An Interview with Pegboy: New Introduction by Ranae Hummel. Originally ran in Flipside #112 By Sean Carswell

Dec 13, 2012


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With all the old man jokes made in ’98 who would have thought Pegboy would still be bringing fans to fist-pumping, sing-a-long mayhem? Sure, now it only takes three songs before Larry is lying on his back complaining that he is “too old for this shit,” but he still bursts back up and into the faces of the fans with the next song.

It was falsely rumored in ’99 that a New Year’s Eve show was to be Pegboy’s final performance. Although the number of shows has decreased to a sporadic quarterly pace, the guys have kept busy. In addition to a few tours with bands like Face To Face, the guys have found other talents and opportunities.

Larry and Joe have been avid fly fisherman for a number of years, and in 2011 Larry turned his hobby into a business called Flying Pig Fly Rods where he makes and sells casting rods. He and Joe were even featured in a punk-meets-fly fishing documentary called Reverb. You can find a three-minute clip of the documentary online.

Joe has also proven to be a very skilled craftsman. Around 2007 he converted his garage into a woodshop and began producing items that could be considered more art than furniture with pieces focused on highlighting the natural shape and beauty of the wood.

A number of people may have seen John recently filling in on a number of shows with the legendary Irish punk band, Stiff Little Fingers. He has also been collaborating with Jake Burns outside of SLF in a band called The Nefarious Fat Cats. The band gets together every year before the holidays to play a show at Liar’s Club, raising money and donations for a children’s charity.

Pierre left Pegboy in 2007 to rejoin with the recently reunited Naked Raygun and was replaced on bass by Mike Thompson. Mike is also the vocalist/guitarist of the Chicago band Making Ghosts.

Pegboy doesn’t often travel too far from Chicago to play shows, so make the journey and check them out before they have to rig up the Peter Pan harness to move Larry around the stage. - Ranae Hummel, 2012

I couldn’t wait to interview Pegboy. All those years; all that experience. There were a million questions I wanted to ask: What was your first ride in a horseless carriage like? How did the invention of Morse code affect your life? What was prohibition like in Chicago? Larry answered all these questions for me during Pegboy’s January 31 show at the Point in Atlanta. He asked a skinny kid with a mohawk how old he was. The kid said sixteen. Larry said, “I’ve been in punk rock for longer...I’ve been in punk rock for seventeen years. And you know what I’ve learned? Not a goddamn thing.” And it was true. They rocked like a bunch of kids getting their first big weekend show. The energy level was phenomenal, even when they paused between songs to hit the oxygen tank.

I met up with singer Larry Damore and bassist Pierre Kezdy at the Little Five Points Pub before the show. It was about 2:30 in the afternoon, so I was only about an hour and three drinks into my day. The coolest bartender in the city, Laura, hooked us up with shots for luck. This brought out a couple stories from each of us about traveling and the way things tend to start one way and end up transforming into something completely different—that kind of shit. After we’d exhausted the illicit topics, I turned on the tape recorder. Larry started the interview with his story from the night before.

The interview was conducted in 1998 and was in Flipside #112

By Sean Carswell
Photo by Todd Taylor

Larry: We get to this place—this restaurant, a micro-brewery—so they have the big vats and shit, real casual eating place, and we pull up there and this guy with this 1979 Southern rock permanent comes up, “Hey, ya’ll! Pegboy! How ya doing?” He shakes our hand. He’s got this old concert shirt from the seventies. “We’re playing with ya’ll tonight, but there’s no room for equipment. Just pull your van in over here and you can load in after we play.”

Pierre: There’s only one opening band and we have to load in after they play.

Larry: So it’s Friday night. We’re all pumped up. Here we go. And we’re hanging out, kind of watching the crowd. And as soon as the band starts playing, the restaurant crowd clears out. There’s maybe, like, twenty people there. The tables are still out. There’s no stage. We’re playing in maybe like from here to the corner [Larry points out a space just about big enough to fit your Aunt Selma and the Thanksgiving turkey] on the floor.

Pierre: It’s a lot like this room: all brick wall so that the sound bounces off of everything.

