One of my favorite bands from the 80’s cued up. A while back I posted a dubbed cassette (BF’s Loose Nuts was on the other side) with two of their Demos on it. Man, I played the hell out of that tape. Of the many tapes I had, it was one of probably ten that I played constantly. I was stoked when I put a cassette player in my ’74 VW bug…Screaming mid range and high end that was perfect for the hardcore of the era. As I said in that initial post, my old buddy Roy was the guy who introduced me to these guys. (I didn’t mention it before but, I’d go hang out at Roy’s a lot on the weekends when he lived in North Hollywood and less so when he moved to Brentwood. His step-Dad was this world renowned Japanese chef, they had a Japanese restaurant and it was funny because when he’d make us something to eat, it was always some very American thing like grilled cheese). Recently Shower Of Smegma released this S/T CD/LP which has music from all four of the demos they recorded. InterPunk , had this this write up about the band, “With a median age of 14, they played the L.A. / Hollywood club circuit in the early ’80’s with the likes of such great bands as D.R.I., Dr. Know, Entropy, Excel, Stukas Over Bedrock, Justice League, The Beer Nuts, Cycotic Youth, Balance of Terror and Armed Response, Neighborhood Watch. One of the first bands to Crossover Hardcore Punk with the dirge of Sabbath, and not get caught up in cheese-metal. None of them old enough to drive, their parents would drive them to the gigs. Raging, intense, full-throttle punk rock from the early 1980’s.” As I said, I played the hell of that tape I had way back when. I loved Eddie’s singing, I liked how the band was very hardcore punk and very metal at the same time. The lyrics hit the spot too (the fact that you could understand them was a bonus), I had them all memorized or at least thought I did…you know how a guy will make up words that they think they hear. In modern thinking this thing was definitely on repeat on the iPod!. So this new release hit me like a metric ton of bricks. Songs I had heard before but different versions and then tunes, with that same edge, that I had never heard before. The whole thing is edge of your seat madness from beginning to end. Like finding some long lost treasure.
There’s already downloads available for this thing, but the ones I could find were just the LP, and you get bonus tracks on the CD. This is the first and possibly the only time I recommend getting the CD over the LP, those bonus tracks are well worth it. Every tiny bit you can squeeze out of this band amounts to huge listening. You can get the LP or the CD from that InterPunk link above, but the place Ed suggested was from the label…Punk Records…and it’s dirt cheap.
Wanted to thank you for agreeing to do my first interview, for sending me this CD/LP that you just put out and most importantly for the hours and hours of listening pleasure I’ve gotten out of Shower of Smegma over the last (almost) 30 years.
Ed you’ve been involved in creating music for some time know, can you recall what it was that gave you that initial spark?
I’d say there are a couple really important moments that inspired me early on.
First, when I was about 11 I went to my cousin’s house for thanksgiving one year. He was 16 at the time. I walked into his room and it was magical. Posters of Kiss, David Bowie, The Stooges, Pink Floyd, Hendrix. It was the 70’s and he had his room completely decked out with rock posters and paraphernalia. Playboy magazine on the dresser next to his bong. When I entered his 16 year old lair it was like a dream. I was overwhelmed with all the imagery and atmosphere. I was a kid in a candy store. I didn’t understand what it all meant but I knew I needed it in my life. He threw on Kiss Alive and it was like a comic book coming to life. I looked at the back cover and saw the huge crowd and I was hooked. The next thing I knew I had a tennis racket in my hand and was playing air guitar. A new door had opened for me. Little did I know that in 1995, when I was on tour with No Use For A Name I would play to a sold out crowd at that same arena on the back of that record, Cobo Hall in Detroit. Standing on that stage in front of 13,000 people, I thought back to that thanksgiving day and looking at that album cover. It was an indescribable feeling.
Do you remember when you realized that music was going to be a part of your life forever?
I think when SOS played at the Cathay de Grande in Hollywood the first time in 1983. We had played other shows before, but not a “real” show at a club. None of us were old enough to drive, so my dad brought us and the gear to the show in his VW camper van. I felt like I had an identity and it was playing music. It wasn’t that I wanted to be a rockstar, it was that I could focus on doing something I loved and people knew me for that. I wasn’t really into team sports, not great in school, I got in trouble but nothing too serious. Music gave me a purpose. And that gig taught me that the more I put in, the more I got out of it. And that has stayed true.
What were the bands you were listening to around that time? What are you listening to now?
