INTERVIEW with TONY CADENA
INTERVIEW & INTRODUCTION by SEVEN ADAMS
PHOTO by GLEN E. FRIEDMAN
The Adolescents…raw, real, punk & hardcore. They held it down and still do – changing the name and game of surf and skate punk music. These guys paved the path for many to come in the punk world. Here we get to step into the mind of Tony Cadena and, trust me, it’s going to be a one hell of a ride!
What’s up, Tony? How’s it going?
I’m well. How are you?
I’m okay. Let’s jump into this. Were you adolescents when you started the Adolescents?
[Laughs] Yes, we were. Steve Soto, Frank Agnew and I were all in our teens. Rikk Agnew and Casey Royer were in their late teens when they joined the band.
What year was that?
It was 1980 when we started to practice.
You were out of Southern Cal?
Yeah. We were in Anaheim and Fullerton, right in the middle of Orange County.
That was a cool time to come out with punk in that scene.
It was a really exciting time from 1976 to 1982 with a lot of stuff going on.
Do you want to tell me about your guys’ first album? That’s The Blue Album, correct?
Yeah. We recorded the record in late 1980 and released it in early 1981. For me, it was just something that we did over the weekend.
Well, thank you, because you got me stoked to surf many times off that album.
[Laughs] Oh, I’m glad to hear that!
That album has some of my favorite songs on there.
That’s great. That album definitely has an appeal to a lot of people. A lot of it had to do with the fact that there’s a spontaneity and an urgency to it and people still hear it even now. A lot of folks really took to that one.
Well, it was really good.
We had no idea. We just thought what we were doing was in a vacuum. There was so much going on and we weren’t aware that it was paralleled in sports and other things that were going on all over the place. There were all kinds of people doing cool stuff with the same mindset at the same time. It was pretty exciting.
That was a really good album and it jumped right into the surf and skate scene, so it directly influenced someone like me that surfs and skates and likes punk music. Do you surf or skate?
No. I can barely swim. [Laughs] Skating is something I gave up in the late ‘70s. I got tired of falling down. It bangs you up and it hurt a lot. It wasn’t meant to be for me. I did love the beach and I spent a lot of time there. We goofed around on skateboards for a long time, but it was like a lot of things. I wasn’t very good at it, so I got discouraged pretty quickly and gave up on it.
With the music thing, you just jumped into it and started getting stoked?
Well, I couldn’t figure out how to play an instrument, so when I started to sing and write it was just something that I was comfortable doing. It was the same with playing an instrument. I tried and I lacked the coordination to do all of these things, so I just kind of drifted to what was most comfortable and easiest to do.
You definitely seem comfortable on the microphone. Were the Adolescents the first band you were ever in?
Yeah. I did a couple of things with my brother. We used to make stuff on tape loops. We had a reel to reel and an Optigan organ. It was really primitive sampling. We had cassette tapes and tape players that we would hook up to an amplifier. We were doing a lot of pretty cool stuff and making music with really rudimentary stuff. As far as a formal band, the first band I was in was the Adolescents.
Were there other bands you jumped into?
Oh yeah. I was in a lot of bands, like the Abandoned, a band that I started, and a band called God Riots 73. I joined the Flower Leperds for a few years, and a band called Sister Goddamn. We did a lot with the ADZ and a lot of different stuff over the years after that.
At what age were you starting to get into music before the Adolescents?
When I was little, in the early ‘70s, I was really into the Kinks, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and stuff like that. I really liked listening to the radio and I started to really dedicate my time and life to music in 1974. I was really into it by then. Hang on. My son is trying to show me something.
How many kids do you have?
I have three. I have two boys and my oldest is a girl. Actually, she’s a woman now. She’s not a girl anymore. She’s 18 now.
Okay. I just turned 21.
Cool. Oh, you’re still a baby. My daughter thinks she’s all grown up now, but to me, she’s still a baby.
Growing up, who do you think were your favorite punk rockers?
When I got into punk rock, it was really fertile in Los Angeles and there were a lot of great bands. I was really into the Weirdos, the Germs, the Bags, the Crowd and the Middle Class. These were bands that were really crucial to me. They were bands we could go and see on a weekly basis or catch them at least once a month.
The punk scene in the ‘80s was strong.
It was really on fire. It really was an exciting time.
