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DS Interview: 75% of the Brokedowns on their Highly Anticipated 6th Full-Length, due out Jan. 20th on Red Scare

Sometimes referred to as Chicago’s best kept secret and other times called the funniest band on Red Scare, for all of us not currently living in Chicago, we know them simply as The Brokedowns. After officially closing the book on 2022 on a high note with a live show during the late hours of December […]

Sometimes referred to as Chicago’s best kept secret and other times called the funniest band on Red Scare, for all of us not currently living in Chicago, we know them simply as The Brokedowns. After officially closing the book on 2022 on a high note with a live show during the late hours of December 31, they claimed the honor of the last band of 2022 at Reggie’s Rock Club and rang in the New Year in style. Their 2023 is started off on an even higher note, however, with the release of the quartet’s 6th studio album titled “Maximum Khaki”, the band’s fourth release on Chicago label Red Scare.

Out of the gates, the group’s first single “Obey the Fumes” damn near knocks your fuckin’ teeth in. Lead guitarist Kris Megyery kicks the song off with a killer, in-your-face opening riff that sets an excellent tone for the next thirteen tracks of this quick, humorous, thought-provoking punk masterpiece.

In my opinion, this record is what a punk record should be. The songs are fast, both in tempo and duration, with only one track breaking the three-minute threshold (and even that comes in at an even three minutes). The release comes equipped with intriguing, chuckle-inducing song titles that, upon questioning with the band, have both deep and sincere subject matters. After listening from beginning to end and finding myself starting over, I fully understand the pride that these guys hold in their finished product.

“There’s nothing I really regret on [the record],” said Megyery. “At this point I’m usually like ‘Fuck it’s coming out in a few days, this sucks.’ But not with this one, that’s a good feeling to have.”

Keep scrolling for all kinds of cool stuff: music videos for “Obey the Fumes” (which coincidentally was done over a Zoom call as well) and “Samurai Sword Decontrol”, info for their record release show January 28th at the Burlington in Chicago, and the full Q&A with Eric, Kris and Mustafa. Cheers!

Header Photo by Meredith Goldberg

(Editor’s note: The following has been edited and condensed for clarity’s sake because a good chunk of this interview was just four guys shooting the shit.)

Dying Scene (Nathan Kernell NastyNate): So first off, congrats on the new record. I know it’s not technically out yet as of this intervew, but I’ve listened to it several times and I love it guys. How long has this been in the works, I know your last release 2018?

Kris Megyery (KM): Yeah I think we started recording in February but we did the bass tracking March 7th 2020. So pretty much we started recording right before the pandemic and then we finished it up like last summer.

So you started recording back in 2020, but are these songs a lot older than that?

Mustafa Daka (MD): I remember, Kris, we recorded for like a split or something and you were like hey while we are at it, let’s just like demo all these songs you had just shown us, so like there’s a kind of a real rough recording of all those songs like a year earlier so like 2019?

KM: Right yeah it was that Copyrights cover song for the Red Scare comp. And my idea was to try to record a whole album that we’ve never practiced once and I thought it would go awesome *laughs*. And we did, we recorded that Copyrights song and then we just like live recorded the whole album and I remember during the session being like ‘holy shit this is gonna work’, like we just did the whole album in like a couple hours. And then we got home and listened to it and we were like ‘oh this is a turkey’. *laughs* So we went back like a year later to perfect them.

So I always like to ask this with new releases, did you just kind of collect these songs over time after your last release or was it like ‘alright let’s write another record’ and you just sat down wrote songs and recorded?

KM: Yeah the way we operate as a band for at least the last 10 years since I’ve had kids is pretty much just like whoever writes a song, like me or John, we make demos with the song and then everyone kind of learns it from the demo, like we don’t “get in the lab” *laughs* or spend tons of time. Like this shit all goes really fast because it has to. So it wasn’t over time and we never do that over time. Usually like we don’t even think about recording anything until we have a chunk of songs. There’s never like we’re just knocking around one song like normal bands do. Normal bands are like ‘hey let’s work on this one song and it slowly grows’, where us it’s like we binge it all man*laughs*.

MD: I will say, it’s been funny that Kris, since you’ve had kids, you are real quick to just hit us with like a bunch of demos and some of it’s like a Casio drum kit and everything or sometimes it’s just like the drums that he’s got laying around that he micd up. But you’ll hear his kids all over it, so I think it’s awesome. Where you have kids that might kind of get in the way of your being able to write and record demos, Kris kind of just combines those two times together so it’s like ‘well I’m gonna hang out with these kids, they may as well get involved’ *laughs*.

KM: Where a normal person would be parenting, I’m demoing *laughs*.  

So does this record kind of have a theme, I know like with your last release you tackle like some of the thrills of living in the Midwest. Does this have any kind of main theme or does each song kind of have a different theme?

KM: Well a lot of our songs are like political in nature I guess. The last one was actually a lot more personal songs about like growing up and shit, and a lot of like bummer songs. The year we wrote that album like we had a bunch of people close to us die in like one short period of time, so that’s a bummer record for me. But this one is definitely more about just the cultural nightmare we’re all going through, living in our country and you know all that stuff, all that groovy shit.

Where’s the name of the record come from, Maximum Khaki?

KM: So the word khaki, I kept using as this like reference to just like the banality of evil, like bland evil, not referencing like the soldiers, but referencing the accountants who are making the atrocities happen. And when I would write a song I would have the word khaki written in there. It probably started from that Charlottesville rally you know where everyone was wearing khakis, probably stemmed from that. I think John brought it up, he’s like ‘there are like 6 songs where you mentioned khaki’. So khaki was used as a reference to just like bland cruelty. And we were going to call the record “Khaki Majesty” and right before we started making artwork for it the Slow Death from Minneapolis who we’re friends with announced their new album “Casual Majesty”.

MD: I think I told those dudes, I was like ‘you know we’ve got an album coming out called “khaki majesty”, but yeah not anymore’.

KM: I didn’t blame them or anything, but they definitely heard from our attorneys *laughs*.

MD: Yeah I don’t talk to those guys anymore *laughs*.

I know your artwork for the album always comes into question, what drew you to Ryan Duggan for this record cover?

KM: We love him. He did the album “Species Bender” and we love that record cover of ours. And we’ve always loved everything he does and he does with his artwork what I think we’re trying to do as a band, which is like be funny but not be overtly funny; be kind of very subtly funny. And he probably doesn’t want to be connected to us that way *laughs* But it just always makes me smile, always makes me giggle and always makes me think in a nonlinear way, so kind of a no brainer [to go with him]. He’s always been like doing posters and stuff like that around Chicago, and in the last 10-15 years he’s really developed a reputation. He’s got a really unique style.

So starting with “Obey the Fumes” that’s a kickass opener, that’s an awesome opener you guys put out. Walk me through kind of the meaning behind that because I know you said it was about breaking bad habits in one of the press releases, but can you dive in a little bit deeper maybe?

KM: Yeah, initially, like in my head what I see is like an 80s beer commercial where you’re working in a factory, you wipe your brow, you crack open a cool Coors. But in our like dystopian hellscape that we live in, it’s like glue. So you go to your job, and in this case the protagonist of this song goes to a job where he gets skull-fucked by demons every day, and he just wants to crack open a nice thing of glue and fuckin’ cut loose. But that’s the funny version, but it’s like about trying to break bad habits, specifically drinking, like negative drinking habits in a culture where it’s everywhere.

That was actually one of my favorite tracks off the record, do each of you guys have any favorites you’re excited for people to hear once it’s released on Friday?

MD: I love our samurai sword song, that’s probably one of my favorites and I think is the only song that I used to click track on for that whole album.

Eric Grossman (EG): I like that song yeah. “Cinnamon Kings” is probably a highlight for me.

KM: Yeah that song “Cinnamon King” is like our favorite probably. It’s only like 15 seconds long, but so much fun to play. Been playing it live for like three years, we love that one. I like it all, I think it all kind of moves really fast, it’s super short, it’s like our shortest record. It moves along pretty quick, there’s nothing I really regret on it and at this point I’m usually like ‘Fuck it’s coming out in a few days, this sucks’. But not with this one, that’s a good feeling to have.

Yeah I know guys that regret releases they put out because they do it in such a short amount of time, so I mean that’s a good feeling to have.

KM: I wanna warn the listeners, I may be wrong. You might hate this *laughs*, don’t take my word for it, I’m too closely attached to it to have a unbiased opinion.

So I gotta ask you then, some of these other titles are very intriguing. “Honk if You’re Horny” *laughs*?

KM: *laughs* Yeah real subtle.

Tell me about “Osama Van Halen.”

MD: It sounds funny to hear.

KM: It’s a real bummer, but it’s funny. But I was thinking about just like how you know Eddie Van Halen was an innovator, in a very creative way, but like Osama Bin Laden was also an innovator you know what I mean *laughs*, just in a different way. So like the chorus is about like a 4 minute mile because it took forever for people to run it, but once people ran a 4 minute mile like everybody was doing it. So once Eddie Van Halen fuckin’ busted out a power drill every jack off with a power drill could do that. But once someone does whatever fuckin’ atrocities in the newspaper every week, once you see that it makes it that much easier for the next dildo to do that.

That’s actually really cool, I wasn’t sure which direction you were gonna go with that *laughs*. So this is your 4th release over at Red Scare, I take it you’ve had a pretty good experience over there with Toby?

KM: Definitely yeah! Yeah he’s great.

MD: He sends me hoodies and shirts sometimes, and pens, it’s awesome.

EG: Lots of swag. Moose has to pay for them but he gets them *laughs*. When Moose orders it, he gets it.

MD: Sometimes I get $0.69 off and sometimes I get $4.20 off *laughs*.

So from what I’ve seen, the Chicago and Chicago suburbs, the whole scene is flourishing, makes me jealous down here because it just seems like you guys have stuff going on every night. What are some local bands that you guys want to name drop as influences or just bands you’re into?

MD: Wig, I love Wig. I love Permanent Residue, they’re fantastic. Salvation, of course Meat Wave is one of my favorite all time bands. Lollygagger‘s a great band, shit I could keep going. Oh, Avantist.

KM: I’m listening to that Stress Positions EP over and over again for the last couple weeks that’s fuckin’ kicking my head in. Obviously Meat Wave, all the bands Moose said, Wig. Yeah there’s a lot of good shit, there’s always good shit it’s the third largest city in America. Where are you at?

I’m down in Nashville.

KM: Oh yeah that’s not a place known for music *laughs*.

Speaking of locals, Deanna Belos, in “Corndog Sonnet” she named you guys. So when are you guys gonna the line “listen to Sincere Engineer” in one of your songs *laughs*.
MD: I don’t write lyrics

KM: It’s hard to work that in, I’ll figure it out. It’s a little lengthy. It’ll probably be in a super offensive song title, she’ll be like ‘hey thanks but no thanks’ *laughs*.

What about outside of Chicago, what kind of influences do you guys have?

KM: Well the obvious answer, everyone compares us to, collectively we all love Dillinger 4. That was like a huge influence for us. Fugazi’s like my favorite band of all time, that’s creeps in there a lot you know.

MD: Toys That Kill

That’s actually the one that you guys reminded me of on this last record, it’s actually in my notes for the interview *laughs*.

MD: I will absolutely rip off Toys That Kill. Jimmy will send me a text message for like whatever we put out and be like ‘oh I heard it’s great’ and I’ll be like ‘listen to this song, that’s the song I totally ripped you off’ *laughs*. I always am like thinking of Toys That Kill whenever I’m playing somehow, I just love love love those guys and I love their drums.

So your album release is on the 28th, where are you guys playing that?

EG: That’s at the Burlington, which is also pretty close to Moose.

MD: I like it because it’s pretty close to the practice spot so it’s like you just gotta pick up the gear, drive just a few blocks and go right back.

KM: Moose’s love for venues are all based on geography *laughs*.

You’re playing with Chinese Telephones, Dangerous Chairs and Permanent Residue, have you guys played with all those guys before?

KM: Chinese Telephones we haven’t played with in at least 10-12 years. And the other two bands we’ve never played with, but we’re friends with all of them. We wanted to play with bands we haven’t played with in at least a decade or never, but they’re all great super great and I’m super excited for all of them. I love them all.

What about your guy’s strict touring schedule? In one of your interviews you said out of town shows 3 a year, do you have those three out of town dates booked up yet or what’s the plan?

KM: There’s a bidding war going on, it’s like when a city hosts the Olympics because when we come to a town it brings a lot to the local economy *laughs*, the dispensaries.

MD: No we haven’t booked anything yet out of town, but we’re gonna definitely play a lot more this year hopefully. We might do as many as four shows out of town *laughs*.

EG: Yeah maybe. We’re talking about maybe.

So when did you guys form, I’ve seen a few different dates, but I’ve come up with 2002?

EG: What you define as the band as it is today was 2002 yeah. John and I have been playing together for a really long time, way before that probably ‘96 or ’97, somewhere around there. I mean we weren’t really serious about it and the band that you see today was 2002. I think that was when we first played with you Moose, right?

MD: Right, I used to watch you guys from like ‘96 and then in 2002 is when I joined the band, holy shit *laughs*.

KM: Yeah we should have changed our name when Moose joined because I feel like it all became kind of different.

MD: But I saw the first Brokedowns show, I wasn’t in the band but I think John was fourteen I was 18

EG: Yeah I think I had just joined the band at that point. I don’t know if I even played that one maybe I wasn’t in yet.

KM: But John was like a fuckin’ 7th grader *laughs*.

MD: I have a DVD that my friend’s uncle sent me and it has the Brokedowns playing like before you and I were in the band Kris. I think it was Taylors last show in the band. Kris and I weren’t even in the band at the time, Eric was but …

KM: Today those are referred to as the who gives a shit years *laughs*.

I’ve talked to a lot of guys who have either quit music or stopped for an extended period of time after doing it for so long, and I mean you guys have been at this for a while and I mean, based on the new record, it doesn’t seem like you guys are slowing down. What’s kept you guys going?

KM: We’re all very close friends and we don’t do much and even when like we were young, the band was never like the top priority. And because it’s never been the top priority, we’ve never had to like really sacrifice. It’s created a very low pressure situation you know.

MD: I always said it was like fishing buddies, but we play music together instead. It’s like when we lived together, sometimes our Fridays are Saturdays would be just going into like Kris’s garage or whatever and just playing for hours, get drunk in the process and sweat it out right.

KM: It’s just as simple as like if someone doesn’t want to do something, we don’t do it. And then the three people that did wanna do it just quietly resent them behind their back *laughs* and we vent to each other about how terrible that person.

MD: It’s always Kris, we always hate Kris.

KM: That’s funny because I always hate you *laughs*.

MD: Oh shit that’s so funny because I hate you even *laughs*.

KM: Honestly though, 21 years, like the band is old enough to legally drink now and I can’t think of an actual fight, like a single one.

EG: I don’t think so, no.

MD: Maybe something I did, probably. If we fought, it had to have been about something I wanted to do or didn’t wanna do.

KM: I love that false modesty there *laughs*.

So you guys have been referred to as the funniest guys on red scare, who’s second, who’s coming for your title right now? I saw Sam Russo a few months ago and that dude was pretty funny.

KM: Wow. We would never say we’re the funniest. Brendan Kelly is obviously insanely funny. The Copyrights are really funny, they’re super funny.

MD: Like personally those guys are funny as hell.

KM: They refer to movies as Kilmers and books as Grishams; every book’s a Grisham and every movie’s a Kilmer, that’s a good bit *laughs*. I love that bit.

Okay, last question here. I know the record’s not even out yet, but do you guys have any other upcoming plans far future maybe? I know you’re kind of known for doing splits, do you have any of those planned for the coming future?

EG: Not really, we don’t have anything planned. Got a bunch of stuff demoed.

MD: I was gonna say Kris already sent us demos for whatever we’re gonna do next, it’s probably gonna be a split.

Any bands that come to mind for doing splits?

KM: We were supposed to do one with Canadian Rifle actually, so probably them. But they recorded their songs and we never recorded ours *laughs*. So we blew that one. But there was a pandemic, in case you didn’t notice *laughs*.

Well that about wraps everything up, I really appreciate you guys taking some time and sitting down with me. Once again, congrats on the new record and good luck with the album release on the 28th.


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DS Interview: Chris Estrada on growing up punk in South Central, “This Fool,” the Punk Rock Museum and more!

I’m not what you would call a “Big TV Guy.” If I’m being honest, I could count all of the combined episodes of cultural landmark shows like Game Of Thrones and The Sopranos and Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul and The Big Bang Theory and CSI that I’ve ever seen on one hand and […]

I’m not what you would call a “Big TV Guy.” If I’m being honest, I could count all of the combined episodes of cultural landmark shows like Game Of Thrones and The Sopranos and Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul and The Big Bang Theory and CSI that I’ve ever seen on one hand and still have a majority of my fingers left over. Sure I’ll watch baseball nightly and the occasional West Coast NHL or NBA game in the MLB offseason. But otherwise, aside from absurdist-but-grounded-in-reality comedies like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, it takes a lot to get me to care about a TV show and so the remote is better served in someone else’s hands.