Around 11 or 12 I distinctly remember the first time hearing KISS, ACDC back in black, Led Zeppelin 4, Pink Floyd The Wall. Each of those were huge for me and left a mark in my psyche.
Then when i was about 13, my friend Jon Garrett came over one day and put on Black Flag Jealous Again EP and the Adolescents record. My mind was completely blown. We ended up blasting it and pushing each other around the room in our own 2 person slam pit.
I used to sneak my dads playboy and penthouse magazines, like any self respecting American boy should do, and one penthouse had an article called “Slamdancing in a fast city” I tore it out and read it. It was an exposé of the early punk scene in Hollywood with the reporter following and interviewing a kid called Mike Suicide, soon to be known as Mike Muir of the Suicidal Tendencies. It was a gritty article about the violence at gigs, the drugs, cops beating on people. My little pre pubescent mind was sucking it all in and wanted more.
At that time I had been taking guitar lessons and ironically my teacher broke both arms sparring tai quan do so I had to get a new teacher. I was learning fleet wood Mac and Tom petty songs and was starting to get bored. My new teacher was David Baerwald. He was kinda winging it and had very little structure, but he asked me the most important and simple question, “what songs do YOU want to learn?” Well, I handed him a mixed tape with Adolescents, FEAR and Black Flag. I thought he would laugh at me or tell me it was noise or bullshit or something. But he didn’t. He came back the next wee with a bunch of those songs written up in tablature and helped me learn them. Figuring out how to play those songs changed me. I was super inspired and worked hard to play them just right. Later that year he brought me to my first concert, X at the Roxy. Seeing Billy Zoom up there and slam dancing in the crowd was the most liberating experience a 12 year old could have.
Stuff I listen to now is all over the place. In my late teens and 20’s I really dove into reggae, jazz, experimental, hip hop, progressive rock, metal and lots of post punk like Fugazi, No Means No and the Jesus Lizard. Just all over the place. I’ve sort of settled into listening to a lot of 80’s punk again and really gotten back into Hendrix, Thin Lizzy, Bob Marley, Floyd and Beatles as I’m turning my kids on to music. I don’t like any electronic music at all, really. I never got into any DJ stuff or trip hop or whatever. I’m really drummer centric. If you don’t have a live drummer, fuck it. If you drummer sucks, fuck that too. The new stuff I like recently is A Wilhelm Scream. They basically have taken melodic hardcore punk and mixed it with iron maiden like guitar gnarliness and smashed it into math rock. Catchy but intricate music with crazy rhythms, great melodies, poetic lyrics and a heavy dose of ferocity.
Do you remember that first time you played live in front of an audience? What was gong through your head?
I think the first time was SOS at the palisades rec center. I was really nervous but we had been rehearsing all the time. I had it easy though, cuz being in a band with Daryle Goldfarb is amazing. People are just watching him play these leads and they can’t believe what is coming out of this little kid. Honestly Daryle at 13 ripped any guitarist twice his age. The kid was phenomenal. And not just technically either. He would strangle notes out of the guitar. Daryle taught me how to really step up my playing. If I messed up a bit on stage it didn’t matter, Daryle had the crowd. I think that is what made us a good band at the time. Neither me or him were trying to hog the spotlight. We knew when to let the other take center stage. We were a lot more musically intense than any other bands our age and we kinda knew it. We would love to be the opener at a gig, cuz nobody thought we would be good. Then we would explode through our set and the next band would have to try to match that and usually couldn’t.
You guys were way ahead of your time with your sound, punk/hardcore/metal all wrapped into one, what was behind that?
Jon turned us all on to Black Sabbath early on. He really dug that sound. Also other obscure more bluesy rock. Even shit like Ted Nugent and Black Oak Arkansas. Daryle was straight up into Queen and Van Halen. His guitar teacher was basically KLOS and KMET fm radio stations in LA. He would turn on a rock station and try to play along to whatever song was on. No judging it whether it was cool or not, just sheer musical knowledge. And he absorbed every note and nuance. I think Daryles heaviest influences on guitar were Eddie Van Halen, Jimmy Page, Brian May, with a touch of Hendrix. A perfect amalgamation of those guys through his own filter of expression.