Coming up in the music game, did you ever have someone that mentored you or took you under their wing?
There were a few people that really tried like Eddie Subtitle and my friend, Eddie Egan, and Mike Patton of the Middle Class. In fact, the Middle Class crowd had quite an extended family, and they were really helpful in guiding me into making some smarter choices and not completely falling off the deep end, which would have been really easy to do when I was 17 or 18 years old. They cared, which was really what I needed. I needed a parental influence of some sort and they were willing to step up and give me advice and help me along the way.
They helped to keep you on that focused path. It’s like that in surfing too, for me, growing up on the Point in Santa Cruz.
Absolutely. They guide you into not taking chances that are a little out of range, right?
They help you to play it smart and not to bite off more than one can chew. They guide without any judgment. That was the important part.
Exactly. For you, being in the punk scene, what did your parents think of that? How did they react to it?
My mom was actually pretty supportive of it. At first, she only knew what she would read in magazines. Early on, she saw some of the magazines that were really critical and she thought it was a bad idea. As time went on, she started to realize this was what her son and his friends were into and she let us rehearse in the garage. She wouldn’t stick around because she didn’t want to be around it, but she was as supportive as she could be. She didn’t try to block it or anything. My mom grew up in the ‘60s. She was from a Navy family and my father was in the Navy, but they lived in San Francisco in the ‘60s, so she was a very progressive kind of person.
It’s good that, even if she wasn’t into it, she let you play and supported that.
Yeah. She was cool. When I got interested in skateboarding, she helped me get a board. When I got interested in music, she helped me get an instrument. With the money that she had, which was limited, she tried to open up as many windows of opportunity for me to do things that she could.
That’s rad. What was the first concert or show that you saw?
Cheap Trick was one of the first bands I saw, which was in the late ‘70s. For punk rock bands, it was Eddie and the Subtitles in ’79. It could have been Devo that I saw first. As far as local bands, Eddie and the Subtitles was the first local band that I took in.
So you got the Adolescents going in the ‘80s and then you started doing tours and stuff. When did you guys start doing that?
We didn’t tour until the mid ‘80s. We started the band in late ’79 and started playing shows in March of 1980.
You guys were doing a lot of stuff in California at that time?
Everything was in California until ’81. We may have done one show in Nevada or Arizona. Everything else was Orange County and Los Angeles and a couple of shows up in San Francisco until ’86.
What’s one of your greatest memories from those local Orange County days in the beginning?
There were some really great parties. Before the band really broke, it was insane. We would go and play these places where people were outwardly hostile. They hated punk rock and there was a lot of conflict between the old rock crowd and this new punk rock music, at least in Orange County, so it was really exciting. There were a lot of parties that would break into total brawls. You never knew if you were going to do a show and even get through a set. There were times where we would start playing and the hippie guys would come and thrash us before we could get through the fourth song. They would just knock us over, and the equipment too. It was pretty wild.
That’s gnarly. It was such a different scene back then. My dad told me some crazy stories about going to concerts back in the day, and it sounded like it was a lot more wild and aggressive.
Yeah. Where your dad was going to see the shows, in the South Bay and a little farther up north, it was completely a parallel thing, but with a whole different dynamic. Closer to the beach, there were different cliques and different dynamics going on. We were a lot more inland. Where I lived, I was 15 or 20 miles from the beach, so we had a different dynamic. We would go to the beach, but when we would go to the beach, we were outsiders. Even as punk rock guys, to the punk rockers there, we were outsiders, so there was a lot of different stuff going on. By the way, I’m really sorry to hear about what happened to your dad.
Oh yeah, man. Thank you.
It must have come as a complete surprise and shock, so my best to all of you. I can’t imagine what you’ve been going through.
That’s a gnarly one. I’m just happy that when he passed he was stoked. He was really happy.
Yeah. It looked like he was doing really good and that made me really happy for him. It looked like things had really turned around for him.
Yeah. We were in a good spot in our relationship, so I feel like that’s more important than his skateboarding career and his surfing career and everything. He and his family were really good. He and his wife were good, so that was really good.
Sorry. I didn’t mean to take you by surprise with that.
No, it’s okay. You got me really good on that one, but it is what it is. So growing up did you have any other professions that you did besides music?
