In 1978, my older brother Jeff and I started our band Redd Kross. I was 11 and he was 14. Our first public performance was at an eighth-grade graduation party, opening for Black Flag—and we got them the gig! We had met Black Flag only a few months earlier at probably one of their first shows ever. It was at a Moose Lodge in Redondo Beach. I remember they were incredibly loud, really muddy sounding, and the lead singer, Keith Morris, was particularly obnoxious. Although that night I much preferred the headlining band, Rhino 39 (one classic single on Dangerhouse Records), we still made sure to buy the opening band's self released 7-inch at the merch booth. It turned out to be the now classic
We were all disillusioned by surf culture, Led Zep, and mainstream teens. All the assholes at school and on the beach could go fuck themselves. We were proud to be outside of their bullshit. Our drummer at the time, John Steilow, was a slightly different story. He was popular at school. He was even a surfer, and he got us our first show. It was at Lisa Stangles's graduation party. John was in Lisa's eighth grade class, and since he was a popular dude, known for his drumming prowess in the school orchestra, she asked if his band would play her party. We jumped at the chance, and offered to get our friend's band to play as well. There you go: Lisa Stangle had just booked the first Redd Kross show ever,
a headlining set from an extremely vintage version of the best Black Flag lineup.
I had just turned 12. We set up in the living room. We only got through a couple songs before they started booing, "Punk shit, you suck, faggots." Some dude with a pubescent cheecho shouted, "Play some Zep," and without hesitation Jeff announced that we would do some "unreleased Led Zeppelin." John clicked off a four-count, and we dove into the gnarliest noise jam, so fierce it would've made Thurston Moore green with envy. For the first 30 seconds or so, the kids really got into it, then they started questioning the new sound we were laying on them, and eventually they began to boo and berate us once again.
Black Flag's set included all the early classics: "Nervous Breakdown," "Wasted," "Fix Me." I think the kids were way too intimidated by these older dudes to give them any hassle. Most of them evacuated the living-room area, leaving our small group of friends to enjoy a private show by one of the most ferocious and innovative punk bands of all time. Keith Morris recently told me that he remembered a teenage girl being carried away from the party. Apparently she drank an entire pot of coffee, leading to caffeine overdose.
That still stands out as one of the best shows I've ever seen.
Andy Milonakis, that funny fat kid who raps on the internet, wrote us an exclusive verse, right off his chubby little fucking dome:
"Don't ask me how I do it bitch, I got the knack
I'm a fucking honky, I'm so white I'm black
You drink malt liquor and I drink pussy juice
You're sticking your dick in men while I'm boning female moose
If fucking animals is wrong, then break out the noose
Judge me all you want, it makes my dick hard
I'm Andy Milonakis, America's favorite retard
I'll blow up your house, then kill myself in your yard."
I first met Martin Tomlinson from Selfish Cunt years ago when he was just this dandy in the underworld, strutting around in the East End of London in makeup, getting beaten up.
I think a lot of those experiences get channeled into his singing about gay bashing and oppression, because he knows what he's talking about.
They have a song that uses the n word and it gets misconstrued by people as racist, but as long as I have known Martin he's always hung out with a very multiracial group of friends. You know what I mean, he's been out with black boys, so he's not racist.
Sometimes people laugh at him and then they catch themselves and they're like, "Why am I laughing? He just shouted ‘nigger!'"
I toured with them and we had a lot of fun. We kicked the fuck out of one of their hotel rooms and went running naked around Wolverhampton.
We also did a photoshoot for NME in front of Buckingham Palace when he threw horseshit all over the supposedly "best new bands on the scene." They all ended up covered in shit. What a shit scene.
Selfish Cunt have a new DVD out on Horseglue Records. Check www.horsegluerecords.com for more details.
What the fuck? Who let this guy who can't sing in tune ruin that movie
The Arcade Fire
This is one of those things where a band gets thrown in your face so much before you ever hear them that you already think they're disgusting before you hear the music. I finally heard some of their songs on "indie" radio out in LA and I couldn't tell if it was Modest Mouse covering Bright Eyes or the other way around. It's just a real watered-down version of that stuff. I guess if you add a few violins to the mix, then everyone's gonna suck your dick. Plus, anything that gets a good review on
is immediately suspect.
I tried to get into this band, but it's such a rehash of the
power group where you have the hot singer, the backstory—even the guy's name: Flowers. It's like a melting pot of gross musical genres, ten years too late. If somebody would have started this band eight years ago, they would have been laughed off the stage. But anyone who gets that much corporate money pumped into them, it's gonna click.
Kings of Leon
They got the whole backstory too. Just a perfect made-for-press story. But has anyone heard these guys? I just can't get into it. Caleb, the singer, has this mumbly thing going on. Their fucking great looking awesome ten-page ad with supermodels in
was great, but has anyone even bought that record? Their first album sounded like every instrument was in a different room…in different countries.
This is based off on one track, that "Illegal Tender" thing, but it's so maddening. The vocal style is totally contrived—trying to imitate 15 different generations of punk. It's a total rip of Craig Finn, who was in Lifterpuller and is now in the Hold Steady, who does it well with something interesting to say. I actually kind of like the hook where the girl singer comes in, but then I found out she's not even in the band. It's like, what's the fucking point? People are gonna be disappointed that girl isn't in the band.
Har Mar Superstar
Who the fuck do I think I am? Do I really think I'm sexy? Why am I so overexposed when nobody buys my album? Do I really think people care? Do I really want to trick myself into thinking that people are hanging out with me because I make great music, instead of that I actually just have a lot of drugs most of the time? I'll probably end up on
The Surreal Life
within two years.
HAR MAR SUPERSTAR
How do most soldiers listen to music over there?