And so maybe a year-and-a-half ago, probably while waiting for yet another rewatching of Letterkenny, the Hulu default screen showed the trailer for an upcoming show called This Fool. There was a graffiti tag of something called “Hugs Not Thugs,” followed by a slow pan across a group of tough-looking, face-tatted Latino guys sitting in front of a wall sign that said the same. There was Michael Imperioli lecturing the group about regaining their lives over a breathy soundtrack that I think was Enya but might have been Sade, I’m not sure. There was yoga and there was a clean-cut counselor-type informing a mustachioed ex-con about legal counseling and rehabilitation and job development courses and dental insurance plans, and so of course this was the makings of yet another feel-good docuseries. And then the mustachioed fella asked the counselor fella why, if he had dental insurance, were his teeth still fucked up. From there, the true nature of the series was revealed. 

For the uninitiated, This Fool centers itself on the life of the aforementioned counselor-type – portrayed by comedian Chris Estrada – and his life in and around Los Angeles’ hardscrabble South Central neighborhood. Estrada’s character, Julio, works at the ex-offender rehabilitation program Hugs Not Thugs under the tutelage of flawed white savior Imperioli, where one of the “thugs” is none other than Julio’s cousin Luis (portrayed here in pitch-perfect fashion by Estrada’s friend and fellow comic Frankie Quinones), who was fresh out of an eight-year stint in prison. It’s brilliant and funny and it’s done with a sense of heart and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s also somehow both absurd and super real, both of which I can attest to as someone who spent many years working in a correctional reentry-type program in an overwhelmingly Latino community, albeit with 100% less cupcake. 

Oh, and did I mention it’s funny? I did, right? Because it’s hilarious. In addition to occupying the starring role, Chris Estrada – a standup comic for the last decade – also serves as creator and writer, loosely inspiring the narrative arc after his own life and upbringing. Why am I telling you all of this on a punk rock website, you might ask? Astute observers of This Fool will notice that Estrada’s Julio character doesn’t seem to be a follower of the hip-hop culture that his neighborhood has so long symbolized. Instead, as evidenced by his wardrobe, it seems Julio is a bit of a punk. It’s evidenced not in cheesy, over-the-top, too-pristine-to-be-real placement of a Green Day or Good Charlotte poster. Instead it’s his wardrobe, with subtle nods to Strummer and Television and Love And Rockets and wait, was that a Channel 3 shirt? Yeah, that was a Channel 3 shirt. Holy cow.

And so it’s no surprise that Estrada himself is a punk rock fan. Like, a HUGE punk rock fan. While he’s never played an instrument or sang in a punk band or put on underground shows, Estrada has lived and breathed punk rock since his formative years. He’s a huge enough fan that next month, he’s hosting not only a weekend of tours at the critically-acclaimed Punk Rock Museum in Las Vegas, but a comedy show (featuring Fat Mike!?!?) and a screening of a few episodes of This Fool. He’s a huge enough punk fan that visiting Ian MacKaye and the Dischord House on a trip to DC was as at least as monumental an experience as his first appearance on Jimmy Kimmel. Yes, really. 

I caught up with Estrada over Zoom last weekend for a lengthy and far-ranging conversation and almost immediately found in him a kindred spirit, inspired and informed by the very ethos and music and words that influenced my own upbringing, despite our growing up not only more than 3000 miles apart as the crow flies, but in cultures that, in some ways, could not be more polar opposite. Estrada was a first-generation immigrant from a non-native-English-speaking family, whereas…well let’s just say that the Stones departed England 388 years ago bound for the greater Boston area and, yeah, we’re still there. 

Photo of Chris Estrada in a Los Angeles-themed tee shirt. He's standing in front of a pink background. Photo taken by Mindy Tucker.

If you were alive and aware in the 1990s, you’re not doubt familiar with Estrada’s old stomping grounds of South Central and Inglewood not as synonymous with punk rock but with hip-hop and, unfortunately, of gang violence. The community was largely African-American and had been for generations, through was also seeing an influx of first-generation Mexican and Central American immigrants. And while the music and the rhythms sounded different, Estrada points out the similarities in the overlapping themes contained within punk rock and hip-hop. “For a lot of Latino kids growing up in LA, if they’re first-generation immigrants, I think there’s this weird thing of trying to find yourself, so you don’t want to love your parents’ music, because you’re trying to assimilate. And then, at the time, rap felt like something that was for and by black kids, and so you’re kinda looking for your own thing. For me, I found punk rock.” He adds “what’s funny is that the way that rap music and hip-hop spoke to them and their anger, I felt like punk rock did the same thing for me.”

Like many others who found entry to the punk rock community in the mid-90s was through the two-headed beast that was the “EpiFat” sound. “It was the tail end of the compilation era,” Estrada explains. “I remember Punk-O-Rama volumes 1 and 2 were really big for me.” It was also the days when FM radio A) still existed in a meaningful sense and B) still played punk and underground music, especially in Los Angeles. “The big radio station out here, KROQ, had Rodney On the ROQ on Saturday or Sunday nights, and he was a guy who broke the LA punk scene – The Germs, The Adolescents, The Screamers, he played the Ramones early on. And by the time I was listening to him, he would still play those bands and newer bands. That was definitely an entry point for me.

As you might imagine, Estrada was a bit of an outlier growing up a punk rock kid in South Central and, later, Inglewood. “I could be playing The Clash or whatever on my headphones, but if I took them off, I could hear people playing hip-hop or people playing Mexican music or Central American music. There was always a sense that all of that music was always around me informing me, you know?” Estrada explains. I’ve said a few times on these pages that at my high school, despite being one of the largest in New England at the time I was going there, there were only a handful of kids in each grade who were really “punk rock kids.” For Estrada, it was no different. “I went to high school in Inglewood, and I think if you lined us all up, there were maybe like 20 kids? Maybe?

Little-by-slow, however, the scene would grow, though in a metropolis as sprawling and diverse as the City Of Angels, this meant different scenes comprised of different cross-sections of participants. “There were two types of scenes, really,” states Estrada. “If you went to go see a show in Hollywood, where a bigger band was playing, there would be a few Latinos there, but not a lot. But if you saw a local show in South Central or in Inglewood or in Compton, it was mostly Latinos with a few black kids there. I remember going to see NOFX very early on. I was like fourteen. There were a couple Latino kids there, but it was mostly white. Maybe a few black kids or Asian kids sprinkled in. But it wasn’t really until a lot of garage punk bands started popping up that it started becoming a thing.

Even though he didn’t play in a band or contribute to the scene in that manner, Estrada carried the flag for punk rock in a meaningful way. “I really loved it and I was just a nerd about it,” he explains. “Getting into Japanese stuff and all that. I literally got a job pretty early on just to buy CDs, you know? I saved up and bought a record and started buying 12-inches and 7-inches.” That behavior carried through the years, even when regular show-going took a backseat to working two or three jobs in order to afford to eventually live on his own. “It was also tough though because as I was getting older, and as I was having to pay rent and have more stability, it seemed like the scene was flourishing more. I wasn’t necessarily a participant in it, but I was definitely an advocate of it. I felt so excited by it, and if I had a chance I would go see shows. Or I’d go buy a 7-inch or find the band on Bandcamp. So as I got older, I wasn’t there at every show, but I was just so excited that I could advocate for it.” 

As time progressed, Estrada felt stuck in the rut of working regular jobs – labor jobs and warehouse jobs and the like. “I was really vicariously living through musicians, seeing these men and women doing whatever they wanted and taking their lives into their own hands,” he states. “I was miserable that I couldn’t do that, and that I wasn’t doing that.” And so eventually that brought a dedication to trying something different; stand-up comedy. And while that didn’t involve punk rock in a musical sense, it certainly involved a punk rock ethos and work ethic. “I remember that I saw that Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo…and I was so inspired by that. I said ‘I’ve just gotta do what they did’.”

Estrada began his comedy career as many do; on the open mic circuit. “I remember my first open mic, I had a really good set, and then my second mic, I bombed my dick off. It was humiliating, but at the same time, I knew when I said ‘okay, I’ll try it again tomorrow,’ that I could get over it. That actually made me feel more like a comic than having a good set.” One set a night turned into two and three and four sets a night, sometimes spread out across the city. Again, the roots found themselves in punk rock. “Like, if you read Get In The Van, the (Henry) Rollins book, Black Flag would constantly practice. So I started viewing my practice as getting up at open mics two or three or four times a night if I could. It was really cool to apply that; that this was my version of it, so I would apply that Minutemen/We Jam Econo work ethic to it.”

The more he kept honing his craft, the more he realized he was part of his own version of a punk rock scene. “I remember when I started doing comedy,” he states, “there was a scene there, and I felt excited because I found my version of punk rock to actively participate in. So then I started going to shows and doing open mics and hosting open mics and throwing shows and really being part of the scene. It felt really exciting.

The story of how, after a decade or so of plying his wares in standup while working at least one day job, Estrada got the seemingly unlikely call that someone was interested in him writing and starring in a TV show based on his life has been told other places so we don’t have to rehash it here. It involves the guys that created the Comedy Central show Corporate and eventually fellow unsuspecting punk rock aficionado Fred Armisen and then eventually Hulu. And as I mentioned above, even though (or maybe because?) the show is loosely based on his life, Estrada made it a point to make nods to his punk rock roots. “I just wanted to casually put punk stuff in there without being try-hardy about it and not making it a big deal,” he explains. “My character in the show casually just wears punk rock shirts; not every episode, but you try to make it in a way that it counts when you do it…I think that sometimes you do those things and it feels forced, you know?” In addition to the visual nods, the show’s soundtrack pays constant homage to the more underground bands that inspired Estrada’s upbringing. “We got music from bands that I knew in LA. Latino punk rock bands, like this band called Generacion Suicida from South Central Los Angeles. This other band called Tozcos, we used some of their music. We also used like a D.O.A. song, so we try to mix it up.” 

I can’t find who made this, but I think it rules. The featured image above of Chris on a couch is by Jakob Layman. The image of Chris in the LA RESPECT shirt is by Mindy Tucker. The picture of Chris in the Love & Rockets shirt is by Mandee Johnson.

There’s no official word on a Season Three of This Fool yet; get your shit together, Hulu! If/when it does officially find its release, it’ll no doubt be as funny and pitch-perfect and full of punk rock Easter eggs as ever. Maybe we’ll even see a Dying Scene shirt. Wait…that’s actually a good idea…we should send Chris a Dying Scene shirt! In the meantime, you can check Chris out at the Punk Rock Museum next month (12/15 – 12/17) and you can especially keep scrolling and read our full chat, where we bond over mutual admiration for Ian MacKaye and Joe Strummer and Mike Watt and about how punk rock is about more than just fashion and so much more.

The conversation below has been edited and condensed for content and clarity. Yes, really.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): I was just looking at my list. I’m closing in on 200 interviews that I’ve done over the years, and I’m pretty sure this is the first one I’ve done with someone known more for acting and comedy than for music. So this is pretty awesome!

Chris Estrada: Yeah, I’m not even a musician, I just love punk! (*both laugh*)

And you never were, huh? Never played in bands in high school or whatever?

Nope, nothing. I don’t know how to play a lick of an instrument. Never sang, never anything. I just loved it. When I started getting into punk, I had no inkling to want to play. I just loved watching it. I wanted to be an observer and to participate in whatever way I could, whether that was by going to shows and buying albums and things like that. I just loved it. Sometimes I think that I should have participated more. Maybe what I did was enough, I don’t know. I just love it. 

Yeah, but you carry the flag for it, and we need that. That’s ultimately what I do. I don’t play guitar outside my dining room most of the time – I think much to my wife’s chagrin because I probably have too many guitars for somebody who doesn’t play guitar – but we need people carrying the flag; taking pictures, telling stories, so that people know that the scene is more than just Green Day and The Offspring. Those bands were awesome, and they were a lot of people’s entry points to punk rock, but the scene is so much bigger and more diverse than that. 

Yeah! I have a show and in the show, I just wanted to casually put punk stuff in there without being try-hardy about it and not making it a big deal. My character in the show casually just wears punk rock shirts; not every episode, but you try to make it in a way that it counts when you do it. It’s not a thing that we make a big deal out of, we just kind of let it be. I think that sometimes you do those things and it feels forced, you know? But I also like to wear band shirts of bands that I like, and who I grew up loving, and contemporary bands. On the show, we got music from bands that I knew in LA. Latino punk rock bands, like this band called Generacion Suicida from South Central Los Angeles. This other band called Tozcos, we used some of their music. We also used like a D.O.A. song, so we try to mix it up. 

Let’s not gloss something over; you said you have “a show” – your show is amazing. 

Oh thank you, man!

I love This Fool. My wife and I binged both seasons when they came out.

That really means a lot, thank you!

It’s different, it’s honest, it’s funny. It’s done with heart, but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously. You mentioned the ‘try-hard’ thing before; there are a lot of boxes in the show that you could check that could be try-hardy if you didn’t get them right. The fact that you base it in your neighborhood, South Central, there’s your culture, there’s the music tie-in…it could seem like it’s checking boxes, but it’s so real and it’s so authentic and relatable and I say that as somebody who is obviously from the complete opposite side of the country in every way you could be. 

Thanks so much, man. That really means a lot. I just try to make it feel really casual. In my mind, when I was growing up, it was a big deal to me but…I think when you grow up in certain areas and maybe a lot of people aren’t into what you’re into, you kinda learn how to just be friends with anybody.


So you might throw on a Clash t-shirt or a Spazz t-shirt or whatever and some of the people in your neighborhood are like “oh, that’s what he’s into” and you find other ways to relate to them, you know?

You grew up rather famously in South Central, and Inglewood, and you were doing so in a time – the 90s – where that neighborhood and that part of the world were in the midst of being memorialized in history through hip-hop. 

Yeah, totally!

It was sort of ground zero for “gangsta rap” as the media referred to it. But that area and that scene were right in the middle of this cultural moment. What was your experience growing up through that time? I grew up in New Hampshire listening to all of that music – in addition to punk rock – but what was your experience actually growing up there?

My experience is that it was very working class. There was a lot of gang violence in LA. I know there still is, but at that time, it felt very big. But it was definitely very working class. It’s kind of interesting to me because the world was very black and Latino to me. That part of the city is a historically black neighborhood, and then you started getting a bigger Latino population and at some point, it was more of a 50/50 split. My experience was knowing the world as a very black and Latino place, and sometimes there’s racial tension, sometimes there’s gang tension. Sometimes there’s not, though, you know? Sometimes it’s not that sensational, and it’s just as mundane as any other neighborhood. But then sometimes there’s a lot of shit going on, like NO other neighborhoods, you know? So it was interesting in that sense. I always used to say that I grew up liking hip-hop, but the thing I gravitated toward passionately was punk rock. I illustrate it like I could be playing The Clash or whatever on my headphones, but if I took them off, I could hear people playing hip-hop or people playing Mexican music or Central American music. There was always a sense that all of that music was always around me informing me, you know? And trying to be a square kid, you know? I wasn’t a cool kid, I wasn’t a nerdy kid, you know? I was more of a stoner kid. I liked smoking weed and listening to records. And listening to punk, there weren’t that many of us, you know? 

I was going to ask that…how big a punk rock community was there in South Central?

There was a handful at the time. I went to high school in Inglewood, and I think if you lined us all up, there were maybe like 20 kids? Maybe?

How big a high school are we talking about?

Maybe 2000? So there were always a handful of (punk rock) kids throughout the different grades. Some of us were friendly with each other. Some of us were tighter with each other. I remember there was this punk rock kid who got his ass kicked by some gang members because they didn’t like it. They didn’t like that he had piercings and he had green hair. It probably didn’t feel masculine to them or something, you know? And because there was racial tension, we had race riots sometimes at our high school. But what’s funny is that the way that rap music and hip-hop spoke to them and their anger, I felt like punk rock did the same thing for me. And I remember when I was in high school, I found out that there was a powerviolence band from Inglewood. 

Oh really?

Yeah, Despise You. It was a big deal to find out that they were from Inglewood. At the time, it was probably a little weird. Sometimes you might be mocked for liking that kind of music, people would call it “white boy music” or whatever. But you had to stand your ground, you know, and say like “Rage Against The Machine is diverse,” or “what about Bad Brains?!” or you’d find out that like Chavo from Black Flag was Puerto Rican. I think finding those people in the scene helped you realize, okay, this is for everyone. 

Of the twenty kids at your school who listened to punk rock, how diverse was that crew?

Majority Latino. I’m sure there’s a lot more black kids now who are into rock music and into punk, but back then it was a majority Latino. I think for a lot of Latino kids growing up in LA, if they’re first-generation immigrants, I think there’s this weird thing of trying to find yourself, so you don’t want to love your parents’ music, because you’re trying to assimilate. And then, at the time, rap felt like something that was for and by black kids, and so you’re kinda looking for your own thing. For me, I found punk rock, and even if I was listening to English bands, I don’t know that I necessarily thought about it as white (music), but it was the emotion of it that I really gravitated towards, you know?

Who was your entry point? Who was your first band that made you go “oh, this isn’t just cool music, this is who I am and what I am”? 

