Razorcake Podcast #65: With Jimmy Alvarado
Thanks for listening to this second half of a two-part podcast featuring punk bands from East L.A and other areas east of the Los Angeles River. This time things start off with some bands active in the mid-80s and ends with some current bands making the rounds.
As I mentioned in the notes to part one (which you can access by clicking the “podcasts” tab in that red box to the left of your screen, and selecting “Podcast #61”), the 40 East L.A./Southwest San Gabriel Valley bands showcased in these two podcasts solely represent what recordings I’ve either collected over the years or could get on short notice and should not be taken as a complete cataloguing of tracks by every band that has hailed from the area or used it as a home base. Rather, think of it as an introduction to a section of the Los Angeles punk scene that few outside of East L.A. have actually experienced, let alone knew existed. Contrary to what scholars and historians may say, East L.A. has been home to a consistently active scene for three decades now. There’s even a new club open, The Blvd. in BoyleHeights, which to my memory is the first consistent, bona fide punk club (not counting the East L.A. Warehouse) the area’s been home to since the Tropico in the early 1990s.
Again, I played a bit fast and loose with borders, and the track chronologies are occasionally fudged to give preference to rarities and better sounding recordings over adhering to precise release/recording order. The podcasts do follow a chronology of sorts, though, with bands mostly active during the mid-80s to the present making up this second installment. I would encourage East L.A. bands past and present to send their efforts c/o Razorcake for review and/or possible inclusion in future podcasts.
Much thanks to Joe Stumble, Mike Guerrero, Pat Houdek, Tito Lopez, Cyco Mike, and Rob PINs for contributing tracks to the podcasts, and to Todd and Daryl for being their badass selves.
Cascius Clay – Dirt Climber (Greatest Shits, Constant Noise)
The Thrusters: Hailing from Estrada Courts area of BoyleHeights, The Thrusters were blessed with the writing talents of their bassist/vocalist Mark (aka “Mousy”), whose songs were catchy and often downright funny. I remember them starting to make the rounds something around 1987 and though they aren’t as active as they were back then, they are still together, have been known to play an occasional gig and remain one my favorite local bands ever. I used to have a demo of the original lineup, which included Johnny “Boots” Rodriguez and the late Rod “Huero” Huerta on drums, but my copy was stolen and no one else appears to have managed to keep a copy. This track is from an early 90s demo featuring a couple of members of Misled in the lineup.
Anti-Social: The band’s core has always been brothers Charlie and Manny, the latter of which also played guitar for HCOT, Revolution 9 and Media Blitz, to name a few. Also formed around 1987/88, they originally called Montebello home but these days split time between there and San Jose. Still very much active and gigging all over the place, they have taken what was once a heavy Bad Religion influence and forged a rock solid sound all their own and are gaining much popularity these days.
Butt Acne: Okay, I’m a dumbass. In my zeal to make sure I kept my between-song spiels short, I inadvertently neglected to mention Butt Acne’s bassist/vocalist Scott Rodarte. Scott joined the lineup in 1986 and provided that certain je ne sais quoi the band had been missing prior. This track, a cover of a No Mind Asylum (see the previous podcast) tune, is from a thus-far unreleased “album” we recorded in 1998, albeit sans Scott, who was busy negotiating a merger between Butt Acne’s corporate wing and a leading company neck deep in the defense industry. He is now one half of the driving force behind powerhouse band, and Pogues worshippers, Ollin.
Last Round Up: Before LRU there was Side Effects (later American Side Effects to prevent their being confused for another band with the same name). They came from Whittier and could thrash it up with the best of ’em. When Side Effects broke up, some of the members soldiered on, recruited Dave (who also was the original singer for Media Blitz, who are a little later in this podcast) to handle the vocals and upped the intensity exponentially. Their bassist Mike moved up north and became Cyco Mike of Oppressed Logic/Retching Red fame. LRU shared bills with almost everyone before breaking up in the 1990s. They have been playing shows again in recent years, though, and still sound as heavy as ever.
