Channel 3: An Interview by Tommy Johnson

Channel 3 is the frequency that will infect your mind with both drunken euphoria and ironic wisdom. Founding members Mike Magrann and Kimm Gardner breathe new life into the punk rock monster they created as kids. Older, wiser, and frighteningly more mature, Channel 3 fuses the intense and explosive with sublime introspection. This is classic punk rock without any pretense. Remaining loyal to their own standards, the band has explored different styles and arrangements over the years because they wanted to. Of course, all that educational meandering sometimes led to mixed reactions from the fans. Yeah, well, so what?! That is how one grows and improves as a musician, the public be damned! Integrity is about remaining loyal to what you believe in; not fishing for compliments.

Don’t call it a comeback. Channel 3 has always been there. The time is now to turn up the volume and contrast. Who would have thought all those nights of playing garages and backyard parties would one day become a notable legacy? The new CD is perhaps their best work to date, merging the freedom of a wasted youth with the optimism of a brighter future. Mike Magrann says it better than I do: “We’re just a bunch of friendly drunks!”

 

Tommy: The beginning would be a good place to start.
Mike: We started out just playing cover songs: The Clash, 999, Ramones… then we started writing our own songs. We had about eight original songs by the time we decided to do a demo, on a whim. After that, it was time to start playing the clubs, but we never quite fit in with the Orange County, crowd. That’s why we started playing with all these LA guys.
Tommy: I noticed that back in the early days of the punk scene, it was as if each section of Southern California had its own “dialect,” so to speak.
Kimm: Well, we were living right on the edge of Orange County (Cerritos, CA). We would hang out with Social Distortion and such, but we never could get together and play together. We would go out to Hollywood and felt more comfortable out there. There were not a lot of people or bands from Cerritos at that time. [laughter]
Tommy: And out of that few from the same general area, look how many had staying power. You, TSOL,…
Kimm: Agent Orange is still out there, too.
Tommy: Of course. Agent Orange. Mike Palm being the essence of that.
Kimm: It was always about Mike Palm. You know that.
Tommy: I always thought it was the main two – Mike Palm and James, the bassist. Agent Orange was my favorite band back then until one night, when Scott, the drummer, took off with my girlfriend. [laughter]
Tommy: How about radio? Do you think there is anything worth listening to besides college radio and National Public Radio?
Kimm: There’s 94.3 F.M. It’s kind of like an alternative to KROQ. It’s in Orange County. Every hour you will hear like Social Distortion, Lit, stuff like that. They have a local show 8:00 PM to midnight.
Tommy: Bearing that in mind, knowing you are as skilled and talented as anyone out there, why aren’t you super-mega rock stars?
[Mike and Kimm turn to each other and laugh a lot.]
Kimm: It seems that there is more of a chance for someone out of the ordinary to make it nowadays. You have your White Stripes, or your Hives and the like. Back in the day when we first started doing it, there was no outlet for punk rock. If we got played on Rodney on the ROQ once a week, that was outrageous for us. We would all sit around and drink beer and wait within this four-hour window for him to play our song. You heard it once, but if you heard it like fifty-five times, you might go, “Oh, its great!” That was as much as we could hope for. But then in the late ’80s with Enigma Records, it was all Hollywood and we had big hair and all that. It was the first time we made a conscious effort to make a record and go, “Hey, let’s make a record and maybe we could be rock stars or something.” That’s where it all falls apart.
Tommy: Are you saying that it’s better to pursue art for art’s sake?
Kimm: Our first records were made in like sixteen hours… just all the excitement and all that. When we got to Enigma, we had a budget of like countless thousands of dollars and we were in the studio twenty-four hours a week for about three months. And that’s what it turned out to be… a corporate product.
Tommy: Overproduced.
Kimm: Then there was a team of producers. “Go back and do this,” “Do that.” Marketing research and whatever.
Tommy: It seems as if the euphoria is traded for some form of “algebra.”
Kimm: I don’t want to speak for everybody, but that’s how it happened for us. I mean, look at someone like Celine Dion.
Tommy: Please don’t say that woman’s name. Her arrogance and voice honestly give me a headache. She can hit the notes, but the arrogance permeates all she does.
Kimm: Hey! But there’s a market for that. And people like her work well within that corporate arena, but I don’t like her either.
Mike: She has to let you know how well she can sing. Where is it? Here it comes! Woooooaaaaaaaahhhhhh! She’s just gotta hit that big note. [laughter]
Tommy: Are you familiar with Dick Dale?
Kimm: Of course.
Mike: Yes.
Tommy: That guy is as punk as it gets! He is sixty-five and rocking harder than most of these so-called punk bands! He just played The Galaxy…
Kimm: With Nancy Sinatra! (“These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”) How was she?
Tommy: Better than I thought she was going to be. She has this weird plastic surgery face, so I just closed my eyes and listened to the music.
Kimm: She’s a Sinatra! She can afford it!
Tommy: Clem Burke (Blondie, Checkered Past) was on the drums. That’s what really made it epic! Her old material was updated with blues and metal riffs. It was a good show – a bit on the honkey tonk side – but it was roots. It was weird to look at her and think, “Frank Sinatra is her dad.” That’s a trip.
Kimm: Exactly. You gotta appreciate that.
Tommy: I had better not say too much or the mob will whack me. Have you ever had a negative reaction from the audience, and if so, how did you deal with it?
Mike: It’s surprising how positive the reaction has been (to the reunion). We don’t want to get up there and jump around like a bunch of old men. It’s like “Showtime at the Apollo.” People want to see who’s gonna fall. If that happens, we don’t even see them. We pay attention to each other or the back wall.
Kimm: Since we are coming back after not playing for a long time – we are older now and we want to be cognizant not to come across like a bunch of “old guys.” We are going out there and will play better than ever before.
Tommy: CH-3 has had a disjointed history. What motivated this current incarnation and how did you hook up with Dr.Strange?
Kimm: It’s a really good fit (with Dr.Strange).
Mike: We have always kept together. Kimm and I have practiced together every week for the past… forever. We hadn’t played live for so long. Then we started playing every Christmas at Linda’s Doll Hut. We played for free so nobody could accuse us of “selling out.” The next thing we knew, there was a benefit with TSOL. Then The Misfits called and they wanted to do a show with us in Vegas. The Angry Samoans called. There were all these great shows being offered to us and we did not want to keep going out there unless we had some new material.