You know what? It was the tail end of the compilation era. I remember Punk-O-Rama volumes 1 and 2 were really big for me. That mid-to-late 90s Epitaph/Fat Wreck Chords sound was an entry point for me. I was also listening to the big radio station out here, KROQ. They had Rodney On the ROQ on Saturday or Sunday nights, and he was a guy who broke the LA punk scene – The Germs, The Adolescents, The Screamers, he played the Ramones early on. And by the time I was listening to him, he would still play those bands and newer bands. That was definitely an entry point for me. But when I listened to that Punk-O-Rama, I remember the weirder stuff standing out to me. Like, I remember The Cramps were on one of those Punk-O-Rama comps, and I was really taken back by them. Even stuff that was like maybe not the traditional Epitaph sound, like DFL. They had a song on there, and they sounded like an 80s hardcore band. Things that sounded a little different, like “Coffee Mug” by the Descendents was on one of them, and that really informed me. And obviously things like Rancid and Social Distortion. And then I started digging deeper. And The Clash. They were a big deal for me, and still are. 

Oh for sure. I am a couple years older than you, I think, but I think for our generation, Joe Strummer has become almost a mythical person. I think he and The Clash are probably more important now than they were in 1983 or whatever. I certainly think they’re more important to me now than they ever have been. I never saw The Clash – I was six when they broke up or whatever, but they’re more important to me in my early 40s than they were even when I was in my 20s.

They really informed me so much. When I was 15, a buddy played an album for me, and I remember listening to “Janie Jones,” and “White Riot” and “Complete Control” and all that stuff and I was completely blown away. And I remember as I got more into them and bought albums, I would think “oh, I remember this song! This really cool song I used to hear on the radio is also them!” And then, like “oh ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ is them too!” But they also informed me so much because they knew how to take a photo! There was something iconic about looking at them. There was something so great about the imagery around them. About their album covers.

But it also seemed so authentic, too. 

Yeah! And by the time I was getting into London Calling and Give ‘Em Enough Rope and Sandinista! and seeing the cover art. Like opening the liner notes to Sandinista! and they had a map of Central America and realizing they named that album after a left-wing revolutionary party in Nicaragua, all that stuff really informed me a lot. I just loved them. That was another entry point, for sure. But also the Sex Pistols and the Ramones and then a lot of independent stuff that was going on in California. There was this label called Ebullition Records here in California – in Goleta – and they were putting out a lot of great records, like this band Los Crudos who I got into through them.

From Chicago, yeah? 

Yeah, from Chicago! They had a split with this Bay Area band called Spitboy, an all-female band. Getting into those independent hardcore 90s bands was super influential for me. I really loved it and I was just a nerd about it. Fucking getting into Japanese stuff and all that. I literally got a job pretty early on just to buy CDs, you know? I saved up and bought a record and started buying 12-inches and 7-inches. Getting into bands like PiL and even at the same time getting into mainstream stuff. Like, I loved At The Drive-In when they broke. I saw them early on at an independent venue out here called the PCH Club, and I would go see bands like The Locust and At The Drive-In and all these cool bands. 

At what point did people stop sorta teasing or making fun of you for being “the punk kid” because you just got so into it, so they were just like “well, that’s Chris…”

Nobody really made fun of me. Maybe my cousins – my older cousins – they were like gang members so they were like “What is this stuff?”. And you know what? When I was growing up, I didn’t really dress punk. Maybe I had a band t-shirt, but then I would just wear like a jacket and jeans, but it was like one of those windbreaker jackets. You could tell I was into something, but I didn’t look like I was in Rancid, you know? And also, very early on, I got into Minor Threat and Fugazi and all of that Washington DC stuff, and I saw that they didn’t have mohawks or dress like that, and I thought that was dope, like “oh cool, you can just be a regular dude, a regular fool, and just rock whatever you want to rock.” That really informed me a lot; that it didn’t have to be about fashion.

You mentioned Fugazi…I’ve tried to think about this a lot in recent years to figure out what the first band I really got into that was a punk band was, and it was either Bad Religion or Fugazi. And you’re right, neither of them dressed “punk rock.” Jay and Greg from Bad Religion had leather jackets for a while, but that was about it. And I got into both of them through Pearl Jam, oddly enough. I was a super big Pearl Jam fan right when they broke, and in those days you would read interviews and read liner notes and see who your favorite bands mentioned, and Eddie Vedder always talked about Fugazi and Ian Mackaye. So it became “well, if Eddie likes them, I must like them.” And then, I forget if I heard Repeater first or In On The Kill Taker, but thinking “holy shit, what is this music!?” It was unlike anything I’d really ever heard at that point. 

Yeah, for me it was kind of the same way. Songs like “Public Witness Program” or “Facet Squared.” I remember Rage Against The Machine’s first album, looking in the liner notes to see who they thanked, and I remember them thanking Joe Strummer and Ian Mackaye and wanting to learn more. Or then sometimes buying things based off a cover. I remember when I was a kid, I went to this record store and I saw a Reagan Youth CD where they were dressed like Klansmen. And I remember it taking a second for me to wrap my mind around it. The album was called A Collection Of Pop Classics, and when I looked at the back, the titles of the songs sounded kind of leftist. And so I went “okay, I think they’re playing with imagery and they’re being ironic on the cover. I think I could buy this.” (*both laugh*)

And that was really before you could Google it. I mean now if you go to the record store, you can Google it or you can just take a picture of the cover and search that and it pulls up everything you wanted to know. But back then, yeah, you had to kinda do a little research on your own. 

Yeah! Like, I would go to Tower Records or whatever record store I could take the bus to when I was a kid and buy like Punk Planet or of course Maximumrocknroll. Or even the popular magazines like Spin and Rolling Stone would cover punk bands sometimes. I would find other ‘zines, like there was this zine out here called HeartattaCK Zine that I would buy and find out about these independent bands and learn more about their scenes. 

So let’s fast forward to Punk Rock Museum opening up. I’ve not been yet; I’ve never set foot in Vegas, and honestly I haven’t really wanted to at many points over the years until Punk Rock Museum became a real thing. And not like a cheesy thing, but a real and cool and authentic thing. Where did your involvement with them come from?

I remember I was following them on Instagram when they put up their Instagram page and I was like “yo, this is cool!”  I wasn’t ever skeptical, but I was definitely like “how’s this going to be?” I was so curious. And when they opened up, I kept following them, and they had reached out to me and told me that they were fans of This Fool and whatnot. I was planning to go out there, and then what ended up happening was they invited me out to do a live podcast with Damian (Abraham) from Fucked Up. 

Oh I’ve heard it! It’s great!

Yeah! We did the live podcast. It was Damian from Fucked Up, and then Fred Armisen was going to be there doing tours and he did a cover set, where he played lots of punk rock covers in the bar that they have called the Triple Down Bar. That was really the start of my involvement when they asked me to come. I was really blown away. It’s such a real museum and at the same time, it’s interactive. It’s curated so well, and people that I’m a fan of helped curate it. People like Brian Ray Turcotte who did that book Punk Is Dead, Punk Is Everything, and he did Fucked Up + Photocopied. There was another guy who I follow on Instagram @AncientArtifax whose name is Brian too, he’s a really sweet guy. He and Bryan Ray Turcotte I think leant some of their collections of memorabilia. But also, a lot of musicians lend them their stuff. So I went there the first time and I had a blast. I had a great time. They asked me if I would be willing to do tours and maybe even a comedy show, and I said “yeah man, I’d love to!” I think it’s such a great place and I’m so happy it exists. And I’m not a Vegas fan. I grew up in California, and Vegas is only four hours from us. People often drive there for the weekend. So not being a real fan of Vegas, this gives me an excuse to go. I’m really excited to give tours there. They have a really impressive Clash and Joe Strummer collection.

Yeah, I saw that his family was just out there. 

Yeah! I’m really excited. I got to walk the museum when Fred Armisen was giving a tour…

What a brilliant musician, by the way. Wildly underrated as a musician, I think.

Yeah! Totally! 

His brain works on a different plain, I think.

Yeah, it’s crazy. He played in this great band called Trenchmouth who opened for Fugazi. 

Oh sure!

They put out a few great records. He brought punk to SNL. Those great sketches on SNL with Ian Rubbish and Crisis of Conformity. 

Yeah, and the wedding band!

Yeah! I’m really excited to give tours. I think I’m going to get there a day early, because I want to have a game plan.

I was going to ask, is that overwhelming or intimidating?

It is but in a good way.

Obviously you’re a fan of the music, but to know what you want to highlight and how to tell the story…

Yeah, that’s a big thing! I want to have an idea of what I want to highlight, and I want to make it fun and interactive. I want people to have some fun with it, and I’ll be funny if I can. I’m really excited because it’s such an amazing place. And then we’re going to do a comedy show. It’s going to be me, this comedian named Bryan Vokey who used to play in punk bands. He used to play in a band called Neon Piss. And then this other comedian whose name is Nicole Becannon. She’s really funny. She doesn’t come from the punk world, but I just think people would love seeing her. She’s going to be a part of it. And then Fat Mike’s going to be there. 

I heard that!

Yeah, it’s going to be pretty funny.

I heard your podcast with Damian and Fat Mike, especially the second part, where it was just over Zoom or whatever…and I have to say that you’re a phenomenal interviewer, for what that’s worth. 

Oh thank you!

And even the Pete Holmes podcast from last year, where the two of you are just sitting on his couch, where you weren’t necessarily the interviewer, I still think that you’re a phenomenal interviewer. The way that you ask questions and the thought that you give to how you process questions and how to follow up, you do a really really good job. 

Thank you! Yeah, I try to be thoughtful about it. When we did that podcast, me and Damian, it’s called Killed By Punk, and we just thought “let’s be a little more introspective and a little more critical, without being annoying.” Just the idea of having an introspective conversation on punk, it’s a thing I’m always thinking about. 

And Mike especially is an interesting to get your feet wet at interviewing. He can be tough to wrangle sometimes, having talked to him a few times. 

Yeah, he’s such a personality, and he’s not an asshole, but he’s an abrasive person in a sense. It’s in a joking way, but if you don’t know he’s joking than it can be a lot. But also, he has a lot of ethics and a strong belief system about what he’s doing. He’s a really interesting guy. 

I think in a lot of conversations he does, he’s always in charge. Mike steers the ship, even if he’s the subject and not the interviewer, and I think a lot of that is by design to still keep a little bit of a wall up. Like, he’ll be really forthcoming, almost uncomfortably so, and exposes so much of himself so that you don’t pull back the curtain of what’s behind that sometimes, but I think you did a great job of sort of disarming him and you could tell he was really thinking.

Yeah, yeah! He was so interesting. So he’s going to do the comedy show with us, and then I’m going to screen two episodes of This Fool and do like a Q&A. 

That’s awesome!

Yeah, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s such an awesome place. It’s curated so well, and at the same time, it’s a work in progress. The way you see the museum is not the way it’s going to be forever. 

It’s a living thing, yeah.

Yeah! They are doing an exhibit now with James Spooner who did the AfroPunk Festival

Oh yeah, one of our contributors just did a little spotlight piece on him

I think that’s so cool! I heard him on NPR and he plugged the museum. He said the most brilliant thing – he wasn’t showing necessarily pictures of black punk bands, but they were showing photos of black punk audiences. And he was showing that it wasn’t just bands, there were black kids going to shows as audience members. I thought it was brilliant. Such a brilliant take on that.  

I want to go back to something you were talking about earlier, and that was the idea of racial tensions, particularly in South Central and Inglewood in the 90s when you were growing up. What was the scene like when you started going to shows? Was it mixed race or did you kinda stick out as being non-white?

There were two types of scenes, really. If you went to go see a show in Hollywood, where a bigger band was playing, there would be a few Latinos there, but not a lot. But if you saw a local show in South Central or in Inglewood or in Compton, it was mostly Latinos with a few black kids there. I remember going to see NOFX very early on. I was like fourteen. There were a couple Latino kids there, but it was mostly white. Maybe a few black kids or Asian kids sprinkled in. But it wasn’t really until a lot of garage punk bands started popping up that it started becoming a thing. When I got older, there was a band called Hit Me Back that was these young Latino kids from South Central Los Angeles playing really fast hardcore. That was really exciting! Or I’d find out about these bands from East LA, like Alice Bag and The Bags, and I found out about the Stains and other bands like that. And I’m not from East LA, but then you’d find out that there were other bands out there so you’d start going out there. It was a pretty majority Latino scene but you would have other kids mixed in. There was a big backyard scene, a big independent scene that felt like it was flourishing more as I was getting older and I was having to go to work so I had less time to go. But it made me happy to see it. I was so excited by it. I remember going to see Fugazi. There weren’t a lot of Latino kids, but there were a couple of us there. I went to the Palace to see Fugazi on the Argument tour, and I just loved it. 

What was your first show? 

My first punk show that I remember was …oh, man, I’m trying to think. I could be wrong, but I think it was either NOFX or The Vandals. One or the other. I saw them both around the same time. It was maybe like ‘99? ‘98 or ‘99, somewhere around there? Yeah, I think it was 1998. And then there was a band that I saw pretty early on that was a hardcore band that would mix hip-hop into it, and they were called Downset.

Oh yeah! I remember them. I feel like maybe I remember them playing with like Shootyz Groove or Primer 55 or something. 

Yeah! I think I saw them open for Sick Of It All. My buddy was a big Sick Of It All Fan, so we went to see them and they opened and then I think maybe Vision Of Disorder played too? (Downset) came out of the LA hardcore scene. There was a venue out here called the Macondo that they came out of. And they were pretty diverse. The singer, Rey, was from South Central Los Angeles, and some of the other members were from different parts of LA, but they all came from a graffiti background. They were in some pretty established graffiti crews out here. They had a hip-hop element to it, but they also came from hardcore. The singer would have like a Crass or an Agnostic Front patch on. 

And if that was late 90s, that was sort of when that crossover between hip-hop and rock and metal were all really flourishing. 

Yeah, and Downset. blew us away because they were pretty diverse. So yeah, it felt like if you went to see bands in Hollywood it was a little more white, but if you went in your neighborhood when there were a lot of backyard shows going on, those felt mostly Latino.

Would those shows be musically diverse as well? Like if the punk scene was smaller in Inglewood or Compton, would there be more variety of bands on one of those shows? 

Sometimes, they could be. Like, you would have a street punk-sounding band play with like a ska band. Or maybe a metal band would be on a show, or a more new wavy band. Yeah, I think you’re right. Not every show, but some shows definitely felt a little more diverse musically.

Did going to shows change what the music meant for you? Like did you have that moment where it went from just music you liked listening to to really feeling like it was a scene you were now a part of?

Yeah, it felt that way. It felt exciting. It was also tough though because as I was getting older, and as I was having to pay rent and have more stability, it seemed like the scene was flourishing more. I wasn’t necessarily a participant in it, but I was definitely an advocate of it. I felt so excited by it, and if I had a chance I would go see shows. Or I’d go buy a 7-inch or find the band on Bandcamp. So as I got older, I wasn’t there at every show, but I was just so excited that I could advocate for it. 

Yeah, because you do have to work, at some point. Or you have a kid. In my case, I knew pretty early on that I was going to be on the “go to college, get a real job” route versus trying to play in bands forever, so at least I can help run a website, you know? Or teach yourself concert photography so you can feel like you’re contributing. 

Yeah! Totally! And I think with punk sometimes, and with music in general, you can let it be a soundtrack to your life. That can be good or it can be bad. I think sometimes when I Was trying to figure out what I wanted to do in life, I was vicariously living through other people. But it wasn’t until I decided to do something that was “my thing,” because I didn’t want to just work at my job anymore. And there’s nothing wrong with just having a job, but I just wanted to do something else. I think when I started in comedy, that felt like part of a scene.   Through punk, I was more of an advocate because I was buying records and going to shows, but I wasn’t necessarily taking photos or throwing shows, and I didn’t play any instruments, so I was really more of an advocate of it. But I remember when I started doing comedy, there was a scene there, and I felt excited because I found my version of punk rock to actively participate in. So then I started going to shows and doing open mics and hosting open mics and throwing shows and really being part of the scene. It felt really exciting. 

Yeah, so then that was your way of doing the same thing that the punk rock kids were doing. 

Yeah, it felt that way! I also felt so frustrated; like I was really vicariously living through musicians, seeing these men and women doing whatever they wanted and taking their lives into their own hands. I was miserable that I couldn’t do that, and that I wasn’t doing that, so when I finally did, I remember that I saw that Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo, and I was – and am – such a big Minutemen fan and a big Mike Watt fan, and I was so inspired by that. I said “I’ve just gotta do what they did. As much as I love it, I’m not a musician, so I’m not gonna go up and play music, but I always loved comedy and always wanted to try it, so I would go to open mics and just apply that approach. That documentary – and punk rock in general – were really influential to my approach because it helped to have a work ethic. To get up every night and go to two or three mics a night. Like, if you read Get In The Van, the (Henry) Rollins book, Black Flag would constantly practice. So I started viewing my practice as getting up at open mics two or three or four times a night if I could. It was really cool to apply that; that this was my version of it, so I would apply that Minutemen/We Jam Econo work ethic to it. 