Yeah. I got an education and I went to school and I was really into trying to prove that I could pull that off and I did. With the whole school thing, I knew that I could do it. At the beginning, I was a little shaky because I was not focused and I wanted to do what kids that are 18 or 19 years old want to do and going to college wasn’t it. Once I really buckled down, it turned into something that I was really dedicated to and I knocked it out pretty fast. I went into teaching and I started working with kids that have disabilities. I found something that wasn’t music-related to spend time with and I really enjoy it.
It’s good to have other things too.
I wasn’t good at sports or anything else. When I got into that kind of brainy crap, that seemed to do well for me. Who would have thought?
That’s interesting right there. So who is in the Adolescents now?
It’s me and Steve Soto and Dan Root, who is a really amazing guitar player with a brilliant history of his own, and Mike Cambra is playing drums and Ian Taylor, who is from out in the desert area is playing guitar. He actually lives down in San Diego now, but he was in some of those desert bands out there, and they had their own thing going on. Talk about another parallel punk rock scene going on out in the desert. They had an abandoned pool that they used to skate, the Nude Bowl, and they had their own thing going on out there. It was an old abandoned nudist colony that had a pool. Nobody had been there for ages and they took it over and skated that pool for a very long time.
That’s so sick.
Isn’t that amazing? [Laughs] They had it all going on. That just shows you how far the punk/skate scene stretched.
Your guitar player, Joey, is super young, isn’t he?
Yeah. He is, but he’s not playing with us right now. He’s in New York in the studio working as an engineer. He’s been with us since he was 15 and he’s probably your age now, or a little older. He was playing with us for years, and when he was thinking about going to college, he was like, “Maybe I’ll put it off for a year and tour with you guys.” We were like, “No, we’re not going to let you do that.” [Laughs] We stepped in and said, “We think you should go to school.” And you know what? It really opened up a lot of avenues for him. Playing music is really fun for him, but he has so many other talents. It was good to see him get into recording and expand his knowledge of music. He’s a really brilliant kid.
Nice. When you guys were playing shows with him, did you just do all ages shows?
We did. We rarely did 21 and over shows with him. We still do mostly all ages stuff now. There are some places where we can’t get away with it but, whenever we can, we prefer to play all ages shows. I realized that when you play 21 and over shows, you’re locking out a lot of kids that want to see the shows and enjoy the music and I don’t think it’s fair to lock anybody out. If they want to come and enjoy the show, they should be able to. I don’t think the serving of alcohol should be something that stops that from happening, so I prefer to play places that don’t serve alcohol if it’s going to stop people from being able to get in.
Yeah. I think that’s cool. I think all ages should be able to listen to some good punk music. I had that problem growing up. I just turned 21, so now I’m allowed in to some of these things.
Yeah. You’ve had all those years of not being able to get into shows, right?
Yeah, and it pissed me off, man.
I know. I always felt bad because there would always be a couple of kids that were like, “I can’t get into this place.” I would be like, “I’m really sorry.” It’s like that when we play Alex’s Bar. I know Alex, and the last thing we want to do is bring people in that could cost him his business license.
Definitely. That’s a very respectable move on your part.
Yeah. We try to not play a lot of places that are 21 and over, but if we do, we always play a good all ages show right before it so the kids can come if they want.
Have you heard of the Catalyst in Santa Cruz? Growing up in Santa Cruz, that’s where we would go to listen to music all the time.
I know the Catalyst quite well. Is that where you live, up in Santa Cruz?
Well, I’m living down south in Venice right now.
We had this song called “Surf City” on The Fastest Kid Alive record that we put out a couple of years ago. It was all about the battle for the ‘Surf City’ title between Santa Cruz and Huntington Beach, when they were in court battling it out over the intellectual rights to the title. I don’t know if you knew about all that, but Huntington Beach actually blocked Santa Cruz from being able to call themselves Surf City. There was a whole big legal battle.
I was kind of happy about that. I wanted Santa Cruz to stay on the DL, you know? [Laughs]
Yeah. [Laughs] I thought the whole argument from Huntington Beach was really lame. The way that they were handling it was typical politics and mumbo jumbo where they stop people from utilizing something that they’ve done for years. It’s the same thing as when they keep going into these cities and gentrifying them and throwing out everybody that used to live there. It’s all part of that movement. It’s just money and rich people and city councils that think they are doing the community a favor by throwing out all the people that used to live there.
