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San Pedro band Toys That Kill was born from F.Y.P (Five Year Plan) in 1999. The band—named after F.Y.P’s final album—took a page from the Descendents/ALL book following the untimely death of its bassist, Joe Ciauri, and evolved, while maintaining core aspects of what they had become up to that point. The band began with former F.Y.P members and singers/guitarists Todd Congelliere and Sean Cole. They were joined by the rhythm section of Casey “Chachi” Ferrara on bass and Dennis on drums.
Taylor: When did Dennis amicably leave the band? He’s such a nice dude.
Congelliere: He left around 2002. He came back for a mini West Coast tour after Troy and before Jimmy, but it was understood that he wouldn’t go on much longer.
Taylor: How long was Troy in the band? That kid puked almost every set. You whip your drummers like dogs.
Congelliere: It seemed like two minutes but I think about a year.
Taylor: When did Jimmy Felix first start playing?
Congelliere: May 2002.
The Citizen Abortion—the band’s first album—arrivedin 2001, followed by Control the Sun in 2003. Both albums, along with 2006’s Shanked, were recorded at Sweatbox in Austin, Texas. Shanked’s release, however, sawthe band at a crossroads.
Taylor: Between 2006 and 2012—would it be fair to say that TTK was on indefinite hiatus?
Congelliere: I guess you can say that. We were playing the whole time though. Not as much obviously.
Taylor: Was there a break up?
Taylor: Was it just not talked about?
Congelliere: It was definitely talked about, but like I said, we were still playing here and there. The longest we went without playing—if memory serves me right—was probably only a month or two.
Taylor: Why was there a lapse?
Congelliere: We bought the van—first van that we bought that we made payments on. We got it to tour constantly ‘cause we were so excited with TTK. One night after practice, we were driving home and Chachi said he was getting promoted and wouldn’t be able to tour for five years.
Taylor: Chachi became a full-on union longshoreman. He works on the Pedro docks.
Congelliere: Sean then followed that by saying he was going to go to culinary school. It felt like getting shot and I was pretty heartbroken. I usually lash out, but this time I knew that we had something special with the four of us and, of course, they were my closest friends. So I pretty much responded with “Well then I’m gonna start a new band,” since I wanted to tour and be active. They were totally cool with that—almost seemed relieved—at the time, but feelings were hurt by the time we played our first show.
Taylor: Underground Railroad To Candyland?
Congelliere: That was URTC. To me, it was a joke. Kinda a side circus with only intentions to curb my appetite. Jimmy’s too.
Taylor: Jimmy continued his jobs in IT?
Congelliere: Yeah. Originally, it was only gonna be a cover band, but still, there were hurt feelings. Then Sean did That’s Incredible. So we all had side bands going on. That’s Incredible booked a tour and it became obvious that Sean wasn’t going to culinary school. So once Chachi was able to tour again, we started, albeit very slowly, getting back in action.
I can’t imagine it now, but I think I did have sour feelings over TTK. I think it was sour feelings against sour feelings. Like “What the fuck did I do wrong?!” type shit, although I’ve come to understand it. There was never any type of blowout and we always stayed close. It just came down to we weren’t as active as we were before and since there was weirdness, we’d rather just let it play out. Stay away from the heat so we don’t start a fire. We’re all kinda sensitive and, sometimes, passive aggressive. No one in this band ever demands anything or asks for something from a selfish perspective. That’s a good thing but it also prolongs things. I’m super glad it all went that way.
Meantime, Todd kept his Recess Records rolling, created Clown Sounds studio in his home, and released some of the most respected punk DIY punk bands in America: Bananas, Arrivals, and Lenguas Largas (just to name a few). Although the time off allowed the band to work on numerous other projects, it didn’t stop them from getting together to write the songs for a goodly sum of splits, 7”s, and the 2012 release Fambly 42, recorded at Clown Sound.
Congelliere: Once we started recording Fambly 42, it felt like we were starting a new band. It was so exciting! We are all super proud of that record and it wouldn’t have been that way if we forced anything earlier. We all have had pow wows about why we had those feelings, ‘cause I think we are even better friends then we are bandmates. And I’ve never had better bandmates!
All four full-length Toys That Kill albums were released on Recess Records. The other bands that shared space with Toys That Kill on split releases speak to the community of which they are a part: Grabass Charlestons, Fleshies, Ragin’ Hormones, and Future Virgins.
As mentioned, members have been/are involved in many other musical projects, including Underground Railroad To Candyland (featuring three-fourths of Toys That Kill), That’s Incredible, Stoned At Heart, Bible Children, SS Fun, Can Of Beans, and Benny The Jet Rodriguez. Not only is Toys That Kill’s musical reach extensive, but it’s an integral part of the San Pedro scene. They set up shows and work with zinesters, photographers, and artists within the scene, helping create a strong sense of community. The Minutemen may have been the first well-known band from San Pedro, but Toys That Kill is doing a fine job to make sure the torch of creative music and arts in Peeee-dro continues to shine bright.
Through their resourcefulness, they’ve managed to do it on their own. And, at a time when douchebag pop punk bands were starting to get noticed, Toys That Kill extended a musical middle finger and created—and continue to play—a distinct sound. They created their own mix of punk with garage influences, a dash of hardcore (especially on early stuff), with a brevity akin the Minutemen. Mix in some occasional melodies a la Dillinger Four and you’ve got Toys That Kill. The mix of Todd and Sean’s vocals complement one another in a way that could only be described as near perfect. While Todd takes most of the leads, you think you’ve gotten used to their sound, and then the next song has Sean jumping in and suddenly it opens up a totally different way of looking at the band. And anyone who is a fan (which is pretty much anyone who has given the band a listen) will tell you that Toys That Kill are the catchiest band out there, writing songs that get stuck in your head for days and whose lyrics pop into your mind at the weirdest times. It’s both awesome and amazing that any band can do that to the extent these four dudes do.