Kimm: Yeah, like we are some K-EARTH oldies, “Where are they now” kind of whatever. [laughter]
Tommy: Who recorded the new album?
Mike: We recorded it ourselves and did a little shopping around. We got a lot of interest from people who were offering, and a lot of interest from people overseas. We learned a lot from our mistakes with Posh Boy. We learned that a personal relationship is very important when doing that kind of business. That’s what we have with (The Doc).
Tommy: Tell us about your website. Who did that?
Kimm: We did the website in 2000. Between Mike and I, we had boxes and boxes of stuff – pictures and records and all kinds of things. It was just amazing to see when we linked it all in. It was like, “Oh my god! People actually care?” It was great to see how many people responded.
Tommy: What’s old is new again.
Kimm: Things go in cycles. Maybe it’s been long enough for us.
Tommy: What’s good then is good now. It seems that what is good stays constant and the people go through cycles of either knowing or not knowing. I am sure that you never stopped writing music.
Mike: We recorded songs on the new CD that we had already written and some that were still being written until that day. Some of the songs were already ten years old. We have half of another CD written already.
Tommy: What is the goal at this point? It seems to have taken on inertia of its own. Are you just riding the wave or seeking to make bigger waves?
Mike: We have no illusions about becoming rock stars anymore. A bigger label asked us if we intend to do any touring to support this new release, and we don’t. If we have the opportunity to release records for people to listen to, that’s all we want. We have opportunities to play, and we will take them. We had the chance to play CBGB’s (the legendary punk club in NY), last month.
Kimm: And then there is the term: touring. To most, it means climbing into a car for six months or something. Getting into a van and driving all around the country? No, that’s not gonna happen. It depends on how you define touring. If we have an opportunity to play on the East Coast or something, sure, we will try to do it.
Tommy: You guys have families and lives now.
Mike: Yeah, we don’t have that luxury anymore. This (machine shop) is my business here. I have a kid, a wife, and a home.
Tommy: When you are nineteen, you can sleep in a van behind the 7-11 because that’s still kind of fun, but it does not work if you have a child and wife in tow.
Mike: Yeah, exactly.
Tommy: You know what? I typed your name into Napster and nothing came up. You need to bootleg your own stuff.
Mike: What? Our stuff was always on there. Morpheus, too.
Tommy: My mistake. I meant to say Winmx. Nothing comes up on there. I will bootleg it myself then.
Mike: You know, I have Channel 3 on mine, and if I do a search, nothing comes up. It’s weird.
Tommy: That’s because each time you sign on, you get a different server and some stuff may or may not show up. It’s a random selection.
Mike: Oh. Anyway, about supporting the new album, we are pretty well organized. We are going to Chicago and Detroit. We go in there and play the shows. Great!
Kimm: Travel is now more accessible than ever. It’s like $39.00 to fly from here (Los Angeles area) to Las Vegas. If you really want to do something, it’s not that difficult.
Tommy: What have I not touched on that you would like to address?
Mike: How did you hook up with (The Doc)?
Tommy: My mom and I used to own a skateshop for eleven years in Cucamonga (Blast Skate). We had a lot of the same clientele, and I tried to put on a gig with him, but our venue did not happen.
Kimm: He is indeed a rare individual.
Tommy: Have you ever played in any foreign countries?
Kimm: Germany.
Mike: We recorded a live CD in 1994. Actually, Jay Lansford, who was the in-house producer at Posh Boy produced that one, and he later joined our band. He produced that Agent Orange record you like so much (Living in Darkness). In fact, he played on it too, but don’t tell Mike Palm that. [laughter]
Tommy: What? Some sort of Milli Vanilla thing happening with Agent Orange?
