First off Stevo, I want to thank you a septic ton for consenting to do this here interview. In my mind you are one of the Godfather’s Humboldt punk, an unsung hero and an influence to generations that may not realize who the folks were in the beginning. Maybe this might enlighten people to that fact and also serve to glorify the incredible punk music that has been coming out of Humboldt for over 40 years. Hat’s off to you Sir!
So…Native or transplant to Humboldt…and why stick around, there’s a whole world out there? What makes Humboldt the wonderous place that it is?
I moved here in 1972 to go to college and never left. I got married in 1984 and had 2 kids, that made me want to stick around. And the mountains and rivers. I love to swim!
What led you to pick up an instrument in the first place, I mean man, the life of a musician is like no other…it becomes a part of you, determining who you are as a person? How quickly did you transition from being just a student of music to an active participant (in other words when did you go from noodling to creating your own sound)?
I was brought up in a musical household. My mother was a music major and played piano at our home. My two older Brothers were both playing guitar in their early teens. I started off playing bass when I was 13 years old, was a fan of the Beatles, so I’d try to copy what Paul was playing. got together with a couple of friends in High School forming my first band. It was a guitar, bass, and drums, with myself singing. It was the mid to late 1960’s and we played the popular rock music of the day. I met my good friend James Stratton around 1968 and started playing guitar with him. Right away we were playing our own music.
When did you first get into punk, who was spinning on your turntable in say ’76? Why were those bands on your turntable in the first place, what made them special?
I was into the popular rock ‘n; roll of the ’70s…and joined a top 40 cover band, It was “Frampton Comes Alive” that took me over the edge…I couldn’t stand it!!! I guess that’s when I went punk, probably 1979 or so. I started one of the first punk bands, “the Geeks” .there were just a few others. “Mycol and the Attitudes” from Humboldt State University, “Loreli and the Torpedos” from Manilla, And “the Uptights” from Scotia.
How do you look at yourself as an artist? Obviously, after this many years at it, it wasn’t a passing fad or something you dabbled in every now and again. And here all these years later you’re still playing in bands and suffering through the creative process? How do you approach that process and has it changed over the years?
I’ve always just taken the bare bones of a song into the bands I’ve belonged to. That’s my favorite part, hearing what my bandmates add. I’ve always kept it open to the other musicians interpretation.
I have been told a lot of second hand stories about early punk in Humboldt, but I would like to get it first hand from someone who was there. What band was the first band to fit that sort of loose definition of punk there or were there several that formed simultaneously? There’s got to be a story behind the events that led up to it…what was the impetus for something like that?
Well, when disco hit in the mid-’70s we all thought “It’s over.” For me, it was David Bowie and the Cars that came along to save rock n roll. Most of the people here in Humboldt were not ready for punk or the new wave. As a matter of fact, a lot of the musicians in town were saying, “you listen to Tom Petty and the Police? That’s Punk!” They also said, “Hey, you’re doing it wrong!” There was one club out in Blue Lake, “the Mad River Rose” whose owner( Ward Topping) liked punk. Wednesday night was punk night, he would book the few bands I mentioned above, and switch his glass beer mugs for plastic cup because the rowdy cowboys in the audience would throw their empty at the bands onstage.
What happened after that first spark? Did it explode or was it more of a slow progression?
I have witnessed the “scene” rising and falling over and over again. Very understandable being a College Town with students coming and going periodically. Also it has always been very DIY so that too would ebb and flow
Who were some of the other movers and shakers back then? What year would you say that was and when did it go from just playing parties to actual venues? What venues were brave enough to host a show? How early did KHSU become a factor in spreading the gospel, so to speak?
I’ve already mentioned several bands. In addition, there were some of Kevyn Dymonds early groups,” the Upstanding Members” “WaTT’SBaLDHEaD” “Barking Dogma”. Brian Ladd And Julie Frith”the Psyclones” The venues and parties seemed to happen simultaneously. I remember when I was a member of “the Yowling Zygotes” we’d get our gigs by seeing our name on a flyer somewhere around town, so we’d take notice and show up! KHSU was a huge boost to the movement! with many DJ’s playing punk and new wave. There was Vinny Devaney, Nan Rad, Beverly Hills, The Right Reverend Radio Franko, just to name a few.