The combination of doing things their own way, along with an inability to put out bad music, has made the band not just respectable, but a standard in a fertile, vibrant underground scene.
–Kurt Morris / Intro
–Todd Taylor / Todd Congelliere mini-interview: 2013
Although we live about thirty miles away from one another on opposite sides of Los Angeles, as the crow flies, I first saw and hung out with Toys That Kill at a show in Eerie, Pennsylvania in summer 2001. Attendance was sparse, which gave me time for reflection. Was I vaguely interested in them before they plugged in because of the F.Y.P pedigree? Did I secretly wish to join the many who have seen Todd Congelliere piss his pants? Did I have ulterior motives? Perhaps. Tours converged and I got to see them about ten times in row.
They rocked, and I dare say more so than their previous band. They’re loud and fast, to be sure, while remaining tight and crunching and producing music as sparkly as the hood of a flipped-over van on asphalt (more on van accidents in the interview). Think bombastic and playful without getting too arty. What strikes me, after listing to their debut album The Citizen Abortion for over the hundredth time, is how well they make songs. I know, I know, songcraft is usually an aspersion heaped on bands like Foreigner and shouldn’t be used when you like a punk band, but I say it’s true. There’s something more than your basic “1-2-3-4-go!” attack that keeps me coming back.
If the pain of getting cracked in the genitals could be turned into a good, good sound, it’d be Toys That Kill. They’re instantly likeable without being genre-locked ball lickers and chart slaves.
–Todd Taylor, 2002
Todd Congelliere—guitar, vocals
Sean Cole—guitar, vocals
Casey—bass, backup vocals
They have a drummer who wasn’t able to make the pow wow.
Interview by Todd Taylor and Matt Average
Originally ran in Razorcake #7
Todd T: So, a little background for clarification’s sake. You were in a band called F.Y.P, which stood for…
Todd C: Five Year Plan.
Todd T: And you were together for…
Todd C: Ten years.
Sean: I see where this is going. It said “squared” really little.
Todd T: So, the five year plan didn’t work out?
Todd C: We wanted to do some overtime, for the kids.
Sean:You can’t take us, or the things we say or do, too literally.
Todd C: That’s a bad, bad maneuver.
Sean: They’re sort of shrouded in metaphors and cynicism and jokes.
Todd T: What would be the cynical joke of Five Year Plan, then?
Todd C: That it existed.
Todd T: So, the last F.Y.P album was called Toys That Kill.
Todd C: Yeah.
Todd T: And then you broke up and the next day you played as…
Sean: It wasn’t that condensed.
Todd C: It was sort of planned.
Todd T: Then, why? Why change your name when people know it?
Todd C: That was one of the things. To get rid of all the F.Y.P sensibilities. That was one of the things that was bumming me out. I hate it when people ask us to play “Bring It On.” It’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life.
Sean: Kind of like cleaning the slate. I think the thing is a lot of bands will sacrifice having a good time and sacrifice loving what they’re doing just so they can keep the name and they will play songs that they hate just because their whole motive is making money or sustaining popularity, where we just couldn’t deal with that. We didn’t want to go that route. We wanted to start a new, fresh concept that we’d be proud of and enjoy doing.
Todd C: It’s more fun to start over, too. The first Toys That Kill tour was the best thing in the world compared to the last F.Y.P tour. Sean and I like the music better. We had Chachi in there.
Todd T: Thematically, then, what’s changed over the years? Did you get too mature for toilet tard—i.e. “tardcore”—music? Did you just learn how to play your instruments?
Todd C: Neither.
Sean: Not to toot my own horn here…
Todd T: Toot it. Be honest.
Sean: I think that after the first 7”s and the early lineup, a big problem was there was always a constant revolving door of members and it didn’t really matter how musically talented you were. You just kind of went for it and there was a charm to it, but I think once Todd and I were a more steady lineup, if you listen to F.Y.P’s last record, it’s not virtuoso music, but it’s pretty musically proficient. It’s simple music, but it’s tight and not all over the place like the early stuff and I think even with My Man Grumpy, the same thing—a pretty well put together record. Toilet Kids Bread was kind of pivotal and shaky in that department, but a lot of people—when they think of F.Y.P—they think of some early stuff.
Todd C: Yeah. Dance My Dunce and before. It’s just like a joke that you keep on saying. It’s an alright joke. You keep telling it. The more you say it, everyone’s like, “Shut up” and rolling their eyes, but there’s new people coming in and they want you to play songs that you were playing eight years ago and it just got to a point where, “Umm, that’s not funny anymore.” To us. If it was still funny to us, we’d still be doing F.Y.P.
Todd T: What’s the law of three for you guys? Why is every album three words?
Sean: I think it’s just fun.
Todd C: I think it’s just coincidence.
Todd T: Coincidence?
Todd C: Until My Man Grumpy was when we actually figured it out. It definitely wasn’t planned.
Todd T: Is it planned now?
Todd C: No. Toys That Kill, The Citizen Abortion, I had no idea. I mean, I knew those were three words. I didn’t think about it.
Todd C: Yeah. I didn’t even think about that until the record was out. Then I was like, “Oh, man.” Me, personally, I don’t want to continue with things, even though we did the Descendents thing where we called our last record the new band that we were going to be and that was all planned. (The last Descendents album was called All. Milo split to get more of that edumacation, and the rest of the band continued as the band, All. –Todd T)
Sean: I think, too, using the Toys That Kill title and then into the band name, it’s kind of reflective of bands that do that. We’re continuing a cycle. Some of the Toys That Kill songs were going to be new F.Y.P songs. And Todd and I are two-thirds of F.Y.P and, in a sense, we wanted to have a clean slate but it’s not like we’re playing prog metal all of a sudden. We wanted there to be some relation.