Larry: So the warm-up band starts playing this Southern rock circa 1980. And they’re jamming it out, having a good ol’ time. So we start doing shots at this point. We’re firing out shots. We bring the van up, start loading in, get everything set up, and there’s maybe thirty people. And the sound man gets sick and leaves. The P.A. is this tiny little P.A. And we play loud. The guy from the other band with the seventies hairdo starts fiddling knobs and stuff and couldn’t get anything out of the P.A. My vocals were less than the drums alone. So we play like a half a song and stop.

Pierre: Larry’s like, “I’m not fucking playing.”

Larry: But I’m not like a... I could do without anything, but I walked out in front and I’m screaming and I couldn’t hear anything. Everyone’s looking at me like, “Larry, come on, let’s just play, get our money, and get out of here.” So we end up playing, and he started figuring out... well, he at least turned up my vocals, which was cool. But it got to the point where I just stood up on a table, put the microphone in my pocket, dropped my pants, and started singing with no mic. I think, at that point, we won over the crowd. From there on, everyone was getting into us. Man, it was the most surreal, dreamlike experience. Like the Blues Brothers when they played at that hick bar. Same kind of feeling.

Sean: They had to put the fencing up around the bar to protect you from beer bottles?

Larry: No. Everyone was cool. The promoter was cool. And as we’re sitting in the van, some guy comes up, “Hey, ya’ll, great to see ya’ll play. We never have bands here. We’re trying to get it going again.” And we’re like, “Oh really, great.”

Sean: That’s punk rock, though. That’s what it’s about.

Larry: It was surreal. I felt like I was in a dream.

Pierre: That’s why we bring the bottle of Beam.

Larry: It was a good show.

Sean: [I wandered off into a story about a U.S. Bombs show that I’d been to in even more backwoods circumstances.] The South is real hit or miss like that.

Larry: Exactly, because, for us, we do a lot of shows in towns in the South where we kick ass. You wouldn’t think—all of a sudden, these kids come out of the woodwork. Then, the next night, two hours away, sucks. It all depends.

Sean: The next question is a Todd question. He asked me to be sure to ask you how guys so old rock so hard.

Pierre: Come on, Todd. Give me a break.

Larry: No, ‘cause here’s what it is. We’re so stupid, we don’t know any different. And I’d like to add that I am the second youngest in the band.

Pierre: I do it—and I’m not speaking for these guys—because I want to. It’s certainly not because of the money.

Larry: It’s just what we do, and we’ve been doing it so long. And, on the other hand, I see a lot of bands, older guys, regroup and go do tours. And I see these old guys playing, trying to look like they got energy and it’s almost sad. If I ever get to that point, I’d walk away from it. When you get to the point where you’re really not into the show but you’re trying to look like you’re rocking, it’s sick.

Pierre: To me, it’s a release. I write a song and I play it live and people like it. That’s how I get my kicks.

Sean: Who writes the songs?

Both: We all do.

Larry: We all come in with ideas and flip-flop stuff around, back and forth and eventually it turns into a song.

Sean: I think one of the reasons Todd asked that question is that a lot of the lyrics on the new album (Cha-Cha DaMore) kind of give an indication that you guys are feeling a little old. There’s a couple times you make allusions to it.

Pierre: Yeah, there’s times. Like last night, you know. I mean, we’ve done so many tours of the U.S. Sometimes we play to a hundred people. Sometimes we play to a thousand. It depends...

Larry: On any given night after a show, we’re ready to quit or we’re so pumped up...

Pierre: Last night, there were maybe thirty people who paid to get in to see us, and another twenty just drinking, and that’s when you start thinking, “Oh, man, not this again.” That’s how it was when we just started out.

Larry: And it’s really not the money, because we made decent money last night. More of it is like a good feeling. If you get a good feeling after a show, we’re riding high; a bad one, we’re riding low. It’s like a roller coaster.

Pierre: And really, the way it is with us, especially Larry, we work off the crowd. If the crowd is into it, we’re into it. It builds like that. But when you’re in front of twenty-five bored kids, it’s just like, “Let’s get this shit over with.”