I got to talk to Watt once for one of his projects – he’s got so many that I don’t even remember which one it was – and it was just such a touchstone moment for me. That band and Watt himself as a solo musician in the 90s were such a barometer of, like, the cool people – the cool music fans and the cool punk fans, they were Mike Watt fans. And so to get to pick his brain for an hour or so and meet him and shake his hand was just amazing. 

Yeah, that documentary was so instrumental to me. Around that time, I just remember being so bummed out, because I truly was just living vicariously through other people, and I was almost doing that thing that you shouldn’t do and looking at these people as idols. Because they’re telling you “look, anybody can do it!” 

Especially in punk rock, yeah!

Yeah! Like whether it was Martin Sorrendeguy of Los Crudos and Limp Wrist or Ian Mackaye or Mike Watt, or even like Patti Smith – I realized that I was living so vicariously through them that I was putting them on the idol pedestal and I was looking at them like “oh, I can’t do that…they’re special.” But the whole thing is they’re telling you anybody can do it! (*both laugh*) So I thought to myself that I always wanted to do standup, so let me just do it. And if I didn’t like it, or I didn’t like the feeling, that’s okay. At least I tried it. And then I started doing it and I liked the feeling. I mean, there were nights where I didn’t like the feeling, but I chopped it up to like “well, I’m sure these bands had bad nights, you know?” 

Did you get that feeling right off the bat? Like, that first open mic, especially after you said “okay, even if I’m still working at a warehouse, I’m a stand up comic”?

Yeah! Because with so much of comedy, you can be a comic and still have a regular job. I remember my first open mic, I had a really good set, and then my second mic, I bombed my dick off. It was humiliating, but at the same time, I knew when I said “okay, I’ll try it again tomorrow,” that I could get over it. That actually made me feel more like a comic than having a good set.

Oh sure! Part of the honesty in comedy is the struggle.

Yeah! So I just thought that if I could bomb my dick off and then wake up tomorrow and go alright, we’ll try it again” I think that’s really what comedy is. Good sets are amazing, but it’s when you can survive a bad set. 

When did you get to the point where you could be a full-time comic and leave the rest of it behind? Was that once This Fool started? 

There is something about having a profession that pays you to just keep doing that that makes you feel validated. But also, at the same time, the idea that I was working a regular job at a warehouse and I was getting up every night and doing open mics and getting booked at bar shows or produced shows at clubs – even though I wasn’t a professional comedian, I still felt like a comedian. I was living that lifestyle. I might have a real job, but that’s okay.

People in punk bands have real jobs too, right?

Yeah! Absolutely. Just because somebody is a math teacher when they’re not touring doesn’t mean they’re not a musician. And that’s what standup felt like. It consumed my life. I was getting up every night and going out every night. But I also wanted to make sure I worked with a purpose. The thing about comedy is that it can give you a Peter Pan syndrome, which I’m assuming music can too, in that if you don’t take it seriously and you’re just enjoying the hang, before you know it, ten years have passed and you’re still just hanging out. You’re not really working towards anything. So even early on, I said to myself “have fun, but make sure you’re working. Make sure you’re putting in the work and writing new jokes and asking to be on shows, and when you’re on those shows, make it count. Try your best to do good so you can get on the next show and you can build more time. It was validating once I got the show, because I considered myself a writer – I always wanted to be a writer – and I was inspired by movies and TV and I wanted to make things. So getting to make the show felt like that next level, where I got to start making things. 

Was standup a mechanism to get in the door of the writing world? Was writing more the long-term goal?

A little bit. It was funny because I was trying to become a writer but I didn’t know a way in. And so when I wanted to do standup, somebody said “well, if you want to try standup, just do standup, because if someone sees you out, you might be valuable to them, because you can write and also do jokes. But then my life became so consumed with standup that I was just always working on standup, and I felt like it was informing my writing. It also had an immediacy to it. When you write a script, sometimes before you are comfortable enough to show it to a friend to give you notes, it might be a month or two. As opposed to with standup, you write something and you go up that night and try it and it’s immediate, whether it’s funny or it bombs. That immediacy to it, so I got into writing, and the habit of writing made me write scripts more, because I was always thinking about jokes and stories. It definitely informed my writing. 

Do you find it easier to write a joke that’s going to work well in a standup set versus to write a situation that’s going to be funny on a TV show? Are they two different things?

It comes from the same brain, but it’s a different thing, yeah. A joke lives in the moment. With a script, you have to get notes passed, and then sometimes something might get lost in translation. But it’s still fun.

We talked about of your musical keystone people, but who were they in comedy for you? Who are the people you looked up to, especially once you became a comic?

Oh man. Even before I got into comedy, there were comedians that I enjoyed listening to. Like Maria Bamford. She was a big one. 

She’s a riot!

Yeah, she’s great. Dave Attell was somebody I really liked. Colin Quinn. This guy named Patrice O’Neal

Rest in peace.

Yeah, rest in peace! He was from Boston. There was another guy named Greg Giraldo that I really liked.

Rest in peace as well. He was a big Clash fan too, I think.

Yeah! Yeah he was! People like that, people like Patton Oswalt, Felipe Esparza. They’re all people I enjoyed. It’s funny because they never really inspired me to do standup, because they were so funny that it was intimidating. What was really inspiring to me was going to open mics and seeing people who were still trying to figure it out. Because I was like “well, if they’re still figuring it out, it’s okay for me to go up there and try to figure it out.” But now, I feel so inspired not just by comedians who are older than me, but I feel inspired by my friends. People who I started with and who are still doing it and starting to get careers. I feel inspired by them and their minds and how they view the world and how they view the world. Like my friend Ramsey Badawi, my friend Opie, Bryan Vokey, Paige Weldon. All these people that I started with and we’ve been in the trenches for like ten years now, they’re exciting to watch. 

I think Frankie Quinones from your show is a riot!

Yeah, yeah, Frankie! That’s my buddy! I love Frankie. 

He is so funny. And so, one of the things that is really I guess special to me about This Fool is that most of my professional career was spent working in like correctional reentry settings, working with people on probation and parole and getting out of prison. That’s what I did for fifteen years or so. So part of the Hugs Not Thugs thing is near and dear to my heart. And most of my time was spent in a community that was overwhelmingly Latino. Lawrence, Massachusetts, is an old mill city, so it’s always been an immigrant city; it was French Canadian and then Irish and then Italian and then starting in the 70s Puerto Rican and more recently it’s majority Dominican. That’s where I worked and who I worked with for a long time, and Frankie’s character and the way he plays it on that show is pitch-perfect. It’s so spot-on. I know it’s a different side of the country and different cultures, but there’s a lot of overlap.

Yeah, it resonates! Truly. And that character is based off of my cousins. But also, what he brought to it was his own upbringing. Even though he wasn’t a gang member himself, he had family just like I did who came from that world, so he brought a lot of that to the role. He’s a guy who took me on the road with him years before we had the show. He saw me and he was like “come open up for me!” so I would open for him a lot. He’s a great friend. He’s hilarious.

To bring things full circle to punk rock, obviously one of the big things that everybody holds in the highest regard in the punk rock community is authenticity, and the whole idea of “what is punk rock” and selling out and all of that. Now, I think a lot of it is bullshit, but there is some validity to part of it, and I think that a punk rock thing that your show gets is the authenticity of the experience. Not playing those people as caricatures. Not using the neighborhood or the people as “the joke,” but portraying them in such an authentic way that’s still fun. 

That was such the goal. Showing the world and letting the world and the characters be. Don’t glorify them and don’t dehumanize them, just let them be.

That’s a tough needle to thread, I imagine. 

Yeah! Yeah, it was tough. It’s a tough needle to thread sometimes because it’s tough to write. I come from that world and I know what it’s like to not glorify it and not demonize it, to just let it be. It’s tricky, but (Frankie) did a good job of humanizing that character. Even the fact that I’m bigger than him is funny. (*both laugh*) The idea is that not all these guys are over six feet with tattoos on their faces. We always joke around that he brought not just a vulnerability but like a Joe Pesci kind of bravado to it.

Oh totally!

That’s the idea. To humanize it, and to not be didactic either. We’re not trying to change anybody’s minds, and not trying to justify anybody’s humanity. Just show the world as it is and as I know it, and let people make up their minds. Give the show heart without being saccharine. Without being corny or too sentimental. 

Do you get feedback from people in the old community about that? About how well you got the tone? Or are there people who were critical of it?

Yeah! There are people who were critical until they watched it. And I get that. If I thought something was about my experience, or close to my experience, or about where I grew up, I would come in with a sense of skepticism. But most people have been really nice. I’ve had people give me compliments and say “man, you really nailed down not just the culture, but the idea of working-class people, of that specific part of LA.” I’ve had Latino people and black people from that neighborhood tell me that they liked it. I think the goal is I always try to write something that resonates with working-class people, but also might resonate with academics, and doesn’t pander to either/or. And that also puts funny first. There are a lot of shows now that are comedies but they ride the line of being “dramedies.”They skew a little more dramatic than funny. Our idea was to ride the line of being incredibly funny but also telling real stories. We can make a show as funny as Workaholics or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, but we can ground it in reality. 

That rooster story has to be real, right? It’s so absurd that it had to be real.

Oh yeah! Yeah! 

That’s what I kept thinking in watching that whole narrative arc, that “oh man, this is obviously a thing that happened.”

Yeah, that was a real story that happened to me a number of times throughout the years in whatever neighborhood I lived in. My black neighbors would complain about the Latino neighbors having roosters. That was a real thing. I remember when I took my friends who I created the show with out and drove around the neighborhood – because they’re not from there – and we passed by a house that had roosters and chickens out. And we’re in the city, right? It was a thing that really cracked them up. I was put in those situations where a neighbor would be like “you gotta talk to Don Emilio … that thing has to go!” (*both laugh*) That was totally based off a lot of real situations that happened. 

Now that you’ve seen a modicum of success with the show and you’ve been opened to a wider audience and had new experiences like getting to do Jimmy Kimmel and things on that level, and getting to meet whoever you’ve met since having the show…do you get more star struck in situations like that, or did you get more star struck about things like going to the Dischord House

Oh man…(*pauses*) going to the Dischord House. I went there and I was pretty awestruck in the sense that it just meant so much to me. Fugazi is one of my favorite bands, and they just meant the world to me. And also that label, and growing up and reading about that scene as a kid, and being into bands like Nation Of Ulysses and Slant 6 and those types of bands. But at the same time, I do get it like…so Michael Imperioli is on the show, and when I first met him and he came to set – I had only met him over Zoom – but when he first came to set, it was intimidating not necessarily in the sense that I was starstruck by his sense of fame, but I was intimidated by his talent. Because I’m not a seasoned actor by any means and he is, and I’m going to have to act alongside him. That was incredibly intimidating. 

Also a musician, though!

Yeah, also a musician, right!

Our good pal Jared runs the record label that put out Zopa’s record.

It’s Mount Crushmore, right?

Yeah, Mount Crushmore! Jerry is a friend of my wife and I. We have a little crew down there in New Jersey that we try to go visit and go to shows with a couple times a year. And for him to put out that record, for what it meant to that little crew, was super rad. 

That was super exciting. I love his band. 

Totally. And you don’t expect it from Christopher Moltisanti.


Although I have to confess – I have seen one episode of The Sopranos in my life. I never had HBO, and I also have a thing about not wanting to start a show when I’m so far behind – eight or ten seasons or whatever. It seems like so much work to get into. 

I understand that. But you should watch it. It’s one that you’ll enjoy because it’s actually a very funny show. And it’s a show that you’ll enjoy because if you watch a season, you can kinda take that season in…it’s serialized, but it’s not as serialized as other shows. Sometimes it’s slightly episodic. But yeah, getting to work with him, and then we had Bill Pullman on an episode. I wasn’t necessarily star-struck with him either, but I was intimidated by his talent. It was like “wow…this guy is a very talented actor who has been on his game for decades…” I do remember one time I got star-struck, and that’s when I saw Joe Strummer before he passed away. I saw him three times; one at the Hootenanny, which was a festival out here in southern California. It was mostly roots and rockabilly-type music, but on this one, they had Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros and they had X there, and maybe Chuck Berry played? It was pretty exciting. So, I saw Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros there, and then I also went to go see them at the Roxy, and then at the Tower Records they did a signing. I’ll never forget the tie I saw him at that outdoor festival. I was up front, and I yelled out “Janie Jones” and they went into it. Now, I don’t necessarily think they went into it because I yelled it out, but because I had been yelling it out, he looked over at me and pointed at me and winked and then they went into the song. I was starstruck by that. The Clash were so important to me as a band. Just the way they progressed. You can listen to them playing the most raw punk, like “1977,” “Janie Jones,” “White Riot,” “Cheat,” “Hate & War,” and then you can listen to them play songs like “Safe European Home” and “Tommy Gun” and then you can listen to them playing these amazing songs off of Sandinista! that sound nothing like the rest of them. And then came songs like “Know Your Rights” and “Car Jamming” and “Sean Flynn” that sound like nothing else. I just love how they progressed and I love their story. I always tell people “even their worst album is better than most peoples’ best albums.” Even if you don’t love Sandinista!, you have to love the story of it. The idea that they would put out three records for the price of one, and then they said “we went far on London Calling, let’s go even farther. Let’s name this album after a left-wing revolutionary militia in Nicaragua.” 

Exactly. Like, “in case you still didn’t know where we stood…” 

Yeah! Exactly! You don’t have to love all the sides of that album. It has its imperfections, but even the imperfections on that album are phenomenal. As an art and as a story, I loved it.

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DS Interview: Chris Wrenn of Bridge 9 Records on Celebrating 25ish Years, Running a DIY Label, and Sully’s Brand

The terms “hard work” and “blood, sweat, and tears” get tossed around almost nonchalantly in the punk community, not necessarily because the words have lost their impact, but because they’ve become staples of what’s so great about the genre. Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi was pretty spot on in describing punk as “playing […]

The terms “hard work” and “blood, sweat, and tears” get tossed around almost nonchalantly in the punk community, not necessarily because the words have lost their impact, but because they’ve become staples of what’s so great about the genre. Ian MacKaye of Minor Threat and Fugazi was pretty spot on in describing punk as “playing music for music’s sake and being part of a family for family’s sake.” Bridge Nine Records founder Chris Wrenn lived by this mantra in pouring everything he had into backing the local hardcore acts he’d grown close with. And after years of DIY promotion and creative forms of funding, Bridge Nine expanded to become, not only a staple of the Boston hardcore community, but a full-blown label touting some of hardcore punks’ most influential names.

Diligent and untiring labels like Bridge Nine, ones knee-deep in the very scenes they represent, have helped fuel the genre, I’d say, as much as the artists themselves, if not more so. Formed in the summer of 1995 in a college dormitory and mainly focusing on 7″ releases, Bridge Nine was a way for Wrenn to contribute to the flourishing and ever-motivated punk scene of Boston, MA.

“With DIY and hardcore punk, obviously there is this drive, it’s a culture of doing things and contributing. It’s not a lot of people just watching from the sidelines, it’s people that kind of roll up their sleeves and say, “okay, I can do this, this is how I can contribute”. And for me, all my friends were in bands, but I wasn’t in a band. So I wanted a way that I could kind of give back, but also something that I could do to make me a part of the process.”

“So for me, it was starting a label, but I didn’t even mean to start a label necessarily, I was helping my friends put out seven-inches and having them pressed. Because in 1995, when I decided I wanted to do that, it wasn’t a unique idea. There were a lot of people my age that were putting out seven-inch records with their friends’ bands.”

But in pre-internet days, information for starting a label, or even having records pressed, especially on a smaller scale, was extremely hard to come by. Through the help of some friends-of-friends, Wrenn was able to learn enough to put into action what would eventually grow into a full-blown record label and a full-time career.

“So, when you decide like, “oh, I want to put out a seven-inch or I want to help my friends do it”, especially at that time, information was pretty hard to come by. It was pre-internet, so there was no “I’m just going to Google this and find out how to do it”. You had to find somebody who knew what they were doing or had done it before; I mean, there were no real instructions on how to start a record label or press records. There were books, but a lot of them were bullshit and they weren’t really at the level that I was trying to be at, which is fairly small.”

“I was connected with somebody who had a label, a friend of a friend. I didn’t know him, but literally just gave him a call and just said, “What do you know? I want to put out a record, where do I even start?” And this dude was cool. He gave me a list of contacts, kind of walked me through it, and told me where I should get a record pressed.”

“So our first handful of records were done at a pressing plant in Nashville, Tennessee called United Record Pressing. They’ve been around forever, I think since the sixties at least, it might even be older than that. I know that they were the first pressing plant, I think in the U.S., to press the Beatles records. So they’ve been around the block a hundred times, pressed all sorts of records. Basically, I just called them and said “I want to press a record”. And they’re like “Alright, send us a DAC cassette with the audio, send us the artwork for the center labels, and a money order for whatever number of dollars it was at the time.”

“And we still work with them to this day, they just pressed something for us this year. 28 years.”