When you go to the bases, people are listening to the radio or playing Xbox or whatnot. We only get three fuckin' stations here. One is called Freedom Radio. I heard Led Zeppelin on there one day. That's what most people listen to. Another station is like Arabic dance music, like Fischerspooner in Arabic. It's a catchy little station. The 3rd is, well, fucked. I don't know what it is.
I listen to music on my motherfucking iPod. That's my white little sanity box. I also have this dual voltage CD player. You gotta make sure its DV. If not, you're fucked.
Can you listen to music whenever you want?
Whenfuckingever you want. Except during briefs. Can't do that.
But don't you have to be able to hear things? Like if you're being attacked or something?
The alarms are fuckin' super loud so you'll hear it. It's funny, because I was actually listening to
Legacy of Brutality
when the last one went off a few hours ago. If an alarm happens here we just stay put. It's not like we have to turn off any radios or anything. When we are not in a building and we get attacked, that's when we have to go to bunkers. In the past 24 hours we've been attacked five times.
Do you think the war is justified?
The day of the elections was, for me, the day that changed everything. That day I realized I was doing the right thing. Being an 18-hour plane ride from home didn't seem so bad after all.
It's kinda like history is happening right in front of me and I'm taking part.
Bam Margera is friends with some dude from the Bloodhound Gang who has a record label that puts out HIM. Bam said, "Here, let me put the logo on my show and your band will be fucking huge." So he did, and they are. The shelves at Hot Topic are wall-to-wall HIM logo shirts and the band's logo has become more popular than the smiley face or the peace sign or anything. It's fucking EVERYWHERE. Too bad nobody's heard the band before. I guess that will come later.
VICE: What's with the logo?
: You mean the Heartogram? One day I was just scribbling some things on a piece of paper and it just sort of happened. I even remember the date, because it was my birthday: December 22nd, 1997.
What does it mean? Like, Satanic love or something?
It's a more modern and trashy version of the yin-yang. Of course, our dear friend Bam Margera has helped us immensely. Now people who aren't even HIM fans are getting it tattooed on them.
Yeah, that's why we're interviewing you.
I think it's a good thing, actually. There's something mystical behind it. If they get interested in HIM after the fact then that's great. Lots of people have things like upside-down crosses or pentagrams on their bodies, but this is much more original, and it's just something that a 20-year-old bloke from Finland made.
You must sell a shitload of merch.
We do OK. What I like is how the name of the band is never that big in the shirts and the posters, so the Heartogram is there almost by itself, just very simple and beautiful. We do other things besides T-shirts, too. There's a line of barstools and stuff like that now.
Like, with the logo where your ass goes?
It's great, isn't it? I'd love to see HIM cigarettes, toys, all those things. I don't care if people associate it with the band. But to go on tour and see kids spray-painting just our logo and the date, and people knowing what it means—that's just magical.
What does your band sound like?
Seriously, I haven't heard you guys yet.
Really? I guess you could call us the perfect mix of Marilyn Manson and Madonna.
Him's logo will be on a new album this September.
VICE: Oh my God, oh my God, you're that shirtless ponytail sax player from The Lost Boys!!
: Yep, that was me.
How'd you get that part?
I was auditioning for the bad guy in the first Lethal Weapon, the Gary Busey part. Obviously, I didn't get it but as I was leaving, someone who worked there said, "There's a guy down the hall who's a big fan of yours, would you like to meet him?" He took me into Joel Schumacher's office, and I was met by a big picture of me over Joel's desk. I guess he wasn't kidding. Joel offered me the part right there and I started writing a song for the movie. That song didn't make the film but I'm glad it didn't. "I Still Believe" is a much better song than the one I wrote.
Did it get crazy on the set?
We had a party in Corey Haim's room, a ton of people in a little Holiday Inn room. I guess we were getting pretty loud and somebody called the cops. I saw something that still amazes me when I think about it. Corey went to the door and turned on this Eddie Haskell charm to the cop, but totally convincing. He seemed to lose five years and wrap the cop around his finger til the man walked away apologizing to Corey. I realized then what a different species actors are, these people who can just about shape-shift, weep at will. Forget this music stuff, that's a talent you can use.
I love Johnny Cash. I grew up loving him and I own just about everything the Man in Black ever recorded. Not too long ago, I also picked up some of his knives and a pair of his boots at an auction. Hell, I even bought a cabin of his that I saw was for sale in People fucking magazine. I bought it sight unseen. Johnny Cash signed the deed over on a Monday and he died that Friday. Holy fuck, I was crushed. My hero was gone just like that. I took it pretty hard, too. I goddamn cried my eyes out all weekend. Aside from booze, what kinda helped me get through it all was the fact that I was now the proud owner of Johnny Cash's 19th-century cabin in my home state of Tennessee. I went to see it a couple of weeks ago, and if you thought I was crying when Johnny passed away, you should have seen me bawling when I saw how rundown this goddamn place was. I don't think the family had visited the dwelling since the Carter administration. I was thinking, "Goddamn, how many crappy movies am I gonna have to do to pay for the repairs on this place?" And no disrespect to the estate either—they told me what condition it was in, but I was so hell-bent on owning Johnny Cash's cabin that I went ahead and bought it anyway. What a dick I am. But you know what, I'm still as happy as a cow walking in shit that I have it. It's kinda like catching herpes from Audrey Hepburn: You're bummed about the herpes, but you're psyched you got them from her. Ah, investing…
So, Jay, what do you think of the Pet Shop Boys?
Um, who did "West End Girls"?
I like them, I guess.
What about Bronski Beat?
You know "Run away, run away, run away, run away, run away."
You're a fag.
OK, what about Frankie Goes to Hollywood?
Are you fucking kidding me? I don't like gay stuff. