a briefcase stolen which contained a lot of my punk cassette compilations including that track. Recently, I was checking around to see if anyone else had that song but came up empty. Elissa even messaged the Go Go's original manager Kittra for me who'd stated that the master copy of those sessions had been destroyed – with no explanation given. Anyway, maybe there's a copy floating around somewhere...

RM: Someone's gotta have it..

EF: Let's hope! So anyway, back to their early music, it was always feel and imagination over wild technique..

RM: Right, and that's what punk's about. Another song I liked a lot by them in the early days was Skidmarks on My Heart...

EF: Margo's bass-lines on the original version were great. Another early track by the band which to me sounded so much better in original form was “This Town” - in the early version, Belinda's vocal inflections convey irony and breed tension, which build until her final closing snarl at song's end..

RM: That's cool as shit..

EF: You gotta hear's too good. And again, Margo's walking bass-lines really added a whole other dimension to the original just sounds fuller, more complete.

RM: And that was one if their songs that I liked the most too because it really reflected the Hollywood wasn't all glittery at all, there was a dark side to it..walking not just down the boulevards but through the back alleys

EF: Lurking in the shadows...

RM: There's a few Go Go's songs I actually wouldn't mind covering..Did you ever see any photos of Belinda in her day-glo phase?

EF: Yeah a bit..and what do you attribute that influence to?

RM: I always thought it came from X-Ray Spex actually..Ohh, I gotta tell ya about this dream I had the other night! It was about X-Ray Spex and it was fuckin' incredible. For whatever reason Poly Styrine was actually rising above the stage - she was sitting on an armature in the air, radiating in day-glo fuckin' crazy!...Anyway, back to Belinda, Darby use to call her the day-glo blimp, that was his nickname for her. My friend Tony Alva [early skateboard punk] went through a day-glo phase too I remember...[10 minute interview break taken]

EF: Ok, we're back..

RM: Alright, again about the Go Go's, there was a point where they moved to an apartment house on..

EF: The Canterbury?

RM: Nope after the Canterbury, they moved to a place on Sunset Blvd..and me and Johnny Valium lived around the corner..just can't recall the name of the complex [Disgraceland?]

EF: The whole band lived there?

RM: I think most of them..and at that point I started getting the feeling that they were giving punks the cold shoulder. In fact the last time I went to see them play, it was at the California Hall on Polk St..

EF: In SF..we actually featured the flyer for that show in our zine..I think the Alley Cats and The Plugz played that night too

RM: That's right!..So I went backstage to say hi before the girls went on stage as we were all from the same original scene. I recall the narrow backstage room was about 5 x 30 and they were all just standing there with their instruments. And I went up to them and......they were basically fuckin' ignoring me!

EF: Did they seem more serious to you or what exactly was it?

RM: Yeah, it seemed by that time they'd decided that they wanted to become huge...but I didn't
understand what was going on. I mean I was recognizable to them as we were from the same scene, they just fuckin' ignored me! And I thought to myself, “Who the fuck do you think you are, wtf's going on with you man, what have I done to you?” And from that point on I started not even paying attention to them..and they did do some incredible music even after that point but their gradual separation from the core unit of the punks I just didn't understand at all at the time.

EF: Yup. By that point Elissa was out of the band...and maybe a year later, Margo was too.

RM: I don't even remember Margo being back stage at that moment..

EF: Maybe she stepped out for a moment but she was still in the band. I recall Elissa discussing in an interview how the Go Go's had gotten really serious..Clearly there were lofty aspirations and ambitions to go way beyond the local LA-SF punk scene...

RM: To be rock stars

EF: And you felt it at that moment..

RM: Exactly...Joan Jett was never like that. She was always part of the scene..

EF: Ok, tell us about Joan Jett..

RM: We used to shoot heroin at her place that was right by the Whisky, and somewhere, I forget who the photographer was, but afterward we were at a Germs gig sipping cold beer, and Joan had passed out as usual [laughing] and me and Johnny Valium drew a big cardboard sign with an arrow that read “I'm having a very good time” and held it over her head, as the guy snapped the picture...and I've been looking for that shot ever since!

EF: I want that photo!