And thus, Bridge Nine Records was born. The label’s early days were defined by seven-inch releases for local acts such as Tenfold, The Trust, and Proclamation, with the label’s first full-length coming in the form of 1999’s “Taken By Force” by Proclamation.

Chris Wrenn working in the basement art department of Tower Records on Newbury Street (1999)

After close to 5 years, Bridge Nine turned a corner. Wrenn joined forces with a group of close friends, the founding members of American Nightmare, and was able to take the brand across the nation and internationally.

“After about four years of just putting out seven-inch singles with friends’ bands, I started working with American Nightmare. Again, their first record was just another seven-inch single, I’d done a handful of them at the time, but they were the first band that was willing to just hit the road, tour, and get out of New England. Because a lot of the bands I was working with prior to that didn’t really even leave Connecticut or Massachusetts, kind of just stayed local. They were the first band that was like “we want to go hit the road, tour everywhere”.”

“For me, it was an opportunity for them to wave the Bridge 9 flag and for me to wave theirs and for both of us to go across the country, go over to Europe, and be ambassadors for what we were doing.”

“So it was probably Summer of 2000 when, instead of just being a local thing, kids all around the world are starting to pick up and get interested. It was still a few years after that before it was like “oh wait, I have to quit my job and just focus on this.”

With this spike in popularity and awareness, Wrenn was faced with a common problem among any subsect of the punk community: lack of funding. Wrenn’s day job in the Tower Records art department was enough to make ends meet personally, but nowhere near what was needed to fund a label. Through an equally creative and unique solution stemmed, what I would argue, is one of Boston’s most defining brands. What originated as a label-funding campaign fueled by bumper stickers and Yankees-hate merch, Sully’s Brand has now flourished into a celebration of Boston pride under the slogan “Believe in Boston”.

“It’s funny cause it’s never really been like a full-time job for me, it’s never been an exclusive thing. I’ve always had other things that I’ve done at the same time to make it happen.”

“Spring going into Summer of 2000, I had signed American Nightmare, I mean it was just like a loose deal. But they were in the studio, had big plans for their record and I needed money. I was working at Tower Records in the art department, making like $7.50 an hour. So I didn’t have money to even cover my own bills, much less push this band.”

“So friends of mine and I went to Fenway Park where the Red Sox play, it was like less than a mile from our apartment. I was already making all these bumper stickers and t-shirts and stuff for punk bands, so I started making stuff for sports fans and would sell it in the street to people leaving the games. Early on, it just riffed on the rivalry with the Yankees, we would make Yankee suck merch, sell to people leaving the Red Sox games.”

“It was wild! You would just be mobbed, just trading money and stickers and t-shirts. Yeah. I mean, it was crazy, it was like drug dealer money with significantly less risk.

“So it was initially just an opportunity to go find money elsewhere and put it into putting out records. I had tried some of the more traditional routes at the time; my family wasn’t in a position to loan me money, I went to banks and couldn’t get a loan because I was fresh out of college, couldn’t even afford my student loan, much less another loan. I had no collateral, no car, no anything that I could put up to guarantee something.”

“We just had to figure out how to do it ourselves. After a few years, we raised a lot of money doing that, I mean we would come back after every game, a thousand bucks cash, and I would go the next day and buy money orders and send it to pressing plants and pay for magazine ads, all this stuff that the label needed and things that the bands needed. We even bought one of our bands, Terror, their first tour van with like bumper stickers.”

Summer of 2000 Fenway Courtesy of Kate Bowen

Funds were now taken care of, and the business took on a life of its own. What was initially used as a means to fuel the label soon emerged as a formal brand.

“After a few years, I realized this was a better business than putting out punk records and I wanted to expand on it. So I came up with the name Sully’s, started exploring other stuff that wasn’t based on the rivalry with the Yankees, started focusing on Boston stuff and it just grew into its own company. For 15, almost 20 years, they just kind of co-existed in our office, one whole side would be records and black t-shirts, and the other side was all sports stuff. And after a while, I started to meet people that were Have Heart fans, but also wore t-shirts from Sully’s; there was a lot of crossover.”

Just four short years after sales first began on Lansdowne St. outside of Fenway, Wrenn’s business was gifted some major media coverage with one of Boston’s favorite hometown heroes and a connection that stood the test of time over 15 years later. Ben Affleck’s love for Wrenn’s DIY brand eventually led to significant screen time in “The Town” [one of Nasty Nate’s all-time favorites], the Boston-set crime drama directed by, and starring Affleck.

Ben Affleck in “Killin With Schillin” Sully’s Brand tee,
c. 2004

“Ben Affleck wore one of our shirts back in 2004, which was cool. It was during the run for the World Series. And he was, you know, kind of showing it off in the picture.”

“And then in 2009, he was directing a movie, that movie “The Town”. Their costume department reached out to us and said “Hey, we bought a couple of your shirts from a local store and we’d like to use them in this movie.” I didn’t know anything about the movie or what the potential was for it. But I was like “yeah, you’re welcome to, I’ll sign whatever. And while you’re at it, take a look at our website and if there’s anything else, let me know. They faxed me like a four-page handwritten list of everything they wanted. It was just like, holy shit. It was like eight of every shirt, like two different sizes.”

“So I drove them down to the costume department when they were filming, hit it off with the woman who was the costume designer, and we basically became their print shop for everything. We ended up having, I think, six of our t-shirts in the movie. One of our Believe in Boston shirts was on Ben Affleck in a scene, we had this shirt that said Irish Pub Boxing that was on Jeremy Renner, we made the hockey jerseys at the end when they all go out on the ice.

“It was like Christmas for a while because all these people, they wanted to buy the shirts that the actors were wearing and they got them from us.”

From their early days of putting out local New England hardcore seven-inches to a few short years later being featured in major publications and more than one feature film, Wrenn’s DIY approach and motivated work ethic were common themes that allowed the label to grow to much more than a local brand. Wrenn’s dedicated mentality and laborious practice not only helped further punk rock’s grassroots reputation, but also served valuable in keeping Bridge 9 and Sully’s Brand afloat.

Labels are often the first to be overlooked in terms of the impact COVID-19 had on the music community. Artists and venues were at the forefront of attention when disaster struck, culminating in months of canceled tours and restricted gatherings. However, even businesses such as Wrenn’s, one’s enjoying mainstream success, were not invincible. Yet again, in true punk rock fashion, Wrenn was unafraid to get his hands dirty and got to work, utilizing the same DIY, creative approach that had proven successful over 20 years prior.

“Some of my best ideas have come when my back’s been against the wall, and with the pandemic and everything that came along with it, everyone’s back was against the wall, it was kind of like a do-or-die situation for a lot of people and a lot of businesses. And for me, you know, you just get creative. DIY has been fostered in the punk scene since the beginning. And, you know, I came into it wanting to use my hands and get involved. I think people in punk and hardcore are a little more, resilient, like they’re just willing to work harder, at least in my experience.”

“The pandemic was pretty tough because we had to let most of everyone go, temporarily at least. I had Sully’s, a screen printing business and Bridge 9, all three businesses were in the same space, and literally overnight, we had to send everyone home. It was a month, two months, we depended on mail order.”

“Thankfully, we had a pretty large inventory of stuff. So we started doing mystery boxes and had like these inexpensive, but good value mail order items that people could check out to help support us. And we were just kind of on this really low autopilot for a while.”

“Everything that Sully’s does as a brand is related to tourism and sports and both of those were gone. So I was just like sending packages to people, like just trying to get a buzz. So I looked up Ben Affleck, sent him a few shirts with a card that just said “Hey, it was the 10th anniversary of “The Town”, it was real sick that you included us in your movie and we’re still stoked about it. Here’s some stuff from Boston and thank you”.”

“And he wore all of that. Like every day he went out on these pandemic walks with his girlfriend wearing our shirts. Like that was really, really cool. And so we set up a few more things over the next year or so, and he was repping stuff from Bridge 9 and from Sully’s, which was very cool.”

Ben Affleck Sporting Sully’s Brand “Believe in Boston” Tee During COVID (2020)

Although business slowed for Bridge Nine and Sully’s brand during the 2019-2020 shutdowns, the COVID-19 storm was weathered and Wrenn was able to look forward. Both brands continued expansion and a new storefront location emerged, one much better suited for Wrenn’s objectives.

It was Summer of 2020, we had been in this same building for 14 years, and our old landlord said he was selling the building. So we were in a period of uncertainty, we were kind of trying to find something new. And the new landlord comes in and basically says “I’m going to double your rent”.”

“I mean we had some good times there, but I wanted something new. So through the pandemic, we had to let everyone go, find a new building, and then basically renovate it and get it up and running. And, so the last few years have been some of the craziest, hardest working years I’ve had, but also some of the best because we’ve landed in a much cooler spot.

Wrenn outside of the new Bridge 9/Sully’s Brand Headquarters

“It’s awesome, it has this big retail space up front. So we have our own record store, it has a big warehouse in back that we’re going to start having bands play, and it’s right on the main street in this kind of quiet, North of Boston town. It’s kind of weird to be selling Dead Kennedy’s records alongside Bridge 9 releases and Minor Threat and Slayer LPs, but here we are.”

“We got the keys on a Friday and then two days later, like on Monday, we get a phone call from a location scout for a movie. And it was for this movie called “The Tender Bar” starring Ben Affleck. And they’re like “we want to use your building for background in one of these scenes. So Ben Affleck came like two weeks later and filmed a scene in front of our building, which was just a crazy coincidence.”

“It’s kind of like “Oh man, the universe maybe is showing me that we’re on the right path.” We got a chance to chat with him briefly, thank him for repping the brand. And then his assistant asked us to design a t-shirt for him as their wrap gift. So, we ended up designing a shirt, it had his signature on the inside of it and we printed like 500 of them for anybody that worked in the film And that was cool, full circle moment.”

Through all of the excitement, from backing local bands in early Bridge 9 days to taking the label international, from selling bumper stickers and “Yankees Suck” merch outside Fenway to establishing a legitimate brand that’s been displayed in movies and major publications, Wrenn’s label was able to reach, and surpass, its 25th year of production. 25 years of operation holds much to look back on and Wrenn had difficulty choosing just one highlight.

“[Celebration for our 25th] was supposed to be 2020. We were going to do a whole bunch of cool stuff, but obviously, that all got kind of blown up. So we pushed that off to the 30th.”

“One of the cool things about doing a label for me has been finding new bands, bands that I get excited about and I want to help other people to know and be able to hear. And we’ve been able to do that with a bunch of bands, the earliest one probably being American Nightmare because those were guys I lived with. They had a demo, they wanted to record something, and being able to be there at the ground level was very, very cool, knowing their potential and kind of helping them realize it.”

“But it’s also really cool, and I found as just a music fan, to be able to work with bands that I liked before I even started the label. H2O, for example. I mean, I was a huge H2O fan before I even started Bridge 9. Never thought when I started the label that I would ever have a chance to work with them, and now we’ve been working together for 15 years. Or when I worked with Slapshot for the first time, I was a Slapshot fan in high school, going into college, and then to be able to put out a Greatest Hits record for them. That was 20 years ago, last fall, and to be able to continue to work with them over the years, it’s just, it’s cool.”

With 25 years in the rearview mirror and the 30th quickly approaching, Wrenn shows no signs of slowing down with either brand. During the COVID shutdown, Bridge 9 shifted their sights away from signing new artists and aimed at 25th-anniversary reissues.

“So we’ve had, I think nine different LPs that we’ve put out with like silver jackets and silver vinyl, kind of leaning into the 25th anniversary color.

Chris Wrenn (center, holding sign) and members of Boston’s hardcore-punk scene peddling “Yankees Suck” merch at Fenway in the summer of 2000

With shutdowns and restrictions a thing of the past (hopefully for good), Bridge 9 has been able to shift back to a focus on signing new artists. 2023 saw the signing of 2 new artists, Heavy Hex and Incendiary Device, the release of 5 records and 7 exclusive variants, as well as assurance that much more is sure to come.

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DS Interview: Ian MacDougall (Riverboat Gamblers, Band of Horses) on Broken Gold’s new music.

Ian MacDougall is best known as a member of Riverboat Gamblers and Band of Horses. However, another of his bands, Broken Gold will be releasing new music in 2024. Per the band’s press release: “The record is a real ATX affair, with Ian being backed by members of Alejandro Escovedo’s band, Black Books, and Del-Vipers, […]

Ian MacDougall is best known as a member of Riverboat Gamblers and Band of Horses. However, another of his bands, Broken Gold will be releasing new music in 2024.

Per the band’s press release:

“The record is a real ATX affair, with Ian being backed by members of Alejandro Escovedo’s band, Black Books, and Del-Vipers, while Stuart Sikes (A Giant Dog, Black Pumas) recorded and mixed it.

“Spiraling” highlights a more confessional approach to MacDougall’s songwriting; tackling the mental toll of a life stitched together between regular touring and the various hometown jobs taken on to make ends meet in between. 

In his words: “I’d always felt…changed or sort of crazier in a way, after being away so many times over the years. When you keep layering that on over and over. What is normalcy, what part of my life is the ‘real’ life?”

I interviewed MacDougall via text and email about Broken Gold’s origin, its present work and the future.

MerGold (Dying Scene): How did Broken Gold get started?  

Ian MacDougall: Broken Gold started shortly after I started working at a wonderful punk rock pizza place/bar called The Parlor here in Austin TX around 2010 or so.

Gamblers was in between tours and I needed a job that was cool with me taking off at a moment’s notice. I met my soon-to-be best friend Rich Cali while working there. He played drums and was from Asbury Park New Jersey, and was at the time married to one of the daughters in the family that owned the business. We bonded over our mutual love of Springsteen and the Clash as well as Fugazi and bands like Rites of Spring. We got along so much that they stopped scheduling us to work behind the bar at the same time because we would goof off so damn much. During this time original bass player of Riverboat Gamblers, Pat Lillard, had recently left Gamblers but still wanted to play in a band, but something…different.

Prior to playing guitar in RBG, I had a band I sang and was the principal songwriter in and Pat pushed me into starting something with me singing again. We wanted to do something melodic, simple, kind of like a punk rock American shoe gaze thing with elements of The Clash, Fugazi, Alejandro Escovedo, and Springsteen. Over time Rich moved, Pat got busy with starting a family and we had some members come and go. We’ve shared drummers and bass players with the Gamblers several times but now the lineup is: Myself singing and guitaring, Ben Lance on guitar, Bobby Daniel on bass, and Sam Rich on drums. I’ve been lucky to play with some huge talents over the years and this lineup of Broken Gold is no different. It sounds incredible lately.

How did you decide on the band name? 

At the time Austin was crawling with pawnshops, especially on the East Side where we spent most of our time. Every pawnshop and billboard said “WE BUY BROKEN GOLD” or “BROKEN GOLD? YES!” We thought that was a great name that related with some of the subject matter in the lyrics as well as being a bunch of free advertising around town. Something that was once valuable and then destroyed but still desired by people. 

How does Broken Gold differ from your other band or your other bands, past and present?  

It’s a whole different muscle, playing-wise and tonally. I have to play with my guitar strap higher than Gamblers. Haha. I have to say playing in BG and all the experimenting with different things for us as players like alternate tunings and the use of capos really set me up and had me prepared for a band like Band of Horses which I joined as lead guitarist eventually. A lot of the guitar techniques and tones were very similar.

As far as how it’s different from Gamblers? It’s me singing for one. I’m the primary songwriter as opposed to RBG which is a group of songwriters. Broken Gold is a bit more dynamic with tones/sounds, volumes, and speeds as opposed to the blitzkrieg powerhouse that is the Riverboat Gamblers. I’d say we’re a bit more on the ‘punk’ side of things than Band of Horses but similar in vibe…like it wouldn’t be that jarring hearing one of those songs and one of these bands come on shuffle or something. 

Why was now a good time for a follow-up release? 

I finally had some time to focus on it. I’ve always done Broken Gold when I could get to it. When Gamblers weren’t on tour, and we toured ALOT, I would focus on BG but then we’d go back on tour. Over the years I ventured into working in the production world of higher tier artists like Foo Fighters, tours with Blink 182, and Band of Horses, etc. I was usually the Assistant Tour Manager on these and at that level, you’re touring off and on for years on end for a record cycle. Those jobs suddenly become your whole life and leave little much for anything else. When I eventually moved from Asst TM for Band of Horses to Lead guitarist, I just started passing on the ideas I had for Broken Gold to them as it wasn’t that far out of the wheelhouse of what they were doing. After 5+ years in that band, we made a great record but eventually parted ways.

I had all of these songs I had written and I was home all the time all of a sudden. Not working production, not playing in someone else’s band. I finally had time to focus on my stuff, Broken Gold and Riverboat Gamblers. It became clear that I needed to invest in myself for once and continue writing on these songs and focusing on what meant the most to me, BG and RBG. I had a wellspring of things to write about and it resulted in what I think is a real thought-out, dense, cohesive piece of work. We worked our asses off on this making it as good as we could get it. 