Larry: John coined it in an interview a couple years ago when he said that our band is like a parasite. If you feed off each other and get that going, then it’s a really cool show. But if you never quite cross that line into letting your guard down, sometimes the shows are tough.

Pierre: Like the show we played on Thursday, which really should have been a Friday night show, we had a couple hundred people there—an ass-kicking crowd—and I had a great time.

Sean: Well, the next question I was going to ask you was if you had any wisdom from the years of playing punk, but that pretty much sums it up.

Larry: That is pretty much it, yeah.

Sean: So now I have to ask you: Why the fuck did you guys cover “Surrender” (Cheap Trick)?

Larry: I always loved that song, and I thought that we’d be able to pull it off. In all honesty, there was a big argument about how fast it should be played...

Pierre: It’s a great song. I mean, we’ve been bashed by the critics for doing it. They say, “Oh, we like the whole record except for the one song.” They call it uninspired, but it’s really a great punk rock song. And you play it live, the crowd fucking loves it.

Larry: It seems to go over better live than it does on the record.

Pierre: And the critics who say, “Why’d you do it?” Hey, fuck you.

Sean: I’m a critic, you know. I do a bunch of reviews for Flipside. Still, you know what George Burns said about critics? He said they’re like eunuchs at a gangbang.

Larry: [Laughing] Exactly.

Pierre: I was opposed to it.

Larry: We tried a bunch of stuff. We tried “Highway Star” (Deep Purple). I couldn’t pull it off vocally. We just wanted to do something older.

Sean: Well, I’ll tell you the truth. I’m opposed to covers almost entirely, especially for a band like you guys. I listen to the album and, to tell you the truth, I skip over “Surrender” more than half the time. It’s just because you write a better song than Cheap Trick does. Everything you do is better than Cheap Trick.

Larry: I appreciate that.

Pierre: I don’t believe it.

Sean: It’s really not much of a compliment. You should have seen Cheap Trick at the Masquerade a couple weeks ago. [Juan note: I haven’t seen Cheap Trick live since I was twelve, and they played the county fair. I don’t even know if they played the Masquerade. I was just illustrating a point.]

Larry: Old guys playing a show. There you go.

Sean: Speaking of that—and this is the only question I’ll ask about them—but I heard Naked Raygun was getting back together for a couple reunion shows.

Larry: They did two shows in Chicago.

Pierre: We got together and did a couple of shows, but you know, it was sort of... The shows were great. We sold out both nights, but we argued the whole time. I mean, I did it because I said I would do it, but I wouldn’t do it again.

Sean: It’s kind of like getting back together with an old girlfriend. You think it’s gonna be cool until you start hanging out. Then you’re like, damn. This is exactly why we broke up.

Pierre: Exactly. But, you know, I like those guys. But it’s just like, little shit comes up and it turns into bigger shit, and then you just have this big pile of shit.

Larry: Besides, who has more fun than us? We all get along great. That’s really the reason we stay together so long. We’re really unconcerned about making sound checks on time. We’re more laid back, a lot of fun. The number one priority when we go on tour is to have fun. Everything else comes secondary.

Pierre: Because you’re stuck in a van, or a motel room, or somebody’s living room, or on stage, or in a dressing room, it’s like, you’re always with these guys. It’s like being married. You might as well just have sex with the guys in the band, you’re so jammed together. You gotta make up your mind.

Larry: It’s like a girlfriend without the sex.

Pierre: But I’m gonna have fucking fun or I’m not gonna do it.

Sean: But that’s with any job. You have to deal with people all the time.

Larry: It’s the key to life, is what it is. Find people you can deal with.

Sean: This is starting to get long, and I had a bunch more questions I was gonna ask you—stuff like what’s the worst tattoo you’ve ever seen or what’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever had yelled out at you during a song...

Larry: You guys are phat!

Pierre: We were playing a show, and this was when the term “phat” first started coming about. It was an all-ages show and the show was going pretty good when in the middle of a set this kid yells out, “You guys are phat!” I look over at Larry and both of us at the same time lift up our shirts and stick our bellies out like, yeah, we’re fat, so fucking what?

Larry: And the kid’s like, “No, P-H-A-T phat.” So, thanks, buddy.

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