Misled: Late 80s BoyleHeights hardcore at its finest here. I know of only two demos and both of them are stunners. Their guitarist and drummer both later played in the Thrusters, but this track, which comes from the demo they recorded at the legendary Casbah Studios in OrangeCounty, should serve as proof that these guys should’ve been massive. Their drummer “Furious George,” is one of the best drummers around, as this track illustrates, and in recent years has lent his talents to Media Blitz and La Bestia and has collaborated with Dave Lombardo of Slayer fame.
Chainsaw Blues: These guys started out around 1988 as the “punk” side to the band La Triste, but still managed to slip a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive” into their set. A year later, Shane heard his first Billy Childish record, took over guitar duties from Craig Tyron, drafted Raul “Ralph” Balcarcel and Plain Agony’s Tito Lopez to serve as the band’s new bassist and vocalist, respectively, and they became the house band of the then-new Pure Filth Magazine. “Supermarket Flirt” is from their first demo, recorded on a karaoke machine in a Highland Park garage around 1989/90. A year or two later, Tito was out, Brady Rifkin of Ink Disease fame was in and the name was changed to the Fingers. “Barracuda” was recorded by the kids in the Mummies for a split EP with Our Band Sucks that turned into a one-sided single on Pre-BS with a “laser etching” (translation: scrape the flipside with a nail) where OBS’ tracks were to be. Soon after, Brady was out, Ralph took the vocalist spot, Becky Minjarez became the bassist, then Becky was out, the band became a three-piece and moved up to the Bay area, where Shane and Jason joined the Rip Offs and became fabulously wealthy Tiger Beat pinup boy toys. Rumor was a while back that a fingers discography was in the making, but it has yet to materialize.
Loli and the Chones: Another band that, like the Fingers, is often mistakenly lumped in with the San Francisco trash rock scene, these kids from BoyleHeights released two singles and two albums of vitriolic punk rock before breaking up. Drummer Michelle went on to Bitchschool and the Pinkz, Chris went on to Bitchschool and the Fevers, and I have no idea what happened to Vince, who I last saw in a Marie Callenders restaurant in 1998 or so.
Our Band Sucks: El Monte’s OBS were, according to Shane White, the inspiration for him and Ralph to start Pure Filth. Their chaotic early live sets featured muumuu-clad band members showering audiences across the state with popcorn, Silly String, beer and shaving cream while singing songs about kids getting beaten at Pic ’n’ Save, Greg Brady, and shooting spitwads at the teacher. They released one EP on Nemesis Records and numerous demos, including Bunplugged, from which this ode to breakfast food was taken. They’ve broken up and reformed numerous times over the past 20 years and, though currently inactive, they keep threatening to reform yet again. Gabriel went on to play lead guitar in the Tumors and a number of other bands and is currently in Nothing Perfect; Bobby drums for the Coffin Draggers; Brett is a cop; Joel is an entrepreneur and Martin remains head of the band’s Mahfü religious cult.
Media Blitz: Formed in the late 80s by Thee Undertakers’ guitarist Tony “Fingers,” he has remained the only constant in the lineup over the course of its 20 year existence. They’ve released singles, EPs, full-lengths, demos and have been featured on numerous compilations over the years. This track comes from a late 90s demo that I believe was eventually released as an official full-length and features Beast (currently singing in La Bestia with Rudy from the Brat), George from Misled and bass stalwart Joe Blitz rounding out the lineup. Though live shows have been rare in recent years, the band is still together.
Fishhead: This half City Terrace, half Boyle Heights band melded blues, punk, death rock and whatever else they felt like throwing in the mix into a unique, often confrontational take on hardcore. Unfortunately, they never managed to parlay their popularity into bigger things and finally dissolved sometime in 1994. They recorded one demo and a few live tracks at a Highland Park 4th of July house party in 1994, including this tune, significant because a) they showed no shame in copping lyrics from the Teen Idles “Deadhead” to suit their purposes, b) the party in question was neck deep in deadheads, who weren’t too happy with them playing this tune, as I recall.