Even just being in Venice, it’s slowly turning into Silicon Valley by the sea. It’s growing.
Yeah. I looked at that book that Spot just put out. It was interesting to look at that and see what was going on in Hermosa and Redondo Beach and what was going on down at the Strand. The saddest part of all that is that it’s totally illegal to skateboard there now. It’s a whole city that was based on skateboarding and you can’t even do it anymore.
That’s super gnarly. That’s messed up. So you guys are doing a lot of shows and you’re going on tour this summer?
Yeah. We have been playing a lot. We’re going out this summer and we’re going to do a U.S tour with the Weirdos and we’ve got a new record that just came out, La Vendetta. It was released overseas on a German label and then it was released in the U.S. on Frontier and we’re really excited about that because we’ve been trying to do a record with Lisa Fancher since 2005. We did a record called O.C. Confidential and we did a record called The Fastest Kid Alive and one called Presumed Insolent. Lisa wanted to put all those records out, but we’re all kind of laid-back people and nobody rushes into anything. By the time we got around to working on it, the records had been out for two or three years. On this one, when she heard it, she really liked it and it had only been out for six months, so we were really excited that we were finally all on the same page.
It’s a great record. The last three releases have been pretty exceptional. The EP we did and the last two albums are pretty great. I like them and I’m pretty persnickety about stuff and I thought they were actually pretty good.
I’ve been listening to a bunch of your stuff and I really like the new songs.
What are the main differences between playing a show in the ‘80s and playing a show now?
In the ‘80s, the shows were like $2 or $3 for admission and there were parties that were free. Live music used to be free. In the 21st century, most of the music is free now and the live shows cost money. A lot of music you can either download for practically nothing or access it legally or illegally for very cheap or nothing at all. The price of the music has gone way down and the price of live music and vinyl has gone way up. For audio files, it’s become more collector-oriented than it used to be, even though that element was always there. Now it’s mostly vinyl collectors. The cost of live shows has gone up because of things like insurance. An all ages shows has become a lot more expensive because the club has to get their money, and alcohol is where they make their big sale, selling overpriced drinks. When you do go to all ages shows, you end up with higher door costs and parking costs, which is how a lot of clubs get their revenues now. That’s the biggest difference in the investment that the consumers have to put in. The enthusiasm hasn’t changed, but the money dynamic for the customer is higher. There used to be a lot less capital involved for everybody. In the past, it was a lot more difficult to do a show because you had to borrow equipment and then worry about breaking it. When I was 15, I couldn’t afford a microphone or cords. If you had a bad cord, you just had to deal with it. Sonically, it was a lot different. Being in the audience, it meant a lot more delays. Things move a lot faster now. That seems to be the modern way. I kind of miss the relaxed mode.
I like that old school vibe too. My parents would tell me about going to shows and stuff and it was close to free every time. Nowadays you go to shows and it can be $150 for a ticket. It’s gnarly sometimes. It’s still got that same fire though. What was your background growing up?
Most of my life, I was raised by my mother. My parents divorced when I was really young, but my family was really different from the other guys in the band. The other guys had pretty stable family lives. Mine was pretty broken. I was raised by my mother, primarily, and then she got married and had boyfriends along the way, so there were different male influences around the house through time, but she was the one constant in my life. We didn’t have a lot of money and we were on welfare until my teens when I moved out. I left home when I was 16 and I went to live with my grandparents. That was a lot more stabilizing for me, initially, until I realized that I could run wild and I got myself into some trouble. [Laughs] It was a unique life, not unlike other kids in the scene. It was not like the guys that I hung out with, which was good. I needed that stability. There was Steve’s dad and Eddie Egan’s dad, and those guys were really my mentors. Those were the guys that really guided me into my adult life. I was paying attention to how they interacted with their wives and their children and how they interacted with me. They were really great people. They were the kind of male role models that I needed.
That’s really cool. That’s kind of like my upbringing. I had the single mom style. My dad was around, but he was doing his thing as a pro skater. That’s awesome that your mom was killing it hard as she was. It’s got to be hard to be a single mom.
Yeah. At the time, I didn’t really appreciate all that my mom was doing. As I got older, and then I became a parent, I really understood what she had to deal with.