RM: There's another snapshot of me pulling Dee Detroit's dress up while she was wearing a blindfold onstage...someone's gotta have it

EF: Well if anyone still owns that snapshot, do get in touch! Btw, back to Joan Jett, she's just put a new album out..

RM: I wanna hear it..I still haven't heard the album she did with the Gits either..

EF: Evil Stig, that one's a classic..

RM: Do you have that

EF: Why certainly, remind me to get it to you...

Some people may not be aware that you're actually a great songwriter and brilliant lyricist fact recently a 7” EP was released of material you co-wrote, right?

RM: Well I wrote the lyrics before I got out of prison and the band wrote the music and I have to say they did an incredible job..

EF: And the name of the EP and band is?

RM: “Regi Mentle Rides Again” by The Rogue Nation

EF: Appropriate title!

RM: Definitely [laughs]. .

EF: Where's the band based?

RM: They're way out in Charlotte, North Carolina actually

EF: And you connected with them how?

RM: Just pen paling..when I was in prison I did a lot of they recorded six of my songs and you can order it by contacting I said they did a really good job dude, I listen to it all of the time cause I got it on CD now..

EF: Well you've been writing lyrics and poetry for ages and you're a pro by now. Good to see some stuff get on record..

RM: Well yeah I have..YOU know that 'cause I've written a bunch of songs with you..

EF: Yes sir. Ok, so let's merge into that for a moment..there's a rumor that you'd written an unreleased song in the late 80's entitled “Belinda's Bra”..How bout some background about that one..

RM: Well it's a song about stealing Belinda [Carlisle's] black leather bra from the Frederick's of Hollywood Museum. But the quirky thing about it was that during the LA riots a few years after we wrote the song, someone actually DID steal it as it turned out...

Artwork/lyrics by Regi Mentle/Eden Felt. Image above's taken from Eden Felt's poetry booklet The Eyeing of my Scars (1995)

EF: A small detail you never mentioned to me 'til last month..

RM: Some lame ass always has to steal my ideas!

EF: Yeah really, at least wait til the song gets released right??

RM: Right!

EF: So explain the catalyst of that song, where'd the idea come from?

RM: The catalyst for every song I write is that a couple of lines will come into my head and I'll quickly write them down..

EF: But how'd you know about that bra being in that museum?

RM: I don't remember!

EF: I remember! You'd originally seen it on tv, on Entertainment Tonight I think it was..all this useless trivia from many years cluttered inside my head..

RM: That's right..and the idea of her donating her leather bra just melded the song for me..I mean I don't care if she has a bra in a museum, so what, who gives a fuck, but the idea is, I gotta write a song about it...Belinda had a leather bra from back in the day and they put it in a museum so now I steal and ''It fits me perfect, hahaha”

EF: I remember you saying if we ever got a band together you wanted to snatch it and wear it onstage...

RM: Right!

EF: But hey, you gotta give me credit, I pitched in lines for it too now [laughs]

RM: It was you and me both, of course!

Regi with his cellie Buffalo (1993)

EF: Btw, I think I neglected to mention this to you before, but in 1990 when I was living in LA and I remember showing those lyrics and the artwork you did for it to the guy from the Extremes, Maical Sinatra Lord [Extremes were kind of a pre-Youth Brigade type band], who was also one of Jane Wiedlin's songwriting partners. Anyway, I think he'd responded to a music ad I did in Flipside or something. So I showed him the words and he was immediately like “Hey the Go Go's would love this!” Which I wasn't completely certain about at the time as it's a bit irreverent..though in a fun sort of way.

RM: Yeah, it wasn't meant to piss anyone off at all....

One thing I wanna say before we move on is that, the years that I spent pen paling with you and writing songs really got me through some hard times..

EF: I know it helped me a lot..

RM: ..cause like, when I went to prison, and all these bands of my friends were really happening, I was like, “Ok, where the fuck's my Regi Mentle benefit?” ya know..some of them didn't even try to stay in touch..and that was the one thing that meant more than anything to me, was the scene, was my punk rock family...
….and I can tell you that once I got to prison they did NOT get my sense of humor at all..