Broken Gold members from left: Ian MacDougall, Bobby Daniel, Sam Rich, and Ben Lance. Photo by Ian MacDougall

Did you have a specific plan for what this new music would sound or look like? Thematically or otherwise?

I didn’t really have a theme in mind when I started writing this thing but it has become evident now that we’re done with it. It’s about touring and being a working musician. The reality of what this life looks like. It can be brutal on your mental health, on both sides of the stage. Whether you’re working for bands or in the band. I’ve been doing this at all levels for more than half my life and still do. Private jet to stadium show that takes 2 days to prepare to punk squat in a Sprinter laying on top of an Ampeg fridge bass cab wrapped in sleeping bags because the heat in the van doesn’t work. Most of the time it feels like this never-ending adventure, every day is a new set of problems to solve and I love it…but it also led to a pretty severe drinking problem and all the things like not having friends when you come home, watching everyone you knew move on with their lives and start traditional families, your whole town changes, etc. When you decide to do this you basically decide to live in a vacuum of whatever band you’re involved with’s world, it’s like time traveling. You leave for 2 months, come home and never leave your neighborhood for a week, and go back out for another 2 months.

When you finally need to drive around your city everything different, especially in Austin. People always expect that you’re gone so you don’t hear from anyone anymore all that much. That’s not even mentioning what it’s like trying to make a serious relationship work. There definitely are people I’ve met that are totally well-adjusted and can make all of that work so smoothly, but I grew up from being a kid to an adult touring. Everything I learned about people, relationships, and “adulting” I learned while being out traveling constantly. I have had many “father figures” haha. I joined Riverboat Gamblers when I was 17 right out of high school and have basically been on the road in some form or fashion ever since. You never really have time to sit and reflect, possibly to a therapist, about everything that’s happened over the years because you’ve never really stopped and had time to. That’s a little heavy or maybe sounds like I’m complaining but I can assure you, I’m not. I absolutely love and am so lucky to have done all of the things I’ve been a part of. I guess as some sort of therapy I decided to write a bunch of songs about the other side of the life out there in there in the world I’ve experienced.

As far as the sound. I knew I wanted to make like “the ultimate BG record” haha, like a total distillation of everything I love about the music I’m really into. I love bands like The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, and the Smiths just as much as I love bands like The Clash, Blitz, Bruce Springsteen, Guided by Voices, and The Alarm. That and I’m a total freak when it comes to guitars, amps, and pedals. It’s my only true obsession and I knew I wanted to make a record with great fucking guitar sounds. 

Broken Gold members Broken Gold members from left: Ben Lance, Ian MacDougall, Bobby Daniel, and Sam Rich. Photo by Ian MacDougall. Photo by Dave Creaney

How much of a collaborative project is this with the other members of Broken Gold? 

Very much so. I usually come in with a pretty thought-out idea but that morphs once we get everyone involved. Ben Lance is a guitar sorcerer. He is so unconventional in his playing and I LOVE LOVE what he does on top of what I do. I’d have to say I have a fairly traditional approach when it comes to playing for the most part, big chords, ripping solos, etc but Ben’s like a painter – he actually is a painter – but he adds textures and a lot of emotion to the solid foundation me and the rest of the guys lay down. I always run things by everybody in the band and share demos that we shoot back and forth. 

What does each member bring to the project?

The band is myself, Bobby Daniel, Ben Lance, and Sam Rich. These guys are so fucking great. I’m lucky to be playing with like, all my best friends. Bobby is someone I look up to just as a dude in general. He’s sober, an ultra-runner, a father, and has been playing in bands of all kinds for decades, has seen it all. We met when I used to go see him play in Alejandro Escovedo’s band every Tuesday at the Continental Club here in Austin. Watching and hearing Bobby play bass at all those shows was just radical. Calm, collected, looking cool af, solid af, and not overplaying or playing too little. He’s just a great human at what he does and I’m lucky to have such a sought-after bass player in this town in MY band.

Ben Lance, as mentioned above, adds so much texture and dynamics, “color” as people would say, to this music.

Last but not least is our drummer Sam Rich, what a sweetheart. We met playing a show together with his awesome band Stella and The Very Messed when BG was drummer-less, I was just stomping a kick drum and a foot tambourine thing at that gig. We talked at that show and immediately got on so well. Like where has this guy been all my life? Also, he’s a super-consistent powerhouse behind the kit. This dude isn’t someone who just plays drums on the weekends with his buds, he’s like a full-on drum freak. He builds drums for a living. He plays in a bajillion bands and is now our go-to guy in Gamblers when other Sam (Keir) can’t make it. It became clear very quick that we had to be good friends and work together. I also liked that he seemed genuinely interested in Broken Gold and loved the songs. Everybody in this band is a total oddball lifer musician and just kills it at their instrument. This rhythm section of Bobby and Sam is more than anyone could ask for. They nailed basics for this record in like 2 days total. That was insane. 

Broken Gold members from left: Ian MacDougall, Ben Lance, Bobby Daniel, and Sam Rich. Photo by Dave Creaney

How do you decide in which order to release the songs as singles?

Spiraling” was the first song I wrote for this record, it’s sort of the summation of what a lot of the record is about with its lyrical subject matter. It also kind of set the tone for what was to come in the process of writing the record and the vibe. I see it as a mash-up of my two true loves, the music of Manchester in the 80s and Dinosaur Jr. We’re not gonna name the other singles just yet…but they are catchy rock masterpieces.

What’s next for Broken Gold? Will there be shows this year for the group?  

That’s an exciting question, What is next? Hopefully, this record blows up and we can get on a tour playing 2nd of 4 with the Bouncing Souls or Gaslight Anthem or something. There will hopefully be a ton of shows this year. We’ve been so holed up in writing, recording, mixing, finishing this record mode. Now’s the time when we get to share it with everyone and re-learning what we did in the studio to recreate it live! 

Anything else you want to add or think we should know or might want to learn about you and Broken Gold?

I want to give a huge shout-out and mention other folks who worked on this record. Stuart Sikes is my recording mentor that I actually apprentice under, He has a friggin Grammy! It was so great working with him on this. He really let us stretch out and find what it was we were looking for. Sage Nizhoni played strings on this, she’s a fellow Navajo I met at the music school I work at right now and laid down some beautiful strings. Don Cento added a layer of synths to our first single here “Spiraling,” it wouldn’t be the same without that touch. Alejandro Escovedo came in and sang on a few of the songs, that was literally a dream come true. I never thought all those years ago, watching him play and listening to his records that one day we would be singing together on one of my songs. Couldn’t be more stoked.

Broken Gold members Ian MacDougall, left, and Bobby Daniel. Photo by Ian MacDougall

The icing on the cake was getting this mastered by Howie Weinberg, that dude mastered Nevermind, Disintegration, The Clash, Replacements, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy…just look at his discography on Wikipedia, it’s insane. Huge Huge shout out to John Kastner. He’s a musical hero of mine from his days fronting Doughboys, one of my absolute favorite records is their album Crush. I’m lucky to be managed by him and he really helped tie the room together on this one.

This thing will be out soon, it’s been on my mind 24 hours a day for some time now and I’m just glad finally someone other than my immediate friends and family are gonna hear it. Hope you enjoy.

Thanks to Ian MacDougall. Check out Broken Gold ASAP! Cheers!

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DS Interview: Jason White on reissuing Pinhead Gunpowder’s catalog on 1-2-3-4 Go! Records…and what’s coming next!

In addition to continuing to make music and regularly tour all corners of the globe as one of the bands that helped propel punk rock into the stratosphere three decades ago, one of the more unique and, frankly, impressive things about the Green Day camp has been their simultaneous maintenance of a seemingly unlimited network […]

In addition to continuing to make music and regularly tour all corners of the globe as one of the bands that helped propel punk rock into the stratosphere three decades ago, one of the more unique and, frankly, impressive things about the Green Day camp has been their simultaneous maintenance of a seemingly unlimited network of side projects featuring some – if not all – of the band’s core members (Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tre Cool, obviously) and a cast supporting cast of friends and musicians. A quick and probably incomplete synopsis of all of the band members’ projects reads as less of a Green Day “family tree” and more like a Green Day “family wreath”: Armstrong and Dirnt and Cool appear alongside longtime “fifth Beatle” guitarist and collaborator Jason White, longtime touring guitarist Kevin Preston and longtime jack-of-all-trades Jason Freese in Foxboro Hot Tubs. Armstrong and Dirnt and White and longtime Green Day crew member Bill Schnieder and American Idiot/21st Century Breakdown/Uno!/Dos!/Tre!/Revolution Radio/Father Of All... engineer/producer Chris Dugan in The Coverups. Armstrong and Preston are joined by Jeff Matika and David Field in The Longshot. Armstrong and Cool and Dirnt and White definitely do not appear together in The Network. White and Schnieder and Schnieder’s brother Greg and Johnnie Wentz and Willie Samuels had The Influents up and running for a bit there too.

Perhaps the oldest of these projects – and undoubtedly one of the coolest – is Pinhead Gunpowder, a band that traces its roots back to the early 90s. The Berkeley-based iteration of the band featured Armstrong and Schnieder and Sarah Kirsch teaming up with the creative force that was former Crimpshrine drummer (and occasional Green Day roadie) Aaron Cometbus. The band played sporadically and recorded a couple EPs and a handful of tracks for various compilations and they all got combined on a quasi-full-length called Jump Salty that became one of the coolest records of 1994. It was released a few months after Green Day’s genre-defining Dookie, and yet, because it came out on Lookout Records instead of a major label, ownership of Jump Salty in your collection felt like a ticket to an exclusive club. While the masses were listening to (and buying, because it was a different time) Dookie and Smash and a smaller but still substantial group of people went as far as listening to Stranger Than Fiction and Punk In Drublic and Let’s Go!, listening to albums like Jump Salty felt like you were part of the cool punk rock kids club, whatever that even means at this point. 

Kirsch would leave Pinhead Gunpowder during that ground-breaking year but the band wouldn’t have to look far to find a replacement. Enter the aforementioned Jason White. The Arkansas transplant had been friendly with the band’s members for years, having befriended Armstrong after an ill-fated Green Day tour stop in Memphis earlier in the decade. Upon relocating to the Bay Area, he also joined Schneider as a member of East Bay pop punk band Monsula until that act disbanded in 1993. The Pinhead quartet of Cometbus, Armstrong, Schneider and White would put out another handful of EPs and compilations and, in 1997, their first-and-only full-length, Goodbye Ellston Avenue, all in a sound that remained true to the band’s East Bay, “Gilman Street” style and sound. (White, as you probably know by now, joined the Green Day ranks on the Warning tour in 1999 to fill out the live sound, making this his twenty-fifth year at stage right.) The band put out their last new material, the West Side Highway EP in 2008 and played their last show to date at 924 Gilman Street in 2010. They never really officially disbanded as much as they just focused on other projects: White and Armstrong and Schneider on the Green Day Family Wreath and Cometbus primarily on his writing and his consortium of independent bookstores in New York City

There was an ill-fated attempt at reissuing all of the Pinhead Gunpowder material in 2010 under the same record label, Recess Records in this case. (Earlier versions of their works appeared on Recess and Lookout Records and Adeline Records and Too Many Records and maybe a couple of others whose names escape me.) After laying dormant for the better (worse?) part of a decade, the project found itself resurrected a couple years back. Beginning two years ago this week, the band announced plans to team with Oakland’s own Steve Stevenson and 1-2-3-4 Go! Records to reissue their entire catalog in five two-part installments. Like everyone, the team behind the reissues ran into supply chain issues and vinyl production delays (thanks Adele!?!) but the close of 2022 brought with it the rerelease of Compulsive Disclosure and West Side Highway, marking the completion of the project, and meaning that for the first time, the band’s entire discography lives under the same roof. 

Yours truly had the distinct honor and privilege of catching up with the one-and-only Jason White to look back on the process of revisiting and reissuing the Pinhead Gunpowder catalog. As per usual when we conduct an interview on these pages, the conversation tended to meander in a lot of the best possible ways, covering ground that includes but is not limited to: meeting Pete Townshend; revisiting early Pinhead material after Kirsch’s 2012 death; White’s personal place in the annals of punk history; the neverending changes in the musical spectrum; the Little Rock, Arkansas, music scene; going to high school with Ben Nichols; 1-2-3-4 Go!’s importance to the East Bay arts and cultural landscape; and so much more. Scroll down to keep reading!

Green Day at Fenway Photo Credit: Brittany Rose Queen

Surprisingly, the following Q&A has been condensed and edited for content and clarity.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): First and foremost, thanks for doing this. When I saw that the email came in saying “do you want to talk to Jason White from Pinhead Gunpowder and Green Day?” I thought it was a joke. (*both laugh*) Then I realized it was from Chris Hnat – shoutout to Chris – but I’ve been a fan of yours for a long long time, so this is a really cool thing, one of those bucket list items to check off. So thanks!

Jason White: Cool! Cool! Thanks for having me, I appreciate it. 

I was talking to a couple of the guys who help run Dying Scene the other night, and we talked A) about how good the reissues have come out. One of our guys – Dylan – is real big on tracking a lot of the vinyl reissues and different variants of things that come out, and he was super stoked about them. And we were also talking about B) how cool it is that, at least for me and where I grew up, Pinhead Gunpowder was kind of like a secret handshake band. Like, a few of us kids were listening to punk rock before ‘94, listening to Bad Religion and Fugazi and especially the Lookout Records bands. And then ‘94 happened and so everybody liked Green Day, and we did too, but Pinhead Gunpowder was like the “secret handshake, oh you don’t just listen to Green Day, you listen to punk rock” band. 

A little more under-the-radar, yeah, I hear you. It felt like it was a little more underground and you had to dig it up.

Yeah and you felt like you were part of something, and like you knew more. It felt like a special thing. Anyway, I know we’re sort of at the end of the reissue cycle for the Pinhead records, so it can be kind of tough to figure out where to sort of start and how the story will go, but I wanted to actually talk about 1-2-3-4 Go! Records for a little bit, because that seems like a really cool place. For people outside the Bay Area, and I’m certainly one of them, 1-2-3-4 Go! Records isn’t just a cool underground label, it’s a record store as well. 

Yeah, and it actually had two locations for a bit. (Owner Steve Stevenson) had one in San Francisco as well. But yeah, it started in Oakland, and I believe he’s had it over ten years now. It might even go back fifteen. He started off on 40th (Street), between Telegraph and Broadway in Oakland, which used to be a little bit of a dead zone. He wanted to start a store, so he rented what essentially was a closet of a place. I always said that if there were three people in the place, it was crowded. (*both laugh*) He just had a few racks of records and it was just him in the back. We were just excited to have this new store, and it was small, and we were used to the only stores that stuck around were of course Amoeba Records and then one called Rasputin. They’re both great; Amoeba I kind of prefer. But anyway, it was kind of the start of having a small record store again. Now there’s several around, but he started in that closet of a place, then he ended up moving next door because he was doing well enough and he needed the space, obviously. Then he ended up across the street, where he is now. Then he expanded into the room next door too, so he’s occupying two retail spaces. It’s great; it’s awesome, and before Covid, he was having shows in the back. There was a stage, and he was having art shows and events, and it’s kind of turned into a whole crazy thing in addition to the label that he started with. 

It seems like it’s sort of a hub, and a lot of scenes don’t really have that kind of space anymore. I live just north of Boston and so I’m tangentially tied to the Boston scene, which is much different than it used to be. But we don’t have a lot of those sorts of places in the immediate area anymore; everything has sort of been gentrified out, so it’s cool that that sort of thing exists and seems to be thriving. 

Yeah! I’m just shocked that he did as well as he did because when he started talking about opening a little store, I was like “well, he’s got little overhead in that space,” and I’d worked at record stores in the past so I kinda knew how it worked. But then the vinyl – I don’t know if I’d call it a resurgence, but it became a thing again, right? So he kinda rode that wave and it’s still a thing – I don’t know if it’s peaking or not, but it seems like it’s still a thing.

It seems like it’s been peaking every year for the last decade. 

Yeah, and it keeps climbing up, and with Record Store Day and all this craziness. It’s great. 

It’s almost turned in the other direction with Record Store Day now, but that’s probably a different conversation for a different time.

Right, that’s the one day to not go to the record store! (*both laugh*)

I used to love it, man. I used to love standing in line in front of the record store, but then it turned into having to stand in line in the mall, because the major record stores around here all moved into the mall, which is a weird thing because malls are dying around the country, yet that’s where our Newbury Comics moved to. 

I was going to say, yeah, I remember the Newbury Comics stores. 

They’re still alright, and the one on Newbury Street is next door to where it used to be – and smaller than it used to be – so I appreciate the 1 2 3 4 Go! Records has expanded a few times, and the original Newbury Comics is not only much smaller but most of it isn’t music anymore. It’s kitschy things and Pop dolls…

Yeah, t-shirts and posters. I went into that (Newbury Street) location within the last five years when we were on tour, and I peeked in and yeah, it didn’t seem like there were many records anymore, it was more paraphernalia. 

They had standalone locations in suburbia, where I am, but they’ve all moved into malls now. So to have to go into the mall to buy records now, it’s like things went full circle a second time… Anyway, so I know that Recess Records had reissued the Pinhead records years ago, and that’s a whole other thing, but when did the idea to reissue them for real under 1 2 3 4 Go! Records come about? Was that during Covid?

