Gross Polluter interview by Todd Taylor and Sean Carswell

Gross Polluter, OC Punk

Southern California’s history is propped up on beautiful lies and seduction. There are powerful industries based on the promise of shiny things and the delivery of something much more rotted out and bloodstained. Quaint beach communities—to the touristic eye—are sunshine, palm trees, tans, and carefree living. Like a tooth rotting with cavities but veneered by an unscrupulous dentist, real trouble isn’t immediately noticeable. It takes awhile to notice the core damage taking root, infecting the bloodstream.

The sun is cancer. Almost every palm tree is an invasive species that provides no shade. Hundreds of thousands of homes were precariously financed on adjustable rate mortgages. Slum mansions. Racially restrictive covenants. Hep C-infected waves. An ominous black ball flapping on a tattered yellow flag planted on a white, sandy beach.

I discovered Smogtown in 1996, shortly after moving to Los Angeles. They were as conspicuous as a surfer wearing a gasmask, even amongst their punk peers in the New Beach Alliance. Their first full length—a true punk classic—Führers of the New Wave, is a prophesy, a blazing, uncompromising concept album that served as my own personal sunglasses to see the skinless-alien They Live version of Southern California. Lead singer, Ray Chavez, Nostradamus’ed the next twenty-plus years. Shit’s fucked in suburbia. Kids are casualties. Adults struggle under incredible invisible weights of “security” and “comfort.” Façades overpower infrastructure. Domesticviolenceland. In other words, Smogtown’s predictions have come to pass. As a society, we’re far worse off for them being right. But for music fans—well—the music’s as potent as ever.

Then Smogtown dissolved—that’s covered in this interview—and through the exhaust haze of unspent fuel, Gross Polluter crept around the corner.

What happens when you look in a mirror and it no longer shows a drug-accelerated, youthful punk kid hell-bent on destroying suburbia, but a parent who sees the value in stability and a well-paying job? What happens when you’re the adult who got up early to take your kid to motocross on Saturday? What happens when your neighbor casually mentions today’s win is he didn’t blow his head off? What happens when you live in a neighborhood that’s so apolitical, when they talk of presidents, they’re talking of CEOs? What happens when a young fan of your old band with its logo painted on their leather jacket flips your SUV off? What happens when you see an alternative future in your best friend, when you drop him off at a homeless encampment? Those questions are all answered by Gross Polluter, a different beast of a band and an unexpected, welcome return to a landscape that looks so beautiful it hurts.

Introduction by Todd Taylor, Smog City Waver #92

Songs: “Sleepless City” and “Mastvr” from The People Get… What the People Get LP on GarageRock Records.