Todd T: So, how did these two guys find you, Casey?
Casey: I don’t know. They moved to San Pedro and they couldn’t get rid of me, pretty much.
Todd T: When was the first time they started calling you Chachi?
Casey: That must have been Hal. A couple years ago.
Sean: A real trendsetter, that guy.
Todd T: Do you really look like Scott Baio?
Casey: I don’t think so. Maybe a couple years ago.
Todd C: He has the aura of Chachi. He used to wear the sleeveless shirts.
Sean: He’s an amalgamation of Ralph Macchio and Scott Baio. Originally, it was Chachi-o.
Todd T: How do you feel about that?
Casey: I don’t care. Whatever. I used to be Chachi-o Viagra.
Todd C: Now it’s Chachi Ferrari.
Todd T: Casey, have you ever misinterpreted any lyrics to a Toys That Kill song?
Casey: Actually, the first tour, I sang the backups wrong every night. In “Amphetamine Street,” I would sing “when the scream…” I got it wrong.
Sean: “When the scream MU330.”
Todd C: Todd had the lyrics printed up so I could practice and I was, like, “What?” “Where the scream mutes the sound”?
Todd T: Everyone has to answer this question. What does your dad do?
Sean: My real dad? [laughter] He works at a mental hospital driving medical supplies. My latest stepdad is a sales representative for an optical lens company and the stepdad who raised me works at an oil refinery.
Casey: My dad’s a longshoreman down on the docks and he’s been doing that for almost twenty years now.
Todd C: My dad’s a teacher, but he really wants to be a football coach because he used to be a football coach.
Todd T: What does he teach?
Todd C: English, P.E., any sport.
Sean: And he wears those short coach shorts.
Todd C: I don’t want to talk about my dad’s balls, all right? I’ll talk about anything else except my dad’s balls. They’re fantastic balls, obviously.
Sean: [in Todd voice] They made me.
Todd T: Todd or Sean, what’s the worst mangling of a lyric screamed back at you?
Todd C: I’ve actually heard on the last F.Y.P album where it goes, “Where ever the creeps go at night, I’ll be there with my fork and knife.” Someone emailed me, “‘Where ever the creeps go at night, I’ll be there stabbing you with my fucking knife.’ That song’s badass, holmes.” I almost believed it.
Todd T: The song, “Bullet from the Sky.” Where’d that come from? Are there a lot of people in San Pedro on the Fourth of July getting really happy and shooting their guns into the air?
Todd C: San Pedro is probably the capital of shooting in the air. In the news before New Year’s, there were billboards and signs everywhere.
Todd T: Yeah, there was one down the street from me. “Save your loved ones. Don’t shoot your firearms in celebration,” all in Spanish.
Todd C: Last year I actually saw a couple of news reports or little station IDs saying that, but this year, I saw probably fifteen. I think it was the thing to do.
Sean: In San Pedro, I’ve never had any problems with violence and I like living there, but it’s gotten to the point where you’re kicking back in your house and these shots ring out, “bap, bap, bap, bap” and I look over to my roommate. “Is that a gun?” He’s like, “Yeah.” I’m, “Oh.” Then you go about your business. If my mom heard four gunshots, she’d be on the phone, calling the police. It’s, you know, whatever.
Todd T: For people who couldn’t know, how does San Pedro infuse itself into your band? There are very few places in America that people are extremely proud of where they live. I can think, right off the bat, Austin and Boston.
Todd C: There’s definitely thick Pedro pride going on. I love the city. I’m glad I live there.
Sean: We’re not skinheads about it. We don’t have the Pedro patch.
Todd C: There’s definitely some Gestapo Pedro guys that will lay you flat if you talk shit about Pedro.
Sean: Really. It’s totally true. There’s this old story. A friend of mine’s band played and there was this one person in question, during this set, they’re playing at Sacred Grounds (a local coffee shop) and he’s like, “It’s great being here in Pedro. I’d rather be in Temecula right now.” This guy comes up to him, “Talking shit about Pedro, bro?”
Casey: There are a lot of people like that.
Sean: I don’t give a shit. Living in San Pedro, it’s a nice little town. There’s a lot of mom-and-pop businesses. Lots of cool scenery. It’s not all hyped up with malls and crap like that. It feels like you’re living in an old city. The rent’s cheap. Can’t beat it. That’s it.
Todd C: I think the biggest thing is the Rite Aid. That’s the Burger Barn coming to town. When I first moved there, I thought the whole pride thing was just stupid. So what? It’s a city. Now, I understand it more, what they’re talking about.
Casey: I grew up wearing San Pedro sweatshirts as a little kid. I got one this Christmas from my dad. “Thanks, Dad. I’m not going to wear this.”
Sean: A lot of these lunkheads aren’t trying to preserve any sort of ethic. It just seems like a reason to gang up and be a dick. It’s not like, “We’ve got to save our little city.”
Todd C: There are those people who stand up for, always talk about, and love the background and history of Pedro. Mike Watt (Minutemen, Firehose, Dos, Madonabees) is one of them.
Sean: You can tell the difference between almost gang mentality and people who are down to preserve—we’re all down to preserve—the things that exist. When they tried to build a Taco Bell and wreck our houses, we all went to the city council meeting.
Todd T: Isn’t there a Taco Bell several blocks from your house?
All: There’s two.
Todd C: They wanted one every two blocks, pretty much.
Sean: They were calling it the Taj Mahal of Taco Bells.
Todd T: Wouldn’t it be more like the menage a trois of Taco Bells?
Sean: As a side note, good old Bob Congelliere…
Todd C: There were fifteen of our friends at this hearing and there was one guy who was for Taco Bell that was a citizen that lived in San Pedro. It was my crazy uncle that I didn’t even know existed. [in uncle voice] “My name’s Bob Congelliere and I love Taco Bell.”