It was before that, because I think it had just been long enough where we felt like we could talk about it or address it again. The Recess thing kinda just didn’t work, and we were like “well, it seems like everything’s a little bit hard to find, a lot of it is out of print at this point, and we kind of need to do something besides just having the records that are already out there and then having everything on streaming services.” And it was really easy – a no-brainer, really – because Steve is local, he’s right down the street, he’s a friend, we see him all the time, and he said he’d love to do it. And he said we could do it in these phases, so that it wasn’t just ten records at one time and everything gets lost in the shuffle. 

I was going to ask where that idea came from, because that was really neat to do basically five two-episode installments. 

I think it became like a 7-inch and an LP at the same time, and then a shirt. And we had never done shirts, so I was kind of more excited about that than anything! (*both laugh*) I do think that financially, it would have been hard to pay for everything right away, so it became “put phase one out, and then as money starts coming in you can pay for phase two” and so on. And that way it would keep things on people’s radar, like “oh, a new Pinhead thing will be out every six months” or whatever it was. It seemed like an okay idea. We wanted to kind of do what we tried to do with Recess, which is to have one home for everything so we don’t have to think about it anymore. It’s all under one rough and it’s easy to manage. That was the thought behind it really. 

And this is the first time it’s really been under one roof. I guess it sort of was for Recess, but that didn’t work out. 

Yeah, that’s true. Everything came out on different labels.

Did that mean buying rights back or anything? How involved was that process?

No, Pinhead always owned everything. That was not an issue, really. 

They’re not necessarily remastered or remixed or anything; was there talk of doing that as well?

For the Recess thing, I might be wrong, but when we were moving forward with it, we kinda did remaster everything, so everything was kinda done. This is actually kind of a funny story, but I think we had mastered it for CD maybe at that time, so everything had kinda been done, and we were like “well, let’s listen to it and if everything is fine we don’t have to do anything to it.” We ended up having to redo a few things for vinyl, and the mastering person we used – I worked at Adeline Records years ago when Pinhead did the records there, and this guy Ken Lee, who was in Oakland at the time, he’s still working and mastering stuff, but he had moved, and unbeknownst to me, he lives five houses down from me, on the same side of the street. 

(*both laugh*) That’s pretty wild!

Yeah, it’s really strange! Bill had to come to my house to pick something up, because I had some of the original source material maybe, and he was here and he was like “well, Ken Lee is actually in El Cerrito now” – which is where I live – “and he’s actually on this street” and I’m like “that’s my street” and we looked at the address and I was like “that’s that house right over there.” It ended up being an even smaller world than it already was. 

That’s really bizarre, yeah.

It made things really easy to get him materials. So I became in charge of that.

So you’re ultimately happy obviously with how everything came out? Like I said, our record radar guru, Dylan, was saying they came out awesome, and he’s pretty discerning about that stuff. 

In terms of sound quality, it was a little hard to approve the test pressings, because I kept A/B-ing stuff, and when we first started, I was like “I don’t know if it’s as good as the original.” And you had to consider how things used to be mastered twenty or thirty years ago versus how they’re mastered now, or how hot they make (the vinyl) now. Initially, I didn’t think it was hot enough, but then they sorta don’t do that anymore because you end up with records that skip and all kinds of things like that. And they sounded fine, I just had to maybe turn it up a little louder than the old version. But it didn’t distort or anything like that, so yeah, I was happy that it all came out great. And Aaron is very detailed. He does all the art, and everything I thought came out awesome. And Steve worked with him and other people and they got it done. They came out great. 

Did you run into any of the almost comically long vinyl production issues that people were running into during Covid? Because I feel like the originally-scheduled end of this project was like nine months ago or something like that?

Yeah, we did, all over the place. I think as early as Phase Two, we were like “well, it’s going to take a little longer.” (*both laugh*) Anybody who’s making records now knows that it takes forever. You’re on a waiting list and it’s just a mess. We definitely ran into some of that. He gets them pressed in England somewhere, so we didn’t run into a lot of the usual stuff for the US plants that I’ve heard about. United in Tennessee is very backed up, I think. And honestly, I don’t even know what’s left down in LA from when I used to work at labels and stuff.

I don’t know either, but there aren’t many in my very limited understanding of it.

There used to be a ton but they all pretty much went out of business. Now I think there’s a bunch of new ones, I’m just not familiar with them.

I don’t know of any new ones, truthfully, but then being tied to the punk rock world, I feel like so much stuff gets produced in the Czech Republic by Pirates Press.

I have heard that too. And I have friends with smaller labels that’ll press stuff at a small place in Chicago, and then there’s one in Australia that’ll do like one-offs of like 50 or something.

That’s gotta cost a fortune. 

It does, but if you’ve got somebody that has a record that’s not going to sell a ton, you’ve got a cool artifact. It might cost six bucks a 7-inch or whatever, but it seemed worth it, I guess. 

It didn’t really dawn on me before, but the last new Pinhead Gunpowder stuff is like fifteen years old now. I think West Side Highway was ‘08. 

Yeah, that sounds about right. Going back and listening to everything, the way we did it, since we did the phases, I started with the oldest stuff first and got to the most recent stuff at the end, so it was like riding the arc again. Listening to the first record, I was a fan of the band before I was in it. And (Sarah) Kirsch, who was in the band before, has passed on, so it was sentimental to hear that stuff, because I hadn’t listened to it in so long. But everything made me happy to listen to, still. Some stuff stuck out to me that used to not.

Did all four of you relisten to everything and, like you said, A/B stuff for the project? 

Yeah, yeah, for sure. And then some of it got a little confusing in the later stuff because we were like “wait, what record was that on? Or wait, we put out live versions of stuff? I don’t remember that…” We had some stuff from KALX, a radio station here in Berkeley, that I didn’t remember at all. I mean, I remembered doing it, but I didn’t remember it being released on anything. It was cool to listen to the different phases, and to listen to it as “a release.” I guess I always thought of it as “we got together and wrote some songs,” and we had bits and pieces we would either leave behind and then pick up later, or whatever. But it was cool to think about it as a release. So when I hear Shoot The Moon, I think “oh, this one’s a little more loose.” But then …Ellston Avenue was tight and well-recorded or whatever. And the other stuff had its own sort of personality. That was the most interesting part about going back to it. 

I know Aaron wrote a lot of the material for Pinhead, but when you guys came together to record, was it like banging it out in a couple days, or were there longer recording sessions? 

It kinda varied on each record, but most of the time it was “okay, we have this two weeks to put everything together, so let’s hammer out the songs, practice as much as we can, and then go record them.” Sometimes we’d change stuff, especially vocals. You hear clearer when you’re in the studio and you can make a few decisions there. So usually, it was like “this is the allotted time for the project,” and we’d hash it out in two weeks most of the time. Ellston Avenue took a little bit longer, because it was our only attempt at doing an LP’s worth of stuff at one time. Usually it was five or six songs or whatever.  

Ellston Avenue is a tight-sounding record, and a big-sounding record as Pinhead records go. Was there ever talk of making it more of a stand-alone thing, and taking it on the road more? I mean, it was always going to be at least number two to Green Day obviously, but the band never went out on the road an awful lot. Was there ever talk amongst you four about doing it as a bigger “thing,” or would that have been almost impossible given how big Green Day was?

Yeah, I think, in my mind, it was always going to be a project that we could do when everybody had time. Obviously, Green Day stayed busy all through the years, so most of the time we’d be like “we just wanna write some songs together, record some stuff, go play a few shows.” We’d done a couple of mini-tours here and there, like we went up to the Pacific Northwest, to Seattle and back years ago. We went to LA at one point and kinda played around there. It was never really “let’s put the push behind this one and tour it” and all that stuff. It was always just sort of a meeting of the minds or whatever.

But they’re such fun records! And I say this knowing that I live 3,000 miles away and would have never had the chance to see the band anyway, but I feel like that’s stuff that people would enjoy hearing live. Do you miss playing some of those songs live, even semi-regularly?

Oh yeah! I mean whenever we got together to play shows, which was more often than we recorded…I mean, Pinhead is super fun to play live with because it has its own feeling and setting and tempos and energy. It was great, I loved it and hopefully we will do it again soon. 

Well that was certainly going to be a question, but now that the revisit has wrapped up, does that stoke the fires amongst any of you to play some shows for the first time in ten or fifteen years or whatever it is?

Yeah, I think if all the stars align soon…we’ve been talking about it for the last couple years, even before we were doing the rereleases, like, if Aaron came into town – the rest of us all live here in the Bay Area – we would get together and just jam at the practice space and play these songs randomly, it was always super fun, but it would always be like “oh, we should play a show…but I’ve gotta leave by Tuesday” or whatever. So it didn’t end up working out, but hopefully we’re going to do it soon!

Where does Aaron live? I always just picture him in the Bay Area. 

He’s in New York! He’s been there for a while now, and he’s doing great out there. He’s the owner of a collective that has bookstores out there. They’re really cool. He’s doing great out there. 

Is that why the rest of you did other projects – The CoverUps, Foxboro Hot Tubs, The Longshot…not The Network, obviously…so with Aaron 3000 miles away, let’s work on some other projects?

Yeah, like “we’re around…what else can we do?”

I’ve always appreciated that about that whole Green Day crew. That it didn’t stay just Green Day, that you did all these other projects that were creative and under different names and done independently, and more traditional to what I think we envision the whole East Bay scene to represent.

That’s how Bill Schnieder and I ended up doing The Influents+, the band that we had for a little while. I’d come back to town – I was out of town for a couple years and I came back to do Shoot The Moon, and then once we finished that, I just stayed here. We were like “well, what should we do now?” That phase of Pinhead was done and everyone kinda went their own ways, and I was like “well, I’ve got a few songs” and he was like “well, my brother’s got a few songs, let’s start another band.” It was just kind of the natural progression of things.

Did you go back to Little Rock in between?

I did, I went home to Arkansas for a couple years, between ‘96 and ‘98. I went back to play with some friends in a band called The Big Cats, and we gave it a shot for a minute, and then my dad became ill and I stayed behind to help take care of him. Then I came back here and stayed. 

We talked earlier about the scene that is the Bay Area, and related to that, Little Rock had a pretty cool scene of its own. If people don’t know about Little Rock, Towncraft is such a great movie.

Oh you know of it!

Yeah, I’ve watched it a couple times! I think I stumbled upon it on Amazon one day, and I would watch almost exclusively either live sports or music documentaries, but this was so well done, and it throws back to that underground scene. I knew nothing of the Little Rock scene aside from that you’re from there and Ben Nichols is from there.

Right! Yeah, I went to high school with Ben. He’s great. We had art together; I think I was one year older than him…maybe we were in the same grade, it’s tough to remember. But I knew him. He was in bands obviously and so we were in the same scene. 

It’s such a great snapshot of a scene that I’m not sure exists in too many places anymore. That sort of real, underground, junior high and high school kids starting their own scene and then it becomes this beautiful, a little bit incestuous, sort of thing. I don’t know of many places where that sort of thing exists in this country anymore.

I know, it’s tough to tell. I think there probably are, I just don’t know about them. But not in the same way, especially because of the way we consume things or look things up or find out about them, that part has completely changed, so I don’t know if it is even possible. It was a special time, I think. That was my friend Richard Matson who made that documentary about that time. A lot of cool things came out of that scene. I was stoked to find those people when I did. 

I had known of Red 40 a little bit – posthumously, of course…I don’t think their influence really made it to New Hampshire where I grew up, necessarily. But I think it was through watching that documentary that I realized “oh wait, that’s Colin from Samiam!” I obviously knew him as playing drums for Samiam but he was the guitar player from Red 40…

It’s funny because Colin is the oldest friend that I have.

Amazing drummer too, by the way.

He’s the best. I’m so glad that he gets recognition through Samiam, because he’s incredible. We were in our earliest bands together. He was the first person I ever played music with. He co-wrote a couple of the Pinhead things that I did. But about the Red 40 thing…Colin was always known as a drummer, because he’s incredible. Everybody wanted him in their band. But Ben wanted to kinda do this new project, he wanted to start a new band, but it seemed like everyone was already in another band, and so in order not to pinch from other bands, he asked Colin to switch roles and play guitar, and then the guitar player in Colin’s band at the time, Substance, this guy Steve Kooms, switched roles and he played drums. Steve was a pretty good drummer, Colin was a pretty good guitar player, and Ben just wanted to do something different, you know? So he wrote these songs and they ended up recording them almost off-the-cuff. Now I think it’s one of the best-known things out of Little Rock, at least from that scene. 

I haven’t seen it happen at Lucero shows, but when you go see Ben solo, like, we drove down to New Jersey a couple weeks ago because he does a one-off every year in Jersey, of all places, at a place called Crossroads, and it’s awesome, and people always yell for Red 40 songs. They clearly only know them from the Lucero connection, the same way I do, but people always yell out Red 40 songs and it’s kind of a cool thing. It’s gotta be cool for him.

Does he ever end up playing some?

He does sometimes. He didn’t last time, but sometimes he’s got one worked up and it depends how the whiskey is flowing by the middle of the night. (*both laugh*) But yeah, I really dig that documentary and sort of like I was saying at the beginning, we had like six kids who listened to punk rock. In New Hampshire, we had little pockets of kids here and there around the state who were into the music, but not enough to probably qualify as a scene, necessarily, but I think we all looked at the Bay Area, the Easy Bay especially, as a special thing, because it wasn’t LA, it wasn’t New York and the hardcore scene – frankly, it wasn’t the Boston hardcore scene which was never really my thing anyway, we all kinda gravitated toward the Bay Area scene and that became the music that we listened to. But to know that there were other places where there were these people just a little older than us and putting these organic little scenes together, it was wonderful. People should watch it. I don’t even know where you can get it now. 

Yeah, I don’t know? I think it’s probably on Amazon.

Thanks for doing this. It’s been really cool to follow the Pinhead reissues and to have Pinhead Gunpowder sort of trending on a lot of the punk rock social media pages and record websites. To have that stuff trending again is pretty cool.

Yeah, I agree. I used to sort of be of the mindset of “oh, why reissue everything? Everyone that wants those records already has them, or they can get them if they look hard enough.” But I’m stupid and I forget that younger people might just be getting into it now and will be like “well, I want that, how do I get it?” I’m just dumb enough that I never considered that. But I’m very happy that it’s all out there and available and if anyone is getting hip to it now, that’s awesome. 

I forget who I heard talk about a similar thing…Jack White, maybe…but about how stuff shouldn’t be out of print. Obviously he’s got his own label and his own printing press and all that, but I think it was him saying that music should be accessible and available. That people are always finding out about music and they should be able to go out and buy it.

Yeah, there’s value in that. I see that now. I used to feel like “well, we made enough.” I figured nobody else was going to want it. I forget that I’m getting old (*both laugh*) and that younger generations might be interested. 

I’ve got a fifteen-year-old, and there are kids in high school that are starting to listen to that era of punk rock now, and that didn’t happen really through middle school. There are kids who listen to and love Green Day, and to me, that’s awesome, and it’s really awesome that they’re falling in love with the same band that we did thirty years ago. 

Yeah. Everyone has their own entry point, at whatever age they might be at whatever time, and it’s really neat to see how it all works out.  

Do you ever think about where you fit into that whole thing? And maybe that’s a weird thing to even think about, or a super ego-y thing to think about. 

Gosh, no, not really. A little bit as recently as last night. We played a Coverups show last night out in this suburb called Walnut Creek, and I said goodbye to my kids and I started driving to go play the show, and I was thinking “well, I’ve pretty much been doing this same thing for thirty plus years…is it weird? No, because it just seems normal. But I think of so many people that I’ve known over the years don’t do it anymore or whatever, so I’m like, well, this is what I set out to do. I just wanted to play music and be in bands and it worked out somehow, you know?” I still always look up to the people who came before me, probably way too much.

(*both laugh*) Yeah, I think we all do.

I think I’m still trying to maybe impress them, you know? That’s still on my mind.

Do you have a running list of people that you’ve looked up to and been able to meet that you check off? Like The Stones and people like that?

There’s a few, yeah. That list grows all the time. Sometimes I’m a little shy about it these days, because essentially I’m like “well, I’m just bothering this person.” I’ll say a quick thank you, I appreciate what you’re doing. 

I feel like as a guitar player, you can talk to guitar players …

Yeah, you can talk a little shop. There’s a guitar player that’s younger than me that I approached and just made a fool of myself. I was like “you’re my favorite guitar player on the planet” and he just sort of was really embarrassed for me, I think. It was Paul Maroon of The Walkmen. And I just think he’s incredible. But then it goes both ways. I got the opportunity to talk to Pete Townshend a couple months ago, because we played a charity event with them, and I just got like a quick 30 seconds to a minute to say “Hi Pete, how ya doing? Do you remember me?” I didn’t really want to bother him, he didn’t really want to be bothered, so it was a cool exchange and that was fine! 

And now I can say I talked to a guy who talked to Pete Townshend! I’ve actually talked to a couple and it’s wild to me that I have even that connection. 