EF: mean it wasn't always appreciated? [laughs]

RM: NO!!

EF: Ha, well that's too bad for them...

("Justice is" postcard art by Regi Mentle)

EF: Let's discuss the Germs a bit...regarding the band and their legacy, the 2007 film “What We Do is Secret” that was directed by Rodger Grossman had a slew of inaccuracies I recall you mentioning at the time. I never bothered watching it but maybe you can detail a few examples of the misrepresentation of details or events.. 

RM: There was definitely a fair amount that got portrayed inaccurately. My main issue was that the actor who portrayed Darby didn't capture the fire or intensity of who Darby actually was...his aura and dynamism was lacking. There were a lot a things actually, some lines that I actually said that were given to other characters, how they dressed us (especially me and Darby), just different things like that. One example of fictionalization was a scene where I burglarized a drug dealers house and stole $10,000, a pound of MDA, an ounce of crystal meth and an unmarked vial of liquid that I snatched. That part is all accurate. But in the film they have me show up at some party with three unmarked vials (though there was only one) where Darby and the others were, yet in reality there was no party scene..I simply brought it to Darby's place. Me, Johnny Valium, Donnie Rose and Darby went to his bedroom where I showed them my pirated spoils. We kept saying “Who's gonna do the mystery drug??” Finally Darby stood up and said “I'll do it.” I remember when he shot it up he immediately fell back on his bed and yelled “It's angel dust, it's angel dust!” Only later did we find out it was actually ketamine, a little-known surgical anesthetic used in hospitals! 

EF: So it's good to be a little skeptical about some of these depictions.. 

RM: Oh yeah!

EF: You mentioned way back, many years ago in our correspondence of an incident that seemed to stick out in my mind and I just wanted you to elaborate on it for a moment. In 1980, you were on the run from the authorities, in hiding, and you'd intentionally changed your appearance which oddly enough actually affected your ability to attend Darby's funeral...I mean here was someone you were close with who you couldn't even say goodbye to...

RM: Yep, precisely. Malissa wouldn't let me go because she said “Punks don't have beards!” I mean how petty is that? I'd changed my appearance because there was an APB out for Regi Mentle, for my arrest, that's why I'd changed my name in the scene to James Bondage too...but back to Malissa, I lived in Darby's fuckin' bedroom at his mom's house – I was closer to him than she could ever hope to be, but evidently I wasn't looking fashionably punk rock enough for her grand production of Darby's funeral....

EF: Unbelievable. Someone important to you tragically dies and she's worried abt keeping up an image

RM: Exactly

EF: But hasn't that superficial element always existed within the scene...that sense of high school cliquishness, the hierarchies, the elitist attitudes, the need to keep up appearances?

RM: Oh yeah, well in '77, '78, '79, those attitudes were definitely prevalent. I remember younger kids coming to clubs like the Mabuhay, trying to get into the scene and I remember friends of mine mouthing off to them “Hey get out of here, you're not part of the scene” And I'd tell them “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, how do expect the scene to continue without fresh blood??” You know what I mean? I was always for the kids to come fuckin' join us..I don't care how fact I remember seeing a fuckin' punk rock girl bring her 3yr old kid to shows and I thought it was incredible..the kid was running around kicking people in the shins, BAM! [laughter]

EF: Early training right?..that's awesome...Yeah I noticed that you were never snotty about the latter generation bands either..if it was quality music you still liked it regardless of what era it took place in..there wasn't any of this “Hey you weren't around in '77 like me!!”

RM: Age-defying pissing contests, that's all they are..On a related note, that's what I didn't understand about the skinheads infiltrating the LA scene either. Oi was working class, it was never about racial hatred, it came out of an inter-racial labor movement in England. I fought too hard against Nazis to ever fuckin' join them but that's what I had to deal with when I went to prison. You know I'm a big white dude and they expected me to be a Nazi and I'm like “Whatt?! You don't know the first thing about me motherfucker.” Thing is, when they expect you to be a Nazi and you join, they send you out there to the yard right away to kill someone, and as soon as you're done, they kill you. What kinda life is that??

EF: A short one?