We are on the same page with that. I moved out when I was 15 and as I grew up, I learned about paying my own rent and bills and it’s like, “Wow. My mom killed it for those 15 or 16 years.” I’m definitely appreciative of that. What do you think was one of your proudest moments growing up, as a kid?
The band was really the first thing that I did that I was proud of. Before that, it wasn’t really anything big. I caught a baseball once. [Laughs] It was hit right to me and I just put the glove up and caught it and I became the hero of that game. We had lost every game. Out of 24 games, we lost 23 of them. The second to last game, I caught the ball that saved the win for us. We were ahead by one and I got to be the hero that day. That was kind of cool.
That’s a good feeling. It’s like coming out of a big barrel surfing or rocking out on stage. So you’ve been playing music for more than 35 years now. What keeps that fire going?
This world has a lot of stuff going on that needs to be fixed, all the way down to the cities forgetting about the kids that are there. Cities will build a dog park before they build a skatepark and things like that. There are a lot of things that really irritate me and there are a lot of things that people need to speak up about. Greed is so significant that they leak nuclear waste into our oceans. Every time it rains, there is so much gunk that comes from the mountains all the way down. It’s that kind of stuff that drives me now. When I was 11 or 12 years old, they were saying, “Take care of these beaches. If you don’t, they’re going to disappear.” Now, between all the pollution and developers, they are. They build big houses and gate them and you can’t even get access down to the beach without going down some kind of crazy staircase that could kill you before you get to the bottom of the cliffs.
Exactly. There are all kinds of limitations like gated communities…
They have all these rules and it’s like, “Who gave them the right to do this?” That’s the kind of stuff that drives me now. I pay attention to that stuff when it’s happening now on a daily basis. When they outlawed the bonfires on the beach in Huntington Beach, do you know where those decisions were made? They were made in Diamond Bar. They just moved the forum for discussing it as far away from the people that it affects as possible so the interest groups can push those kinds of things through. The reason they didn’t want bonfires on the beach was to keep people off the beaches after eight o’clock. That was the only reason for it.
That’s so stupid. They’re creating way too many rules and regulations without using the minds and thoughts of the locals.
Right. It’s supposed to be common public access, which means shared, not private.
What do you think the future holds for the Adolescents?
Well, we’re going to do a European tour next year and we’ll be putting out another album. We spend two or three months every year writing and recording and then touring another 60 days or so. We’ve got it down to a science.
That’s good to hear. You didn’t start this to quit it. You started this for the love, so just keep it going. Where do you see the future for punk rock in this generation?
I think it’s going through a quiet mode right now, but I think it’s going to pick up again in a few years. I think right now we’re in what I would call an Ice Age.
I want it to make a comeback. In the ‘80s, it was blowing up. I wish it would get to that again.
I think it will pick up again. There will always be that dedicated core audience and that’s where we’re at right now. There are not a lot of outsiders right now, which is fine.
Hopefully, we can persuade the new generation to start getting psyched and wake up a little bit.
Right. It will pick up again for the kids that care. That’s the important thing.
Yeah. I have a lot of friends that are getting back into punk rock music after being into the electronic stuff. I was never into any of that electronic music and dubstep.
Me either. I try to listen to it, because as a teacher, I want to know what the kids are into. I know a lot of them are not into what I’m into and I just want to be able to communicate to them. I was where they are once. I understand what it’s like to have an older generation not being able to understand what I was into, so I haven’t forgotten.
What jams are you listening to nowadays?
There’s a band called the Lovesores that I’ve been listening a lot to lately. It’s a couple of the guys from the Humpers. That’s a band that they’re doing up in Portland. The Burning Heads is a French band that I like a lot and, of course, the Weirdos. I still listen to all of the stuff that I used to listen to, like Pink Floyd. I still listen to the Kinks at least once a week, and the Beatles at least once a week and the Rolling Stones at least once a week. I haven’t lost my love for the stuff that I’ve listened to ever since I was a kid. I still love all that stuff.
I’m big on Pink Floyd too. Okay. I have a two-part question. Part one. What are your three favorite songs that you’ve done in your music career?
Let’s see. I really like a song called “Let It Rain”. I like that one a lot. I really like a song called “Talking to Myself”. That’s another Adolescents song I really like. I like this song we did with the band, Sister Goddamn, called “Aphid.” I really liked that one a lot. I’m proud of those songs.