We all liked punk, especially hard core like flag, 7 seconds, GBH, Adolescents, Social D, minor threat, etc, but we also liked heavy rock. The Sabbath and Van Halen guitar riffage mixed with punk just came naturally to us. It really reflected exactly who we were. Most hard core seemed stuck in its 3 chord monotony. That’s fine if you just like punk or aren’t that great at your instrument, but we liked to challenge ourselves musically. We got some shit for it too. Punk purists did not like our rock roll solos or metal riffage, but suicidal was the first crossover band to really stick there neck out and utilize some metal riff infused punk. The riffs and solos that Grant Estes ripped out on their first record were amazing. They made it ok and we embraced that fusion. Take the cool things from metal and toss the rest.
I can think of several, but can you give me a list of ALL the bands you’ve played in?
Gumby’s Buddies (1982)
SOS ( also known as Dead Zeppelin for our first gig) (1983-85)
Alter Drown (1986)
Linus On Fire (1988)
No Use For A Name (1994-1995)
Harken Kraks Howl (1998-2000)
I Want Out (2001-
I Don’t Wanna Hear It
Of the many demos you did what are you most proud of, or best represents your skills? Favorite song, then and now?
Oh. You are killing me. That’s tough.
I think the Alter Drown demo is my proudest moment. I don’t necessarily think it as a whole is great, but that was my first band where I played lead guitar and sang. And right after singing in SOS with Daryle on guitar, how do you match that? You don’t. You can’t. So, Alter Drown represents me showing my skills as a guitarist and main songwriter and I worked hard to get my guitar chops to be worth listening to compared to having just played with Daryle. Who I still think to this day is the greatest guitarist I’ve ever met in my life.
A close second would be Hedgehog – You Happy Face. That was the pinnacle of my skills as a guitarist, performer, songwriter and improvisation. Especially the song You Happy Face. It is a loose structure with really open parts for us to explore and improvise and the guys and I were so in tune with each other we could pick up on the slightest improvisation and communicate like you would have thought we were reading music off the page. That is the ultimate musical experience for me. But it wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t believe I could do it back with Alter Drown.
I think S.O.S. stands the test of time, what’s the response been like to the CD/LP?
Hasn’t gotten much response outside of a few fans and friends. I’d really like it to reach more people.
You guys were super young when you first started playing gigs, shit, your parents were giving you rides to you gigs, how did the scene treat you, like a bunch of kids or did they respect doing/what you were about?
We had a really great following after we played our first few gigs. Punks from the west side of LA, Venice, Hollywood, Mar Vista, Santa Monica really dug it and we made a lot of really great friends rather quickly. Many would travel from all parts of the city just to see us practice in Jon’s garage. I think some of the older punks didn’t like us, but the kids our age and a couple years older dug it. We had a real great group of new friends like Jaybird, RC, Pat Sweeney, Shane, Dan and Shawn from Excel. These guys would be front and center at every gig and got the crowd going.
Noticed that Phil Newman of Sin 34 helped you with one of your demos, any other guys in the scene that helped you out?
I don’t even remember how that came about, but that was our first time in an actual recording studio. To us we felt like rock stars. It was funny. Jon Nelson, the guitarist of Suicidal at the time saw us and offered to manage us. Basically just help us get a few higher profile gigs, which was great. Our first gig at the Cathay de Grande was set up by Excel (then called Chaotic Noise). They were absolutely the guys who made it really happen for us, supported us and encouraged people to come early to see us play with them. Also Entropy from Santa Monica had us on quite a few of their gigs and they were great guys and supportive. The one person who really got our name out there was Adam Bomb (Pat Hoed) legendary DJ of the Adam Bomb show midnights on KXLU. He invited us on his show, interviewed us live on air and played our songs on the radio. That was the pinnacle of my youth right there. I used to stay up and listen to Rodney on the Roq, but by ’83 his show was full of more new wave and cow punk stuff and less Flag and Adolescents. Adam Bomb was the place to go to hear the latest hardcore punk and being on his show was a dream come true.
The absolutely most influential person on the band’s punk rock tastes and personally the most influential person musically in my life is Nelson Cline, now paying lead guitar in Wilco, and an amazing artist in his own right. He was the Indy music buyer at Rhino Records store in Westwood. Our band and friends would take our allowance, grab our skateboards, ride the number 2 bus to Westwood on a Friday night and bomb the hill down Westwood blvd and Nels would have the 7″ and 12″ little punk section filled with the latest great American and English punk rock. We were the chirping little hungry birds and he fed us mouthfuls of the best punk rock vinyl there was. Rhino was like our church.