RM: Yeah..but back to the issue of elitism though, when I was in prison I use to listen to the local radio show [in San Luis Obispo] called “Punk is Dead” and I remember requesting the DJ to play the Slits and he goes “Umm, they're not punk enough” And I'm like “What?? They are so punk” And he's like “I've been doing this radio show for 10 years.” And I'm like “Wow, suck my dick asshole I'm not impressed..”

EF: Well maybe he didn't think you knew what *real* punk was right?

RM: Well my message to that is, go for the truth in whatever you're into..don't just listen to some asshole DJ who thinks he's knows...

EF: Ok, my next topic is just sort of a multiple choice-type question for you..In 1979, who was the biggest attention-whore in the Californian punk scene...there're a lot to chose from but I'll mention three:
A.)Darby Crash B.)Tomata DuPlenty C.)Belinda Carlisle

RM: I'm going with Jello Biafra actually...

EF: Interesting choice, and he did enjoy the spotlight huh, the quintessential showman..and of course running for mayor [of SF] certainly gave him even more attention..

RM: Well I do like Jello but talk about elitism, whenever I went to a Dead Kennedy's gig, the crowd was uber-cliquish and acted like elitist swine. Since I've been outta prison I've been trying to get in touch with him though..

EF: So Jello if you're out there...

RM: ..stop being such a doodle-doo [laughs]

EF: Ok, well steering away from punk rock for a moment, you done a ton of different kinds of creative projects in the past, what's next on your horizon? Any specific aims?

RM: I think the best thing for me that I wanna start doing is painting this point I think I'm too old to be in a band..

EF: Oh c'mon..

RM: Well it's not completely off the could happen if I got with the right people...but painting for sure, I could sit down and paint ten paintings right now if I had the supplies

EF: You had an exhibition of your work not too long ago I think Jane Weems helped organize right?

RM: Yeah, that was an art show in Burbank to help cover some of my legal fees...and I've done a ton of artwork for Sockeye, a few record covers for them and I did the logo for the band Breathalyzer as well as the logo for their record label

EF: And also you did artwork for Turkey Baster Records in Texas...

RM: Oh yeah, right

EF: Speaking of record covers, I always thought it was too cool how Pat Smear had a tribute to you of sorts by putting your photo on the back cover of his first solo album [Ruthensmear 1987].

RM: It's a good album too and he's got a 2nd solo release also, but have you heard the stuff he did Death Folk?

EF: Not yet, but I liked his solo work..

RM: About the Death Folk I'd like to have their song “Frostina” played at my funeral's a fuckin' awesome song.

EF: Ok Regi on that heavy note let's try something lighter and do some word association stuff word for each topic, cool?

RM: Ok, let's go..
Lydia Lunch: Lovely....Orphans

EF: Hey that's two words, haha, now I feel like the word police..ok, we'll make it 1-2 words then..
Lorna: Love her
Exene: Love her
Johnny Genocide: Love him
Jane Weems: Love her
Carla Maddog: OMG, awesome
Gerber: Incredible
Alice Bag: Spontaneous
Craig Lee: Beautiful
Oki Dogs: Zippers
Crime: Stylish
Darby: Birthday Party
Donny Rose: Friend
Jane Drano: Songwriter
Robert Gordon: Best [rockabilly] guitarist
The Masque: Home
The Mab: Home
The Whisky: Home
Deaf Club: Love it
The Starwood: Kool
Margo: Awesome
Black Randy: Politically-incorrect..hysterical!
Disco: Sucks!

EF: Ok we had some light stuff now lets close with something deep

RM: Deep?

EF: Deep & profound

RM: Lost & found in the underground...

EF: So what's the meaning of life?

RM: Figure it out for yourself by sharing with friends you trust...

EF: Genuine DIY spirit! And now for some last, parting words Mr. Mentle...

RM: …......Nihilism is out.

EF: It is? Since when??

RM: Since Darby died..

EF: Well that song “Blades” you mentioned is a bit nihilistic..

RM: I know and I still love it too but I mean nihilism’s out in as much as don't let it fuckin' kill you...
Master it – don't let it master you.