That’s rad. Here are the ones I listen to a lot. “Creatures”, “No Way”, “L.A. Girl” and “Self Destruct”. I was really big on the first album.
Rikk wrote a lot of the songs on the first record and those are awesome songs. He wrote “Creatures” and “No Way”. Casey wrote “Amoeba” and those are all great songs. “L.A. Girl” is a great song. “Self Destruct” is a great song.
Well, you wrote “Orange Crush”, “Inspiration” and “Conquest of the Planet of the Sea Monkeys.” Those are all great songs too.
Yeah. I wrote all of those songs. I really like a lot of those songs. I really like “Inspiration” and what it’s about. I used to get into a lot of trouble and had a lot of hassles in the city that I live in. At the time, we kept to ourselves, my family, but we lived in an area that was going through a big change. When we first went out there, it was an artist kind of city and then money started moving in. When money moved in, people like us became the weirdos and the freaks of the area. By the time my kids got into school, we started to run into a lot of oppositional problems with the community and the local school where we lived. There was a lot of back and forth and a lot of fighting and arguing about how our kids should be taught. They didn’t have a lot of respect for us, so we dug our heels in and fought. That fight went on for about seven or eight years. The result, besides changing the way they did things at the school, was that a lot of really great music came out of it. “Inspiration” was one of those songs. The entire album, The Fastest Kid Alive came out of that. Those songs have a lot of importance to me, personally, so I really like them.
That’s cool. It’s unfortunate that you guys were going through those problems, but it’s good that you got the result you were after and some amazing songs came out of it.
Yeah. The thing was that once we were in it, and once the problems had started, it was really difficult to get out of it. It became like a poison. We were stuck in it.
Well, I’m happy it all worked out.
You have to keep your eyes on the light at the end of the tunnel and keep clawing for that. Well, back to part two of the two-part question. What are your favorite songs of other bands when you were growing up? What got you the most stoked?
The three that stick out in my head right now are “Clocked In” by Black Flag. I love that song. I really dig that song “I Felt Like A Gringo” by the Minutemen. “Helium Bar” by the Weirdos is a great song too. Those are some great songs right there.
I listen to a lot of Black Flag too, so I’m big on that one. I know we were talking about the internet earlier and I wanted to jump back into that. Did you like the change that it brought into music or not?
Not really. I liked the fact that it made it a lot more accessible. Sonically, the files sound so bad though. What I do like is the convenience of it. It’s really easy to listen to music and hear new music. That’s a great thing, but it loses a lot coming through a crappy sound system and there’s no way around that. Music sounds better when it’s played live or through something that sounds good.
I agree 100%. That’s why it’s important to go to concerts so you can actually hear it.
Yeah. That way you can hear it the way it’s supposed to sound.
Well, the whole iTunes game is gnarly. Everything is really cheap and people are torrenting music too. It’s crazy. Who knows? Maybe we’ll lose our internet soon. Have you seen that movie The Interview yet?
[Laughs] I’ve seen all that was going on with that. It’s pretty unbelievable. I think it’s a shame. I think that the last thing that Sony should have done was to give in. They should have stood their ground. There must have been a lot of stuff in those emails that was really embarrassing to them and they were so afraid that they pulled the movie. They were using the theaters and saying, “Because the theaters wouldn’t run it, we decided not to open the movie.” It was silly. I think they didn’t want to open the movie because they were afraid of the rest of their emails getting out. That’s what it was really about.
That’s pretty gnarly. To me, all that showed is that you shouldn’t talk shit on email or don’t talk shit at all.
Yeah. You can say what you’re going to say, but be aware that whatever you say it’s going to be out there.
Exactly. They’re all backed up in a corner on that one. Now it seems like we’re in this cyber war with North Korea. It looks like their internet got shut down for a few days. We might be going back to no more iPhones and using candles instead of electricity again.
Yep. [Laughs] That’s okay. I lived life before it, so I think that would be okay.
So you guys have your new album and I checked that out. What’s up with some of the names of the songs? You guys have “Fukushima Lemon Twist” and “30 Seconds to Malibu.” Could you tell us a little bit about those songs and the reasons behind them?