Casey: And that was his only defense.
Todd C: [still in uncle voice] “It’s supposed to be the Taj Mahal of Taco Bells.”
Sean: [in goofy voice] “I love Taco Bell.”
Todd C: And there’s a fucking Taco Bell on Tenth Street and on First. So they need one on Fourth Street? I don’t know. Poor Uncle Bob. He’s a championship swimmer, I hear.
Sean: He probably gets a six pack of tacos and starts doing the back stroke.
Todd T: There’s a lot of anti-establishmentarianism in your lyrics. Is that intentional?
Todd C: I don’t think anything’s intentional.
Todd T: But there’s a definite recurring theme. In “50 Geniuses,” you say “they only wanna raise you only if you get them high,” and in “String” it’s “Sometimes a string’s just a fucking string.”
Sean: It’s not like a super-acute attack on anything in particular, but I think for all of us it’s an inherent thing. It’s just something that just kind of exists. I think we’re all here and we all believe what we believe for a reason. And getting into punk rock and stuff like that has an effect on how you view the world. We never use rhetoric.
Todd C: I don’t want to ever get accused of sloganeering or anything like that.
Sean: Everything’s always very personal, but there is an underlying anti-establishment vibe underneath.
Todd C: Even saying that bugs me, but at the same time, only because if you’re in a punk band you’re lumped in with all the other punk bands and then, all of a sudden, you’re lumped in with all the bands that are lumped in with the punk bands that will listen to Propagandhi and go, “I’m gonna write about this, too.” And they just have no idea what they’re talking about, for one thing. They have no idea on how to write a song and that’s the worst thing.
Sean: You have to talk about what you know. Real feelings. Even some of the greatest rock bands have that air of rebellion. It’s not necessarily like Crass but it’s like, “My Generation.” We’re fucked up but who cares.
Todd T: Sean, do you have a flamboyantly gay hip-hop side project?
Sean: Well, what it was is, uh, is there was a time where I borrowed this guy’s four track before I had my own. Where the idea originally came up was when we were on tour in Canada, me and Greg from The Grumpies were bored out of our fucking minds and thought it would be a funny idea to make a fake band compilation and so we’re writing all these names in a notebook and the idea was his part would be all these fake Huntsville, Alabama bands and I’d be all the fake Pedro bands. The whole concept behind it was you get whatever small group of friends and you get all these fake bands spanning all these genres—emo, death metal—whatever you could conjure up. The Pink MCs was one of the names I came up for a flamboyantly gay hip-hop thing. So, I got back—it was something you just say on a whim and it just stuck with me—so I decided to buckle down and do it. That was one of the bands that I recorded. I got a couple of friends to do that.
Todd T: Can you give us a sample lyric?
Sean: [smiling, embarrassed]
Todd C: “Sperm don’t burn unless it’s got the germ in it.”
Sean: “I’m a cum clucker. I’m a cocksucker. Who needs a pussy when I make a man’s butt pucker.”… so, it wasn’t really a side project. We never performed.
Casey: There was almost a performance, though.
Sean: I think the other guys got cold feet. It’s a commitment.
Todd C: Even Hal had his second thoughts about it, actually playing live. He’s like, “Dude, once it gets serious and we’re actually singing these lyrics. We’re not gay, but…”
Sean: The only worry I had was that you’re—if you’re a homophobe, you’re not going to sing these lyrics, not even in jest. I was kind of worried if we became a real band, would we be offending people who were really gay? I don’t know. It seems kind of silly. It was all in good humor.
Todd T: Individually, you have to answer this question. In which way do you feel obsolete?
Todd C: Computers are taking everybody’s jobs away. That’s one reason. That song, that Twilight Zone part (the sound bite) was actually inserted into that song afterwards. The lyrics are pretty much about Silicon Valley and how they work people into doing the grind, man. And the next thing you know, you’re in a job that’s an internet startup and it’s totally bountiful and you’re making six figures a year, and the next thing you know, you’re not. Because they’re just going to find parts to replace everything.
Casey: Lately, I’ve been having a hard time coming to grips with reality. [lots of laughter] Trying to work and make rent and stuff. It’s been really hard for me since our last tour.
Todd C: Tour makes you hate work.
Todd C: I’m into it now, when I’m getting to a point where I want to work more hours because I’ll get paid for more hours and I actually like the job that I’m at. But, when you go on tour, when you get back, you’re just not into that mode. It takes at least a month. It’s just like the whole drug thing. If you do drugs, you’re pretty much a loser, right? But, when you’re sitting there actually on drugs, you’re like, “Hmm. This is good. This is how I want to live. I don’t want to wake up in the morning and have to work for somebody that I don’t really like.” But when you’re off drugs, you’re like, “What are those losers doing?” I don’t know if that makes sense. But when you’re actually on tour, you get into the mode that you can’t really break out of until being back home for a few months and you’re actually settled and you’re content and you’re always thinking, “Is somebody else making me feel content about this job or am I making myself feel content about it?” You just get to a point of questioning your head, especially on weed, man.
Sean: How do I feel obsolete? I’d have to say that the biggest thing is that I don’t understand or enjoy pop culture after 1985. Everyone’s all into these shitty TV programs. What’s that one that everyone watches on Thursday? Dawson’s Creek? Friends that I value, friends that I think are intelligent get into these lame TV shows and these lame pop references. If I watch TV, I’ll watch The Simpsons. I do like new movies. Movies are coming out all right, more or less. I don’t give two shits about—everyone loves Christina Aguilera—people that I know. People who I sit down and try to have a conversation with and they’ll bring that up. Their whole lives are surrounded by reading shitty magazines and watching crappy TV and I just can’t relate to it.