Regi Alsin's top 20 1st Generation California Punk bands (no particular order):
No Alternative
Suburban Lawns
Belfast Cowboys
Nervous Gender
Code of Honor
Negative Trend


Saturday, October 12, 2013

In defense of Margo-Go

A frequent participant/contributor of the early LA punk scene, Michael Routery is currently a professor and writer in the San Francisco Bay area. This essay was originally featured in the hard copy edition of Marks in Time, 1992. Eden Felt would like to thank him for his wisdom, insight and friendship over the years...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

1979 Masque rehearsal session - FASHION SEEKERS

(photo by Jenny Lens. From left to right : Alice Bag, Belinda, Hellin Killer, Pleasant Gehman)

Fashion Seekers '79, live from the Masque

In the January '79 issue of Flipside Magazine, this week's MIT track - a signature early song of the original Go Go's – was mentioned specifically as the band had recently recorded it in the studio, but for reasons undisclosed, it was stated they did not intend to release it. How the actual track came about remains shrouded in mystery, and with the tragic death of co-writer Joseph Fleury earlier this year (see sidebar box below), subsequent attempts at contacting Ms. Caffey for public comment have unfortunately been met without success (if we do connect with her in the future we will certainly update this posting).

For the relative handful who have heard this recording previously, unanimous consent has been expressed that this version of Fashion Seekers is the finest rendition the band has ever committed to tape (the studio version of which essentially no one has heard, aside). The recording quality – for what it is - is indeed outstanding and every member of the band is simply spot on in their performance. The co-lead vocal, harmonized effectively by Jane and Belinda, is a refreshing departure from the band's later formula that became standard fare in their post-1980 recordings. The anthem-like lyrical message - concerning the utterly transparent and exploitative attempts at co-option of the early LA punk scene - is a dangerous dart that pierces one big-business bulls-eye after another. “Bland ideas in a borrowed head,” the lyrical assault begins, “..taking notes in all of our clubs/pretending to be one of us.” 'Don't mess with our posse or our scene' they seem to be saying, 'ok??' As a side-note, the song also takes an amusing musical stab at the ubiquitous disco-bunnies of the late '70's “They dance the hustle in Italian boots” - easily the most hated musical genre of punks and rockers of that time.

Though a hint of bitterness is clearly detected in their decree and a melodic melancholy rings through Caffey's simplistic, sparkling lead lines, it is the girls and their gang of ne'er-do-well cohorts at the Masque who clearly have the last laugh: “They think that we're too young to know (but) they wear the fads that we outgrow” the band declares in mischievous middle-finger mockery and self-triumph.

More could certainly be expressed about this stellar early track, but we'll leave it up to MIT listeners to read between the lines of this song further if they're so inclined. So without further ado, here's Fashion Seekers '79, live from the Masque....  
~Eden Felt

Go-Go's - Fashion Seekers (live 1979)

(Joseph Fleury. Photo by Jenny Lens)

Who was Joseph Fleury? 
In honor of his memory, MIT would like to dedicate this week's posting to Joseph Fleury, who we were informed died in January of this year. From what is known from the several people who were contacted, Joseph Fleury was originally from New York but moved to Los Angeles where he worked with his business partner, John Hewlett of John's Children. From what is understood, Fleury was never in an actual band himself but managed many groups including The Dickies, Sparks, The Mumps, The Swinging Madisons, Milk'n'Cookies and others. Musician Kristian Hoffman of the bands The Mumps and Swinging Madisons as well as Jane Wiedlin's Downtown Sensation called Joseph Fleury "a dear friend who got me my solo record contract (and) with whom I shared many wonderful events". Thanks also to his former band-mate Paul Rutner for additional information as well as Danny Benair from the Three O'Clock.
~Eden Felt  

Chapter 5 of Marks in Time, pages 41-50

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Breaking news for punk rock fans

Los Angeles film archivist Dino Everett has just confirmed to MIT that he has been given the green light to go ahead and make a full-length feature film utilizing the 1979 Elks Lodge footage (please see the full article/interview). This is HUGE because such historic footage has never seen the light of day outside the February 15th one-time screening earlier this year. Stay tuned to MIT webzine as well our FB page for future announcements regarding the film's upcoming release date, title and related information.