Well, “Fukushima” is about the nuclear meltdown in Japan and the toxins starting to float towards California water now. As it makes its way across the Pacific, it’s going to affect us. It’s kind of making fun of the mindset that I grew up with, which was that somehow this type of energy was safe, when we all knew it wasn’t. The whole thing is that everything we do on the beaches is going to be polluted now. The food that we barbecue to the water that we swim in to the games we play, we’re all going to pay the price now for our stupidity as the human race.
It sucks, especially for me, being a surfer. That’s no good.
Yep. You got the picture on that. It’s a shame. So that’s what that song “Fukushima” was about. “30 Seconds to Malibu” is about a rocket scientist that lived in Pasadena named Jack Parsons. It’s a rewriting of what his whole life was about. He was out in the riverbed creating what would become rocket science. Literally, he was the founder of JPL, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Eventually, he was messed up moving some explosives in his house and blew himself up and that was the end of that. That’s what that song is about.
“Formula 13” is about the first and only Syd Barrett Pink Floyd concert that occurred in Los Angeles. The most important song, the title track, “A Dish Best Served Cold” is about the murder of Kelly Thomas. A lot of things are touched on there.
Yeah. I was reading the names and the title is La Vendetta too. Those are rad names for songs. You guys did a good job.
On a different topic, growing up with The Adolescents as a band, what were the other bands coming up that you had to compete against?
There were a lot of real healthy rivalries. I call them rivalries, but they weren’t really because we were all friends and we all worked together really well. We were all kind of slugging it out together. The best way to equate it is much the same as your Pop and the way those guys skated. They weren’t really in competition with anybody but themselves. We were kind of the same way. We were friends and quite fond of bands that came in on the same wave we were on, like T.S.O.L., Social Distortion, Youth Brigade and Agent Orange. Then there were the older bands that we looked up to as well. Those are the bands that we would have been categorized with as rivalries, but they weren’t rivals.
It was other people doing similar stuff.
Yeah. We were playing the same clubs at the same time and going through the same life experiences. There are lots of bands that we really liked like The Weirdos and The Germs and The Dickies. The Dickies were amazing. Those were really fun times and really great bands. We used to spend a lot of time seeing their bands and following them and supporting each other. It wasn’t a rivalry in a sense of a competition. It was very similar to how the skaters did things. People were just doing stuff and digging it. There weren’t bad feelings going on. It was all really positive because we were together in this. There were plenty of people that weren’t into what we were doing that we shared a common disdain for. Between each other, we all got along pretty well. It’s just like any sibling rivalries. People would get in an occasional fistfight with each other. We were so small that we didn’t get in any fistfights with anybody. Those guys in T.S.O.L. were six-foot tall surfers. They were literally the last people in the world that we were going to get in a fight with. [Laughs] I weighed like a 100 pounds. I was not going to go toe-to-toe with Jack Grisham.
Right. I feel that. I’m much more of a lover than a fighter. [Laughs] As you guys started doing the tours, what show stands out in your head more than any other show that you performed?
I really liked the show at the Perkins Palace with Stiff Little Fingers and D.O.A. That was a blast. The show with the Dickies at Perkins Palace was a good show too. The Black Flag / D.O.A. show was really great at the Santa Monica Civic. The Minutemen opened and it was a really good show. Those stand out.
Rad. What kind of advice do you have for the young rockers coming up?
Have fun. Get in a van and travel around the United States and meet people and find out about the world and the country you live in. It’s such an amazing place. Meet people and get involved with other cultures and realize that the world doesn’t revolve around us. There are really neat cool things going on in the world.
Definitely. I bet you really got to appreciate that as you toured internationally too.
Yeah. A lot of the metal bands go to Europe and play. Go to Europe while you can. You can go and see bands and it can be cheap and fun. Just go. Get together with some of your friends and don’t take yourselves too seriously. Have a good time. Rock it because one day you’re going to have responsibilities. I’ve been lucky. Not everybody gets the second chance that I got. Take advantage of it. Get out there and see the world. It’s great. See the country. It’s amazing. There are places in Montana and Wyoming that you can only dream about. See the South. Go to Georgia. Go to Washington D.C. See what it’s about. Go to Washington State. Go to San Francisco. Just get out there and dig it. It’s fun. It’s a crazy world and there are a lot of amazing punk rock people in it.