Todd C: It’s weird because when Nirvana was huge and all these bands were coming out, I actually liked the mainstream, sorta. I could look back at it now and say that that’s way better than what’s going on now or before that, because before that, it was New Kids On The Block and Michael Jackson ruled for ten years and now he’s back. What the fuck is all that about? People totally destroyed New Kids On The Block and they tore down their posters of Joey McIntyre. The next thing you know, their daughters are into the Backstreet Boys. I know new babies are born every day and they don’t know about New Kids On The Block and they’re going to like something like New Kids On The Block, but I just don’t know how history can repeat itself so bad. Seriously, it’s like Hitler.
Sean: The band that you like shows up in a shitty magazine like Spin. Like, if Nirvana—I love reading about Nirvana. I loved Nirvana. I thought they were a great band. In pop culture, per se, just because something is popular—just because it’s something everyone else is into—doesn’t negate the fact that I can get into to it. That was a time for the mainstream where I had some interest in it, where Nirvana was peaking.
Todd C: When they were on top of the whole fuckin’ world, you actually sorta wanted to watch the American Music Awards or the MTV Music Awards just out of curiosity’s sake.
Sean: Just to see the wacky shit they might do or the sarcasm or the cynicism.
Casey: At least they were a rock band.
Todd C: A rock band that was good. No matter what, they were great.
Sean: They wore shitty clothes, had fucked up hair.
Todd C: Nowadays, the American Music Awards were on two days ago and last night I found out because I saw a billboard. There’s no way in hell. What’s going to be on there? Shit you’ve never even heard of.
Matt: When you said that about the American Music Awards, don’t you think that also comes with age? Certain things that you used to think as marginally important become obsolete? As you get older, you lose touch with it.
Todd C: I seriously always think about that and I think, ‘What if Limp Bizkit is the Nirvana for nowadays? What if Limp Bizkit is as good as Nirvana? If I was ten years younger, would I like Limp Bizkit the same way as I like Nirvana?’ Fuck no. No way in hell.
Matt: When I first started my construction job, when I was eighteen, I remember asking one of my co-workers who was really into classic rock—he loved Led Zeppelin, he was thirty—I asked him, “Hey, what do you think of these new bands?” and he said, “Oh, I don’t follow that stuff any more.” And I was, “Oh, I’ll always be in touch with it.” Then, a few years ago, I was like, “Fuck, I’m out of touch.”
Sean: The thing is, too, is that opposed to your average thirty-something construction worker guy who’s into classic rock, we’re in an active band. We go see bands a lot. We read fanzines. We buy records. We listen to not as much new stuff, sure, but we’re definitely very exposed to it.
Todd C: We definitely—and I can say “we” because these guys are my brothers—we all have listened to a band that either we know or they’re a band that started just like us, as an underground punk band, and I know we listen to that at least three times a week. A lot of people call me jaded because I hate a lot of new shit that’s coming out, but in my mind, I think I’m hopeful. I’m actually worried that there’s not going to be new shit.
Sean: There’s great bands out there. You talk about being in touch. How more in touch can you be than going on tour and seeing a young band that kicks ass, like The Arrivals. You stumble upon a band like that and they’re guys just like us. They’re as underground as you get. Who’s heard of them?
Todd C: I feel fully out of touch and I do a record label and I work at a distribution company that pretty much specializes in small bands, small labels. Nothing’s a Lookout or an Alternative Tentacles, even. When I first started working there, I looked at all the bands and I’m like, “Who is this?” and everyone’s calling, “Oh, we need that record really bad. This is flying out the store.” And I felt like this old, bitter fool who just didn’t know what was going on and I listen to the records. A lot of them I just don’t get. All it is, is that you come up with a name that’s really long, like We Will Show Up At Your House And Kill Your Mother, and that’s the name of the band and that’s pretty much what’s going on, and you put on the record and it doesn’t sound anything like we’re going to come to your house to kill your mother. There’s sort of a pattern of that and I’m not really interested in it. I don’t think of myself as being jaded, just not interested in that. I think it’s whack and they should give it up.
Todd T: On that point, you guys opened for AFI.
Todd C: Speaking of whack.
Sean: That Son Of Sam, boy, wooosh.
Todd T: To put this into perspective, how much did you guys get paid to play The Palace, which holds about 1,000 people, plus or minus?
Sean: They gave us fifty bucks. [serious] And the singer’s pants. [joking]
Todd T: For the entire band?
Todd C: Yeah.
Matt: No shit?
Todd T: AFI’s rationale behind that is? I’m just postulating here, but they must have made $10,000 off that show. Couldn’t they kick down some love? (After these two shows, on the strength that the shows were sold out, AFI penned a deal with Dreamworks. –Todd T)
Todd C: That’s the thing I don’t want to ever understand. We’re not pulling in all these people. I was actually making jokes on stage. “Okay, you guys are going to leave after we play, but make sure you see AFI. They’re great.” It’s not like that. I wish it was.
Sean: Unfortunately, we’re not going to be sucking any of their assholes in the near future.
Todd C: It puts us in a weird position ‘cause we’re not a fan of the band. Their booking agent wanted us to play. If they call us up and they want us to play a show, it’s “Yeah, thanks.” They’re doing us a favor. We play for free all the time and sometimes we get paid a lot of money, but we don’t really have that much money to be crying about. We could easily pull, “We used to pack this place in our last band,” and blah, blah, blah, but that’s just stupid. At the same time, we should have gotten two hundred bucks for those two shows.
Sean: And the thing is, too, we got asked to play these shows. It’s not like we’re like, “Come on, man, we just got done eating milk and cookies and we want to play with AFI.” Kick the old guys a couple hundred. We’re willing to work for our dollar. We have no delusions of what we are. We just like what we do and we try to put on a good show and try to do good songs. We don’t walk around with an attitude. We don’t demand too much. It’s kind of a double-edged sword. We’re not out there going, “We were in FYP and we deserve this much money.” On the reciprocal, sometimes we’re a little too lax. We’re not businessmen. That’s not what we’re in a band for.