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DS News: Fake Names (members of Bad Religion, Fugazi, etc.) announce new album, stream single

Punk supergroup Fake Names have announced their sophomore album Expendables will be released on March 3rd, 2023 through Epitaph Records. Check out the first single “Delete Myself” below, and pre-order the record here. Fake Names’ lineup includes Brian Baker (Bad Religion, Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, etc.), Refused singer Dennis Lyxzén, Michael Hampton (S.O.A., Embrace), Johnny […]

Punk supergroup Fake Names have announced their sophomore album Expendables will be released on March 3rd, 2023 through Epitaph Records. Check out the first single “Delete Myself” below, and pre-order the record here.

Fake Names’ lineup includes Brian Baker (Bad Religion, Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, etc.), Refused singer Dennis Lyxzén, Michael Hampton (S.O.A., Embrace), Johnny Temple (Girls Against Boys, Soulside), and Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty.

The band released their self-titled debut LP in 2020.

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DS Record Radar: This Week in Punk Vinyl (ALL “Problematic” reissue, Pulley, Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards & more)

Greetings, and welcome to the Dying Scene Record Radar. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is the weekly* column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl; new releases, reissues… you name it, we’ve probably got it. Kick off your shoes, pull up a chair, crack open a cold […]

Greetings, and welcome to the Dying Scene Record Radar. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is the weekly* column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl; new releases, reissues… you name it, we’ve probably got it. Kick off your shoes, pull up a chair, crack open a cold one, and break out those wallets, because it’s go time. Let’s get into it!

Check out the video edition of this week’s Record Radar, presented by our friends at Punk Rock Radar:

All? NO! ALL! ALL’s latest album, 2000’s Problematic, is back in print! Four snazzy new color variants: yellow w/ red splatter (1,000 copies, buy here), blue w/ yellow splatter (300 copies, buy here), red in neon yellow (300 copies, buy here), and neon yellow (? copies, EU indie variant). If you don’t care about color variants, you can get this on black wax for $10(!!!) on Amazon right now. Yes, you’re reading that right, 10 bucks for an LP in 2023!

Here’s a weird one… AFI’s Crash Love hasn’t gotten an official repress since its original release in 2009 (I can already hear you crying “b-b-but AFI isn’t punk!!!!!” – save your breath, nobody fucking cares). Recently, a bunch of e-tailers launched pre-orders for a new pressing. Some bill it as an official release, others say it’s an Import, which is basically a nicer way to say “this shit’s counterfeit”. There were a lot of places to buy this last week, but not it seems Loud Pizza (US) and Le Noise (Canada) are the only stores with it still listed.

The Suicide Machines 2xLP rarities compilation On The Eve Of Destruction 1991-1995 is getting a new pressing from Asbestos Records. There are 500 copies spread across two color variants: blue/black split and red/black split. Get it here. There’s a few copies of the last pressing still available here as well.

Two cool new represses from Pirates Press Records this week. Up first is Lars Frederiksen and the Bastards’ 2004 LP Viking. 500 copies on black and blood red striped colored vinyl. Get it here.

Also from Pirates Press: A sweet new color variant for The SlackersWasted Days! 1,000 copies on beautiful neon green w/ black splatter colored wax. Get it here.

Alright, let’s take a lil break from all the represses and reissues, and talk about some new records! Have you heard about Snuff’s new album Come On If You Think You’re Rachmaininoff? No? Well, it’s an acoustic album, and it’s due out June 9th on SBÄM Records. Check out the new acoustic version of “One of those Days” below, and pre-order the LP on one of two very colorful splatter variants here (EU) / here (AUS).

Here’s a new release that seemingly came out of nowhere. Step aside “The Decline”, Italian melodic punks LineOut’s new album Andromeda is one continuous 52-minute long song, and it’s fucking bad ass. Check that shit out below and grab the record here. These guys are killer – highly recommended listening!

Mama mia! It’s another new release from an awesome Italian punk band! All Coasted’s new EP Never Ending Puppet Show releases June 9th (that’s next Friday!) on Striped Records. Check out the latest single & pre-order the record here.

And while you’re on Striped Records’ webstore pre-ordering that All Coasted record, grab this new pressing of The Manges & The Queers Acid Beaters split LP. Limited to 500 copies on red wax, just in time for its 20th anniversary. Get it here.

In case you haven’t already heard, Rancid has a new album out; it’s called Tomorrow Never Comes. Anywho, Epitaph’s ever-creative marketing department has found a way to offload some black wax onto you sick variant addicts. How? By screen printing a bunch of jackets with an alternate cover to house 2,000 black vinyl copies. And somehow these are worth 12 bucks more than a standard black copy! I don’t play this game, but maybe you do. Fork over your cash here, suckers.

We’ll get back to some more new releases in a bit, here’s some more new pressings of old shit. Dischord Records has repressed Fugazi’s Red Medicine on an undisclosed number of pieces of red vinyl. Get it here.

Dischord has also repressed Minor Threat’s Out of Step on an undisclosed number of white colored LPs. Very cool! Get it here.

DustyWax Records gave Pulley‘s Matters and Together Again for the First Time their first-ever vinyl releases in 2020 (that dreaded year seems like an eternity ago, doesn’t it?). Those sold out pretty fast, so they’ve issued a second pressing. There are three color variants for both LPs, each limited to 100 copies. The DustyWax webstore has its own exclusive variants, as well as Thousand Islands Records and Bearded Punk Records‘ respective online stores.

Australian punk veterans Bodjyar‘s 1998 album No Touch Red is getting a 25th Anniversary reissue, with 150 copies on translucent red vinyl and another 150 copies on “ultra clear” colored vinyl. Get ’em here.

Back in print for the first time in 17 years, Avail’s 4AM Friday is getting reissued as a Double LP with the second LP featuring a 15-song live set recorded at San Fransisco’s Bottom of the Hill in 1997. The orange w/ black splatter variant is limited to 488 copies and is available here. You can also get it on black vinyl here.

Pennywise’s From the Ashes turns 20 this year, and it’s getting reissued for the first time ever! There are 500 copies on “spring green w/ tangerine splatter” colored wax (Epitaph US store), as well as 300 copies on clear w/ black and orange splatter (Epitaph EU store), and you know our buddies at Newbury Comics had to get in on the action with their own $34 variant. Also available on black vinyl on Amazon for the more frugal minded (shoutout to my dawg Jeffy B).

Let’s wrap things up with some new releases, shall we? TV Cult is a relatively new band from Cologne, Germany that plays “80s Infused Brutal Post-Punk” (their words, not mine). Their debut album Colony is due out November 24th on Flight 13 Records. Check out the lead single “Party’s Over” below and pre-order the LP on “transparent petrol” colored vinyl here.

And last but not least, we have a new band with some familiar faces. Lektron is fronted by Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba, who is joined by drummer Atom Willard (Rocket from the Crypt, Against Me!, Angels & Airwaves, etc.) and AFI’s Hunter Burgan. Their debut 2-song 12″ is out now on Asian Man Records, and it’s already sold out. Listen below and lookout for a full-length album at some point.

Well, that’s all, folks. Another Record Radar in the books. As always, thank you for tuning in. If there’s anything we missed (highly likely), or if you want to let everyone know about a new/upcoming vinyl release you’re excited about, leave us a comment below, or send us a message on Facebook or Instagram, and we’ll look into it. Enjoy your weekend, and don’t blow too much money on spinny discs (or do, I’m not your father). See ya next week!

Wanna catch up on all of our Record Radar posts? Click here and you’ll be taken to a page with all the past entries in the column. Magic!

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DS Record Radar: This Week in Punk Vinyl (The Real McKenzies, Cock Sparrer, SACK… PLUS Black Friday Vinyl Deals)

Greetings, fellow degenerates! Welcome to the latest installment of the Dying Scene Record Radar. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is a weekly column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl. In addition to new releases and reissues, this week we’ll also be highlighting some Black Friday sales […]

Greetings, fellow degenerates! Welcome to the latest installment of the Dying Scene Record Radar. If it’s your first time here, thank you for joining us! This is a weekly column where we cover all things punk rock vinyl. In addition to new releases and reissues, this week we’ll also be highlighting some Black Friday sales on vinyl records that may interest you. So kick off your shoes, pull up a chair, crack open a cold one, and break out those wallets, because it’s go time. Let’s get into it!

British punks Grade 2 have a new self-titled album on the way. The record produced by Rancid‘s Tim Amstrong is due out in February 2023 on Hellcat Records. Check out their new single “Under the Streetlight” below, and go here for links to where all the different color variants of the LP can be purchased.

If you read our latest Ten Underrated Punk Bands That Should Be On Your Radar column, you know who SACK is. If you didn’t read it (fuck you, why didn’t you read it? I worked really hard on that!) SACK is fronted by Kody Templeman (Teenage Bottlerocket, Lillingtons, etc.). Their new record Ripper! was released on CD earlier this year, and is now finally available on vinyl thanks to the friendly people at Red Scare. Pre-order this beast here.

Also from Red Scare (in case you missed our story about it earlier this week): A first-time vinyl release of Sludgeworth‘s Losers of the Year. For those who aren’t in the know, this was a short lived project of Screeching Weasel‘s Dan Vapid that also featured his SW bandmate Brian Vermin on drums. This album was originally released on CD in 1995 through Lookout! Records, and old school pop-punk aficionados have been clamoring for a vinyl reissue for a long time. The wait is over! Head over to Red Scare’s webstore to grab your copy.

Punk supergroup Fake Names (ft. members of Bad Religion, Refused, Fugazi, etc.) have announced their new album Expendables will be released on March 3rd, 2023 through Epitaph Records. Check out the first single “Delete Myself” below, and pre-order the record here (yellow vinyl, US) or here (“black & white galaxy” vinyl, EU).

Today marks the release of Celtic punk veterans The Real McKenzies new covers album Songs of the Highlands, Songs of the Sea. Fat Wreck Chords is sold out of colored vinyl, but you can still get it on black wax from their webstore. For those outside of the states, the record is available here (CA), here (EU), and here (AUS).

And because you can never have enough Fat Wreck Chords in your life, here’s another new release from Fat! NOFX frontman Fat Mike has teamed up with Get Dead‘s Sam King on a new project called Codefendants. Check out the band’s new single below and order their 10″ split with Get Dead from Fat Wreck’s webstore.

A few Record Radars ago, we let you that the Transplants‘ self-titled debut album was getting a 20th Anniversary reissue. Well, those sold out really fucking quick so Hellcat Records has announced some additional, retailer-exclusive color variants. 1-2-3-4! Go Records and Smartpunk each have their own unique variants here in the US, and Banquet Records has an EU exclusive “cool blue” color variant.

Pirates Press Records is reissuing all seven Cock Sparrer LPs in honor of the band’s 50th Anniversary. You can get them individually for 20 bucks each, or as a set for $125 (that’s a savings of 15 dollars, folks!). No pretty colors here, just good ol’ black wax.

Just in time for the holiday season, Chris Farren‘s Like a Gift from God or Whatever is back in print on neon green colored vinyl. Head over to Asian Man Recordswebstore and get a piece of this yuletide wax ?

Fraser from the Murderburgers is a busy guy! In addition to his current band Wrong Life (featured in Dying Scene’s Ten Underrated Punk Bands You Need To Check Out Right Now column) he has now announced another project called Absolute Melt. Check out the single “2am (The Face Changes Shape)” below, and go here to pre-order their upcoming 10″ EP. All profits from physical and digital sales will go to Scottish Women’s Aid, who help women, children and young people in Scotland affected by domestic abuse.

Black Friday Sales

The first Black Friday sale we’ll be highlighting comes to us from the purveyors of pop-punk at Mom’s Basement Records. For one day only, everything on their webstore (including that awesome distro section with The Windowsill‘s album that I just gave a 5-Star review ?) will be 30% off! Stay tuned to the label’s social profiles for more info. This is the sale of the year as far as I’m concerned.

Merchbar’s entire store is perpetually “on sale”, but their Black Friday Preview sale sees stuff marked down a bit more than usual. The sale has already started, and considering it ends in three days, I assume they’ll be having a proper BF sale later in the week. If you’re just looking for punk records and don’t want to waste precious time searching, you can find most of them here. Some highlights include the RamonesRocket to Russia ($17.99), NOFX‘s Pump Up the Valuum ($15.99), and Operation Ivy‘s Energy ($15.99).

If you’re looking for some gifts for the rude boy (or girl) in your life, Jump Up Records has you covered. They’re not having a sale per se, but they do have some awesome new shit on their webstore for Black Friday, including brand new reissues of some 90’s Moon Ska LPs, alongside a bunch of 7″s, CDs, and cassettes. Happy skalidays! ?

Everyone’s favorite indie record store Walmart is having a sale of their own. All vinyl records are $15 in-store at all Walmart locations (exclusives are discounted on their website as well). I’ve seen plenty of pearl-clutching going on about this sale, but I don’t give a fuck ? There are some good deals to be had here. I got The Clash‘s 3xLP Combat Rock + The People’s Hall for $15. There were a ton of WM’s new exclusive pressings of Green Day‘s American Idiot and International Superhits at my local store as well. There’s an ample supply of soundtracks and Luke Combs records, too, if you’re into that kinda thing. Sale ends Sunday, November 20th.

And of course, Wally World’s red competitor Tarshay has a sale, too. Starting Sunday, November 20th, all records (and movies, CDs, misc. other media) will be Buy 2, Get 1 Free. Is that cheaper than Walmart? I don’t know, I’m too lazy to do that math (probably not though). This sale will be online and in store, and there’s no limit on how many records you can buy. So if you really want all 375 copies of the new Adele album your local Target has in stock, load up that god damn cart!

Last but not least, we have Record Store Day Black Friday. Again, not much in the way of deals here, but there are some exclusive releases that may interest you. In addition to the 10th Anniversary reissue of Masked Intruder‘s debut LP we highlighted last week, you may also be interested in Goldfinger‘s Hello Destiny (reissued in honor of its 15th Anniversary), and a new Joe Strummer live acoustic album Live at Music Millennium. The only place you can (potentially) get these and all the other RSBF releases is your local record store on Black Friday (November 25th).

And that’s all, folks! Another Record Radar in the books. As always, thank you for tuning in. If there’s anything we missed (highly likely), or if you want to let everyone know about a new/upcoming vinyl release you’re excited about, leave us a comment below (or send us a message on Facebook or Instagram), and we’ll look into it. Enjoy your weekend, and don’t blow too much money on spinny discs. Please note: the Record Radar will be closed next week in observance of Thanksgiving. Have a safe and happy holiday, friends!

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DS Show Review & Gallery: Mustard Plug, Big D and the Kids Table, and Green Room Rockers (Chicago, IL)

If it is a ska show, there are two things you can count on: an abundance of energy…and saxophones. And if you have two saxophones, even better. September 30, 2022 at Chop Shop in Chicago, was chock full of the two above-mentioned elements and much more. Mustard Plug, out of Grand Rapids, MI, has been […]

If it is a ska show, there are two things you can count on: an abundance of energy…and saxophones. And if you have two saxophones, even better. September 30, 2022 at Chop Shop in Chicago, was chock full of the two above-mentioned elements and much more.

Mustard Plug, out of Grand Rapids, MI, has been around since 1991. Founding member and singer Dave Kirchgessner, roamed the stage, sometimes approaching the crowd. At least once he pulled out a large (fake) knife and with rapid movements pretended to stab the attendees. The crowd appeared to love it. The rest of the band were also highly energetic, with some members swinging their instruments side to side and holding them above their heads. Mustard Plug kept the crowd engaged as it tore through “Box,” “Hit Me! Hit Me!”, “You,” as well as “The All-Nighter,” “Go,” “Away From Here” and covered “Waiting Room” by Fugazi. The crowd and the band left sweaty, and appeared exhausted but with very large grins.

Big D and the Kids Table is celebrating the 15th anniversary of Strictly Rude, its 4th studio album. As I was shooting the show the David McWayne’s malleable facial features transformed so dramatically from moment to moment, it felt a bit like I was shooting a series of head shots for an aspiring actor wanting to show his range. Jutting his legs across the stage when not jumping up and down, he appeared to have learned to dance partially by watching the childhood toy, The Slinky. It was delightful.

As to the music, from the aforementioned album, “Noise “Complaint,” “Steady Riot,” and “Hell on Earth” were performed. McWayne and his bandmates also ripped through “Dee Bottle,” “My Girlfriend’s on Drugs,” “Describing the Sky,” “What the Hell Are You.” In addition, the band covered The Specials’ “Little Bitch,” and “Wailing Paddle,” by The Rudiments.” It was a good fun set and a great complement to the headliners.

The Hoosier state’s Green Room Rockers gave the audience a fun set that included, “Pieces,” “Conqueror,” “Alone” “Old Friend,” “Walking in the Park, ”Northbound Train,” “Can I Change My Mind,” ”You and I.” GRR lead singer and organist, Mark A Powers, performed with an unflinching smile, as he slammed down on the keys and periodically skirted away to pay attention to other parts of the stage and audience.

See below for more photos!

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