Union 13: Originally known simply as Union, these guys were deep into the’ 90s East L.A. backyard punk scene until Brett Gurewitz caught one of their sets and signed them to Epitaph. They have gone on to play all over the place and release four albums to date, with plans in the works for a fifth apparently to be released this year.
Teenage Rage/Crucial Justice/Opposition: Gotta admit that I don’t know all that much about these bands. What I do know is that they were all part of the 90s backyard scene, Teenage Rage released one album before breaking up earlier this decade, and Opposition appears to be still together and gigging regularly. The Crucial Justice and Opposition tracks are from the second Propaganda compilation F.O. Records released in the mid-90s.
AFU: Another band I don’t know much about other than that they were active in the San Gabriel Valley in the mid-90s, briefly featured Circle One’s Mike Vallejo on guitar, and their drummer went on to play with Dr. Know.
Blues Experiment: By the mid-‘90s, many who were part of the ‘80s East L.A. punk scene began incorporating musical and cultural influences into their repertoire, keeping punk’s attitude and DIY ethic while experimenting in a number of outside styles. Bands like Bloodcum, Tormentor, Butt Acne, Plain Agony, The Republic, and No Church on Sunday gave rise to Ollin, Quinto Sol, Quetzal, Ozomatli, Slowrider and many other bands that ended up being lumped into a new pigeonhole, “Chicano Groove.” Blues Experiment was one such band (Robert from Bloodcum, Ralo from Tormentor and Billy Branch from TrashCanSchool were amongst its ranks), a band that cast a wide stylistic net and featured Gus Avina’s fine vocals, but wasn’t above throwing a thrasher or two into the set. “Carnival,” from the Sociedad=Suciedad compilation, is a tune where the punk influence is a bit more obvious.
Tumors: Members of Butt Acne, Fishhead, Our Band Sucks, Media Blitz, Circle One and others made their way through this band over the course of its five-year existence. This track is from the band’s second demo, recorded in early 1999 by the last lineup, with Eric on drums, No Church on Sunday’s vocalist Art Muñoz on bass and me on vocals/guitar.
Cascius Clay: Circle One’s Mike Vallejo and his partner Mando ran a rehearsal/recording studio in the mid/late-‘90s. Cascius Clay, for whom Mando played drums, was the studio’s de facto house band, serving up sludgy, addled punk that one either loved or hated, and there was no shortage of folks in either of those camps. They released one CD, Greatest Shits, and contributed tracks to some compilations before breaking up sometime around the turn of the century. Guitarist Frank is currently half of the duo that makes up the noise band Gort, and I have no idea what happened to the rest of the guys.
SMD: Dunno too much about these guys, but I believe they started out in the Pico Rivera area, have been together at the very least a decade, have released a couple of albums and some comp tracks and are still very much an active part of the local scene. The track here is from their most recent album on Six Weeks.
Sahua: Sahua is the latest musical project by Tito Lopez, who previously was a member of Plain Agony, Chainsaw Blues, The Kind and Ollin, in addition to helming the respected community hub Café Luna Tierra Sol. The only other constant in the lineup has been Tito’s son Michael, who handles lead guitar duties, and members from a number of other East L.A. punk bands have done time in the band’s lineup as well. Firmly rooted in punk both musically and lyrically, they are not afraid to draw from other influences and make pointed statements about the state of American culture. They’ve release one EP so far, with a full-length expected sometime later this year.
The P.I.N.s/The Runts: Two newer bands – from City Terrace and Highland Park, respectively – included here to represent the latest crop of East L.A. punk bands raising a ruckus in backyards and clubs across the county. As evidenced by their tunes here, the current incarnation of the scene has no shortage of the same enthusiasm, rage, attitude and humor that preceding generations tapped into time and again. Those interested in learning more about the current East L.A. punk scene would do well to start with these two bands’ myspace pages, as they are playing constantly, and progress from there.