Todd C: I don’t want to get into the position where people will say of us, “Yeah, they’ll do it for fifty bucks.”
Sean: “We can do them for fifty bucks.”
Todd C: We know the difference between earning the money and just getting paid that amount of money because if we play a show where pretty much two-thousand kids are waiting to see Davey with his… I’m not going to get into that. They’re pretty much there to see AFI. We didn’t earn the money. Probably five people came to see us, maybe. So, we got half of those five people’s ticket price. It was probably twenty bucks. But, if we play a place that we’re headlining and a hundred people show up then I would hope to get one hundred, two hundred bucks. If you break it down like that and actually get a business sense of that, you’ll be all right. A lot of bands like to take a lot more than they earned. Just because they’re headlining doesn’t mean shit.
Todd T: So, Casey, how did Todd mutilate your ear?
Todd C: Aw, man. I was starting to feel good here.
Casey: Well, in New Orleans this last tour, Todd does this thing where he flips the guitar around his body. His guitar’s flying around his body and he smacks me on the side of the head. My ear busts open blood and stuff.
Todd C: What sucks about that…
Casey: I don’t think he’s done it since.
Todd C: I did. I won’t do it now when it’s, “This show’s rad. I’m all fucked up.”It was a great show and it went “tonk.” The thing of it is was that the first week of tour was really, really bad playing-wise. We just barely get to the show. The first couple songs are great. We’re playing good. People are into it. So, I’m, “Yeah!” Hits him in the ear. He just goes down. Troy fucking stops playing drums, jumping out from his kit like he’s going to beat me up or something. “What happened to Chachi?”
Sean: “You were hitting him.”
Casey: It’s better now. It’s just a little scar. It was tender for a good couple weeks on tour.
Sean: There’s a bit of an emotional scar.
Casey: I think Todd was a little bit more freaked out than me. I couldn’t sleep for two weeks on my left side. There was definitely blood running down my neck.
Todd C: It was definitely a gross-some scene.
Casey: It was the fourth song we were playing so it was really early in the set. It just totally knocked me. “Whoa, what’s going on? Are we still playing? I’m standing. Okay, that’s good.”
Matt: Did the crowd scream for more?
Todd C: They were pissed at me. They all wanted my blood. “You got Chachi!” Everyone likes Chachi. Nobody likes me. Nobody likes the old men in the band.
Casey: Yeah, they chant for me sometimes.
Todd T: So, Todd, you were a professional skater, were you not?
Todd C: [lying] No.
Todd T: Is it true that you left one of the last messages on the skater Mark “Gator” Anthony/Rogowski’s machine?
Todd C: The night before he turned himself in.
Todd T: For what?
Todd C: For raping and killing a girl and stuffing her into a surfboard bag.
Casey: It was his girlfriend, right?
Todd C: No. It was his girlfriend’s friend. She was coming over to console him.
Sean: This is just in reflection. Your message was, “Did you kill that bitch yet?”
Todd C: No. We used to go down to San Diego a lot and stay with our friend and crank call people and skateboard and just do boy things and went to Tony Hawk’s ramp to skate it and Gator was there and was like, “So, what’s going on?” I’m all, “Nothing. What are you doing?” He’s like, “Nothing.” I’m like, “Who are you riding for now?” because he was off of a company. And he’s all, “Jesus Christ.” I’m all, “Is that a new company?” I seriously thought he was talking about a new skateboard company. He’s like, “You know what I mean. You should ride for Him. I know you like the punk rock music and shit like that, but that’s going to lead you to the devil.” I was, “Yeah, whatever.” So, of course we found our new victim to crank call that night. We called him, “This is satan. We know what you’ve done.” And he really did something and we didn’t know. I swear we didn’t know.
Todd T: So, the next day the cops visited you?
Todd C: No, no. His outgoing message was like this: “Hey, this is Mark. I’m not going to be around. You can leave a message but I’m not going to get back to you. Praise the Lord.” The reason he was leaving that message was because he was going to jump in front of a train and his friend found out what he was going to do and talked him out of it and the next day he turned himself in, because he’d already killed that girl.
Matt: His girlfriend dumped him, right?
Todd C: His girlfriend dumped him. This girl, her best friend, came over to console him and he just went crazy on her.
Todd T: And all of those events affected the skate video you were working on, didn’t it?
Todd C: Yeah. We were doing what I think was the first-ever skate/horror movie. It was crazy because at the time of it, our company—it was me and Mike Smith—pretty much two guys who didn’t really attract too many kids that really wanted to buy boards. So it was pretty much the rugged, bearded vert guys would buy our boards and we were looking for new riders and Gator was one of them. I think he was born again because of what he did, but I could be totally wrong. “I’ve got to find a way out of this. I must look for Christ. He’s going to lead me out of this wreck I’ve made for myself.” I was doing this horror video, just skaters chopping people’s heads off, as a joke, you know? The video was almost totally edited. All I had to do was put the credits on and I found out this happened so I had to put a disclaimer: “We didn’t really do this, like that other guy.”
Todd T: Sean, what happened the last time you inadvertently played a skinhead’s birthday?
Sean: It was out in Pacoima. The show sounded okay. We didn’t know what to expect, except it was a birthday party for this guy, pretty cool dude. He was going to give us a hundred bucks and there was going to be beer and one of them little blow-up bouncy rooms.
Todd T: Woo!
Sean: We get there and say, “Where the fuck are we going?” Pacoima? Who goes here? It’s a place you get dropped off.” We show up to the house. The guy whose birthday it was was kind of skinhead-ish. He wasn’t wearing a Skrewdriver T-shirt. He was really nice, a real cordial dude, really stoked on us playing. More people started showing up. A majority of the people showing up were Mexican guys with white pride hats, swastika tattoos, and they looked like gangsters. They didn’t have flight jackets and shaved heads, but they were all totally down for being a nazi and shit.
