Eastside Punks Episode 3: Stains

For episode three of Eastside Punks, we turn our attention to East L.A.’s first, most notorious, punk band. Boyle Heights’ Stains were contemporaries, and friends, of Los Angeles first-wave bands Germs, X, Mau Maus, Screamers, and The Gears. Though they viewed themselves as apart from the more celebrated acts of East L.A.’s first punk wave, they were nonetheless the first; the band that members of The Brat, Thee Undertakers, and Los Illegals saw before those bands had gotten off the ground.

The Stains were heavy dudes from a heavy neighborhood who lived the punk ethos to various extremes and channeled that mayhem into songs and performances that were chaotic, wild, and self-destructive. Their infamy often shrouded the fact they were also accomplished musicians drawing from influences well outside of most punks’ frames of reference—Deep Purple, UFO, Andrés Segovia, flamenco—and filtering them into songs steeped in various psychoses and fascist fetish nightmares.

It might be hard to fathom just how revolutionary The Stains were in a modern era where everything is “extreme,” but the metal-punk hybrid sound they pioneered starting in 1977 proved a seminal influence on SST label mates Black Flag and predated by several years similar efforts by others, like Void, Suicidal Tendencies, Slayer, Metallica, and so on. Largely dismissed or outright written out of L.A.—and East L.A.—punk history, The Stains’ criminally out-of-print self-titled album still sounds as fresh and incendiary as it did upon its initial recording nearly forty years ago and continues to inspire Eastside punk bands several generations down.

Eastside Punks is a film series about Los Angeles’s other punk scene, one whose existence has developed parallel to, and occasionally intersected with, but remains largely marginalized from L.A.’s greater musical underground. Blending live footage and interviews with multiple generations of musicians, artists, writers, and scenesters, Eastside Punks taps into stories from the scene’s history: from its beginnings in East L.A.’s art and music underground of the 1970s to the rise and fall of its premier club, The Vex, and the bands that called it home; how its 1980s rebirth as a wholly underground scene based in backyards and advertised on flyers and traded cassette tapes led to the celebrated Chicano Groove music scene of the late 1990s; and how it remains a vibrant subculture where Chicano rasquachismo meets punk DIY to create one of the few remaining corners of punk’s true underground.