By the time I got to Humboldt in ’87, it was thriving, lots of bands, venues and lots of people to listening. The variety of bands was amazing, much more than just punk and hardcore punk…I swore there was something in the water. Do you remember who you were playing with at that time? How did you feel about the “scene” as it was and how it has grown and evolved?
In 1987 my friend William Coleman, started “The Cow Persuaders” It was meant to be a one time gig for the Fortuna Rodeo Parade, A country music band with William, Peggy Martinez on vocals, Lisa Sharry on bass and myself on guitar. The response was overwhelming and the band kept going for almost a year, playing gigs at The Jambalaya in Arcata, And the Carlotta Hotel.
40+ years later, is there still punk in Humboldt or is it dead? Now, who’s spinning on your turntable?
40 years later, yes, I’d say there is still punk in Humboldt. There’s “the Monster Women” “Clean Girl & the Dirty Dishes” which is an offshoot from the Monster Women. There was the last band I was a member of, “Kids Play”. We were a 5 piece group ranging in ages from 23 to 68. Careyanna Adams on guitar and vocals 20 something years old, Spencer Kennedy lead guitar also 20 something, Frank Mancinelli on keys and myself on bass both of us representing the 68-year-olds, and a drummer in his 20’s that would like to remain anonymous.I’m sure there are others out there, but with the lockdowns and shelter in place, it’s tough to think of who they might be. As for my turntable, I just got it up and running again and am listening to a lot of 60’s British Invasion bands. The good old classics, Traffic, Cream, T.Rex you get the drift.
Not just the music, but how do you see the county in 2020, how has it changed?As for the state of the world, 2020-what a crazy year! Corona Virus has put a damper on almost everything. I still can’t believe that anyone in their right mind could possibly approve of tRump! That’s a nightmare in itself!!! And the racial tension is almost unbelievable. Haven’t we risen above that kind of stupidity?
Tell me about yourself, what makes you tick man, is there more to your life besides music?
I am also a visual artist, drawing, painting , sculpting. I’ve been making art my whole life. It comes through me rather. My older brother gets mad at me saying, “I have to go to my studio and work to produce. You fill cartons monthly with your drawings!” It’s very important to me to have the right people to play music with. It’s always a deeper relationship than just bandmates.
Are there any other old-timers (no offense intended) still around? I wouldn’t be surprised if you were still jamming with some of those folks…hahahah. Did/do you ever jam with Kevyn Dymond?
And yes some of us old-timers are still around. And as the saying goes “You’ll have to pry the guitar from my cold dead fingers, ’cause I ain’t givin’ up!” and “If it’s too loud, then you’re too old!” Kevyn Dymond’s MS has progressed to a point where he can no longer play which is a real drag, You know in my opinion he’s right up there alongside of Frank Zappa in regards to the sophistication of his music and the intelligence in his lyrics
I dare ya to try and list all the bands you have been in! Did any of them tour, how far away did you get? Any standouts (my personal fave is Yowling Xygotes)?
As for a list of bands I’ve been a part of…here goes: the Geeks, the Love Dolls, Sea Hags, Strangers with Candy, The Cow Persuaders, the Momewraths, Groovy Imbeciles, Widdershins, The Invisible Circus, Yowling Zygotes, Slackjaw, High Idols, Scotch Wiggly, Kids Play, I’m sure I’m forgetting a few.
In closing, any suggestions for the virtual folks out there? What have you learned after all this time…the wisdom of Stevo, please?
I’m not sure if I have any words of wisdom, let’s see…be sure you’re in tune!
Thanx again dude, it’s an honor to be able to interview you! And thanx for getting the ball rolling way back when and for all the music since (special thanx to Willburn Records and Charles Douglas for supporting Stevo in mis music, past and present, and putting the music out for folks)…
Below is a link to 115 (one song from each) “punk” bands from Humboldt that I have collected over the years, spanning at least 40. Big thanx to James Forbes, Jeff Langdon and most recently a cat named Nathan (can’t remember his last name).