It was really weird. So, we set up and we start playing and are kind of skeptical and we’re kinda freaking out, thinking we should just get out of here. But we go play our set anyway. There’s a song, “Ian Stuart,” that Todd wrote about the guy from Skrewdriver and how he died. He introduced the song, “How many of you out here know who Ian Stuart is?” The crowd roared, “Yeah!” He’s like, “How many of you are big Skrewdriver fans?” More cheering. Todd’s all, “This song’s about how he died in a car accident and we’re pretty happy it happened.” Just blatantly, fuck you. It was commendable, but dangerous.
Todd C: You know what happens when I get beer in me.
Sean: Let’s just say that the mosh pit started in towards the band. We’re playing the entire song and the audience is, “Grrr,” like Day of the Dead or something and Jed (F.Y.P’s bassist) is looking really scared, standing right in front of his amp and some guy feigned to punch him, pulled it back, and Jed fell over the amp. And the guy’s all, “That pussy fell over the amp and I didn’t even hit him.”
Todd C: He flinched over his amp.
Sean: We stopped the song. It was crazy. Some people seemed to be coming towards us. Some people seemed like they were going to fight each other. Next thing you know, it’s this huge, confusing scene. We’re like, “Let’s get our shit in the van. Let’s get the fuck out of here.” Opened the van door and we’re just throwing our shit in the van. Tossing it. Not taking apart the drums or anything. We all get in the van and people are punching the van and rocking the van. Gun shots fire out and we peeled the fuck out of there.
Todd C: We were doing weird body counts. “Everybody here? Everybody here?” We had a lot of skinhead incidents. That’s something that totally amazes me when I look back. The stupidest punk band could get a rise out of the stupidest people.
Casey: I remember going to see you guys a few times and Jed getting chased by a bunch of skinheads.
Todd C: Because he would always try to make out with their girlfriends. Even the ones with the chelseas.
Todd T: The colander cut?
Todd C: Yup.
Todd T: Switching gears altogether, you have a song called “Hare Ruya.” I have no idea who or what that is.
Todd C: It’s this guy in Japan. His business went down, he had a family, the economy was really bad. He went and bought some boxing gloves and at two in the morning, stood out by the bars and charged people ten dollars to box the shit out of him. He’d tell people, “I can put my dukes up this high,” [at cheek level] but you can hit me as much as you want.” He would just sit there and take it. He made money, got out of debt.
Todd T: He wouldn’t fight back?
Todd C: No, he couldn’t fight back. He would guard his face. For a minute or two. He’s probably still doing it.
Todd T: How is Toys That Kill like Spinal Tap?
Todd C: We actually tried to do that Stonehenge thing.
Sean: But we couldn’t get the dwarf.
Todd C: I get cold sores sometimes.
Todd T: What’s the most endearing expression of fandom that you’ve seen in any of the bands you’ve been in?
Casey: There’s this kid I brought backstage at the Palace. He was at one of our last shows and he was talking to me. I knew I knew him from somewhere, but he was just some kid I’d met somewhere. He wanted to get his album signed. I said, “I’ll bring you backstage.” It’s upstairs, behind all of this security. He was so stoked on it. He’s like, “Yeah, Chachi, yeah.” Pretty cool.
Sean: There’s definitely loads of F.Y.P tattoos and shit like that, but with Toys That Kill the tattoos are just starting to come out. [laughter] I’m hoping that some guy will come up to me and it’ll say “Cole” (Sean’s last name) in old English.
Todd T: Give me your step-by-step thought process after your van hit the deer.
Todd C: My knee was on top of Sean’s throat.
Sean: I’ve got a buff neck.
Todd C: That freaked me out because I thought somebody died.
Casey: Because you were sleeping.
Todd C: Yeah. I flew off the loft. I woke up in mid-air.
Casey: Flying over me.
Todd C: I cleared him and landed on Sean.
Todd T: Who was driving?
Todd C: Jack. (Spralja. Their roadie and merch guy who later sang in URTC for a bit.)
Casey:Troy was riding shotgun. (Their former drummer.)
Sean:Troy and Jack were up at the front.
Todd C: They liked to hit each other a lot.
Sean: They were playing with their Hello Kitty pencils, listening to this techno music that was giving me nightmares. So, I’m in progress of a nightmare that I’m trapped in machinery or something, just falling through gears and stuff, and I wake up from the nightmare [jerks straight]—you know when you’re on the freeway and you’re not paying attention for a second and you stop? It feels like you’re in control. You skid a little bit. It was this veering and skidding that seemed so out of control that I was like, “I’m going to die.”
Casey: I thought we were going to flip.
Sean: “This is it. I’m dead.” When I think of death, I always think I’m going to die on tour; I’m going to die in a car. This seems to be my destiny. Destiny unfolds. Jack is fucking freaking out. Todd’s flying on my neck. All this shit’s flying. And the van comes to a stop. I thought we hit something like another car. I thought we were in a car accident. First, I’m like, somebody’s dead. We’re alive, that’s great, but somebody got mauled. Somebody’d dead. Somebody’s car flipped over and is on fire. I’m like, “What happened?” “We hit a deer.” I’m like, “Oh, okay,” thinking the van’s totaled and fucked. It all went in this transgression, these steps. And when we looked, just fucking knocked the headlight out.
Todd C: Duct taped it right back on.
Casey: Missed the radiator by an inch. I saw the deer first and I was laying down in the back. I kinda look up to see what’s going on up front. And I see this deer. “Oh shit!” Jack locks up the brakes and starts swerving.