Kimm: Oh no. [laughter] Nothing at all like that.
Mike: Anyway, he (Jay), said we were going to record the show, and the next thing we know, this CD came out. The live record from Germany was released! The only show we ever did in Europe. One night. [laughter] It was in 1982 that we toured real extensively for a band of our level. Because back then only Black Flag or The Circle Jerks really did that.
Kimm: It was like, “We’re playing at Chad’s Club,” and it turns out to be somebody’s basement! [laughter] I think that was in Baltimore.
Tommy: That sort of thing still happens and I think it’s great!
Kimm: Chuck from Black Flag was just as instrumental to us back then. It was like, “Chuck, what do we do now?” We went on a tour all the way up to Canada and we did not know what to do when we were in Saskatoon or wherever.
Mike: Chuck would be like, “Just go talk to (some guy named) Tim and he’s got a cool place with showers in the back.” Things like that. It was a real close network.
Tommy: An underground sense of community. It’s like that for skateboarders, too. I was lost in Russia once so I just found some skaters. End of problem. What do you think of the corporate consumption of what used to be “our little secret?”
Mike: Well, you have to understand that all the corporate entity is interested in is selling their shit. But that’s why we are getting a lot of the younger kids. They might discover this scene because of some Mountain Dew commercial or something.
Kimm: It’s like The Offspring. Remember, they were on the cover of Rolling Stone. They were on the main middle page and they mentioned CH-3. It was really flattering.
Tommy: I guess even the darkest cloud has a silver lining.
Kimm: If somebody is making money, you may as well get paid too. You have to be cognizant of the fact that money is being made and you can do it while still retaining your values.
Tommy: Do you think the ego has anything to do with it? Maybe some people forget their integrity because they start to believe their own press.
Mike: I think that no matter what happens, when they start to see someone getting popular and there is money to be made, a lot of other people start jumping in there. You are going to see a lot of emo bands coming up now. [laughter]
Tommy: I refuse to believe that emo is a real category. It’s a contrived subgenre. I call it “mopecore.” [laughter]
Mike: We want to get the girl at the end of the night. The emo guys don’t get the girls!
Tommy: Unless you are Morrissey or Robert Smith.
Kimm: Well, that’s what’s happening out there right now. It’s like all those kids jumping around with the backward baseball caps on.
Tommy: We must forgive the kids for digesting what they have been fed.
Mike: We did not have MTV back then. You had to go all the way down to Zed records in Long Beach or Toxic Shock in Pomona. Look at New Found Glory on MTV. The day after that record drops, some kid in Nebraska is all over it.
Tommy: The corporate media is stalking children’s minds.
Kimm: That’s one of the sad things. It’s almost impossible to create your own scene anymore. It’s right down your throat with, “This is the new thing!” There was nobody to do things for us when we started. We did it all ourselves and that was the most fun thing about it.
Tommy: I heard a band the other day who sounded exactly like Blink 182 every song they did. It was annoying and sad. It’s a double-edged sword, I guess, because of the homogenizing effect, but at the same time, it’s possible to talk to a Dickie fan in Beirut via the internet.
Mike: We have a lot of friends who work at guitar companies, Fender and such. They make like four hundred guitars a day. I was thinking, “Wow, where do they all go?” They are out there, you know? All those kids picking up guitars and maybe 5% will (someday), get out and play a gig. Out of that, maybe 1% will put out a record. Will it have any impact? Who knows?
Tommy: CH-3 definitely has and I hope you continue to do so.
Mike: Thanks.
Kimm: Thank you.

For more info on CH-3’s new release, and to have a free listen, go to: http://www.drstrange.com and then click on the news section.