Other than being in the incredible band you were in, give us some of your greatest memories of being the punk scene back in the 1980’s.
1st gig. X, the Mutants at the Roxy. 1982 life changing.
2nd gig. Black Flag, Misfits, Vandals Santa Monica Civic, 1983
Misfits bassist Jerry Only smashed his bass on stage and threw it to the crowd. I caught the neck, held on to it and was immediately dog piled and pummeled. Left the gig without the bass but with blood and bruises and an awfully big smile.
3rd gig. Suicidal Tendencies, Descendents at the Vex in East LA.
Gnarly slam pit. Plenty of friends with me. The bands blew my mind completely.
SOS playing at the Cathay. I vaguely remember making out with my friends sister who was 18, I was 15. Then getting in an argument with the bassist of Neighborhood watch and at some point finding myself getting thrown down a flight of stairs.
All the many times walking or skateboarding and having jocks or burn outs ( we called them “greeners”) throw bottles, call us fags, tell us to get a haircut, or chase us down the street.
Being at the beach with friends and having Venice gang bangers beat the shit out if us.
Riots at any number of the larger gigs. Like the Exploited.
Toward the tail end of it there was a really remarkable gig at e federal building in Westwood in support of legalizing marijuana and Black Flag played an amazing set. I think it was the first time I saw them play slip it in, black coffee, and my ghetto. Henry was annihilating.
In high school, Dave Travis, our school president and good friend with SST invited Henry Rollins to do poetry at lunch on campus. It was in the drama classroom and I sat in a desk in the front. Henry started by standing with one foot on my desk and the other on my friends next to me and did his whole reading from there. That was amazing.
Rather than complain about the current state of punk rock, my question to you is: do you find it strange or maybe amusing how incredibly accepted punk is now?
Punk was the soundtrack to my adolescence. It raised me. It taught me things my parents couldn’t. It was honest with me when the world was a big lie. It allowed me to express myself without having to confirm to something. It wasn’t just music, it was an attitude. Now that it is just a genre of music to most, it makes sense it would become mainstream. Punk as a music form was always just chuck berry sped up and angry with more politics and nihilism. So the fact that the music is accepted now is understandable. Society is still as self centered, egotistical, profit driven, corrupt, hateful and disingenuous as it was then. In fact even more in some respects. The fact that the entire media was duped and duped the public into the Iraq war proves to me that the meaning behind punk rock still hasn’t hit the mainstream and its in the best interest of the corporate power structure that we continue to live in fear and mindlessly consume. It’s up to us old fucks that used punk to express ourselves when we were young and felt like we had nothing to lose to live those ideals we were spouting on about. It aint easy, but being true to yourself never is. That message has been sucked out of most punk today. It’s just a shell. But there are plenty of bands doing it for the right reasons. I’m just not a rebellious adolescent anymore, still passionate and angry at an unfair and corrupt culture, though.
So what’s going on for you now, music, family, etc.?
Got 2 great kids and a wonderful and beautiful wife. Being a father is the best thing in the world to me. I try hard to teach my kids to respect others, express themselves, try hard, follow their passions, seek the truth and not to fear the world. Trying to practice what I preach. I haven’t grown out of punk, I’m a teacher, mentor and protector of these kids. It’s a different role, but just as defiant as I was as a kid. I think and deal a lot with fairness as I raise my kids. And kinda realize that’s all anybody really wants from society. To be treated fair. I think maybe that’s all that punk was really angry about. That society, economics, politics, authority, school, you name it, was corrupt and unfair and we weren’t gonna fall in line and drink the koolaid. And as I look around today, there’s plenty of koolaid to go around, and plenty of people drinking it up. There’s that which we can affect and that which we have no control. I enjoy my life. Have fun with family and friends. Still play music. Raise my kids. And stay mindful of not falling in line too much and know when I’m putting the koolaid to my lips and know when to throw it on the ground.
What are the other guys from S.O.S. up to?
Jon Silverblatt is an attorney living in New York. In the last few years he has gotten back into playing drums and is currently in a band. He has a family and we stay in touch.
Daryle Goldfarb is living in Los Angeles, still playing guitar here and there and recently played a few gigs with his very first band The Draft
Along with members of The Inclined. He also has a family as well.
Sean Wheatley has a family and lives in Seattle. He and his wife run an event planning company doing Weddings and large events with Sean and his wife both DJing and performing music.
Steve Tounsand lives in Austin with his family.
Thanx again Ed!