Todd T: Fifteen years ago, name the album you were listening to and playing along with, even in your head.
Todd C: Millions of Dead Cops. Either that or Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam And The Ants, but stick with the first one. It sounds cooler.
Casey: Probably, Go-Go’s, Vacation. I was like ten years old. I was into the Stray Cats, too. Those were the two bands I knew about.
Sean: I definitely have to say Kill Them All, Metallica.
Todd T: Todd, you also own Recess Records. Is that correct?
Sean: He’ll sell it to you for eighty bucks.
Todd C: I was going to sell it to Sean for eight-hundred dollars.
Todd T: Does anybody work for you?
Todd C: Not any more. Nope.
Todd T: Which titles keep you in business?
Todd C: What do you mean? The Dwarves do good. All the F.Y.P ones do good. Those are the constant back catalog sellers.
Todd T: How long have you been doing it for?
Todd C: Since 1989. The first piece of vinyl came out in ‘90, but I count the demo tapes and shit. Don’t let people steer you wrong on that.
Todd T: So, Sean and Casey, what do you do for your day jobs?
Casey: I’m a part time dock worker. Everybody from my high school works there, too. It’s kinda gross. When I was having trouble dealing with reality, an example is, I go to this place and I pretty much have a number and a letter and I have to wait until my number comes up and then I can work. So you just have to hang out. It’s just like recess. It’s just a bunch of people hanging out. It’s a bunch of people who would never talk to me back in high school. Now they’re like, “What’s up? Cool. Yeah.” I went there and I was just standing there, trying not to look at anyone in the eye, hanging out by myself while everyone has all their friends around them. I just ended up leaving. I didn’t even care if I got a job that day.
Sean: I used to cook pizzas, man. I moved furniture. Cater. Just a bunch of odd jobs. I recently got a job building amplifiers for Matchless Amplifiers. Haven’t started it yet, but if feels pretty good not to have a loser job; something where you’re going to learn something. We’ve always been—through the course of the years—we’ve always been busy enough with the band where I consider that my entire life and it’s been a lot slower and I want to work at this place and I think I can save a lot of money and get better stuff. Better music stuff. Not like a year’s supply of Cheez Whiz.
Todd C: Or a double burger. Going large.
Todd T: Someone explain Porch Core.
Todd C: No.
Sean: I hate to be the one that breaks this one to the public, but…
Todd C: Porch Core is just the figment of you lame cunts’ imaginations. It was written on a bathroom wall.
Sean: Porch Core is no more, no less than this batch of stickers we made on tour in ‘98 or ‘99 and we made these stickers and slapped them up everywhere and this band called the Jag Offs, my roommate’s band, they have a song called “Porch Core,” and it just seems magazines and kids think it’s some scene. It’s not anything. We have porches.
Todd C: It’s about sitting on a porch, drinking a 40, and shitting your pants and then you go to sleep. Pretty inspiring, huh?
Sean: I think as a group of friends, when we all first started hanging out with each other, it got to a point where things were, as a big group of people, very productive. Not necessarily changing the world or nothing, but we used to do a lot of things. Like building a skate ramp. In the process of making the video, doing skits, the fake band comp. Things, little activities that we’d all do as a group of people. But people move and people fuck each other’s girlfriends. [nervous laughing] And they go off in different directions. All the friends are still pretty much intact, but it’s not as tight as it used to be. When our old bass player, Joe, died it really got a big group of people in really close.
Todd C: Just as fast as it brought everyone close…
Sean: Everything sort of just disintegrated.
Todd C: But it took years to do that.
Sean: Yeah. It’s not bad. It’s just a natural thing. To get to the gist of Porch Core, it’s just… nothing.
Todd T: Todd, why do you wear the beanie all the time?
Sean: Show him, Todd. You’re fucking bald.
Todd T: I was impressed that you wore the beanie indoors, in the same city on the same day that a Minnesota Vikings player died in practice of a heat stroke.
Todd C: I did it because I wanted to… wanted to… prove a point. You’ve got to hydrate yourself, man. I don’t know. It’s the same reason you wear a shirt and pants. My head is like my dick and balls. I don’t want anyone to see it.
Sean: It gives him a more dramatic look.
Todd C: You don’t know what’s underneath here. You never will.
Todd T: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome to be in this band?
Sean: It’s not as pinpointed. I can’t think of, “Oh, I flipped my mom off to be in the band,” or anything. I think I sacrificed progression in a money sense. I could have gone to school. I could have money and things like that. I’d rather be poor and live like shit and do what I love to do than be rich or even make a sufficient amount of money and be miserable at what I’m doing.
Casey: I had to blow all of my money on a van so we could tour.
Sean: [happily] Right on.
Todd C: There are only obstacles to do the band.
Sean: Sacrifice is probably a better world.
Todd C: There is nothing else that I could possibly do. I have a day job to bring in the rent and I love it and I love the people who work there, but what I really want to do is the label and, especially, the band first.
Sean: You have to subsidize. You get to be thirty—not that I’m thirty—you can’t help but feel pressure. You’re born of something. You’re not like some alien with some inhuman concepts of life. You’re going to feel pressures, no matter how stout you are in your beliefs. You go to Thanksgiving. “Why aren’t you married? Where are my grandkids?” “Mom, I’m not thirty yet.” Or, like, “Shit, man, I don’t have a DVD player.”
Todd C: I just got one. No pressures here. My parents are cool with me.
Sean: I’m inheriting a computer that has Windows 95 on it. Talk about slow. It was free, man.
Todd C: Everyone has pressures, but when you’re coming up to thirty. It’s a weird thing, but you’ve got to decimate before you get decimated. That’s it.
Sean:Pressure is what keeps everything in perspective. If everything was one-sided, where would you be? You have to weigh and balance your priorities and what means the most to you. It makes your endeavors more important. I’m not giving up, man.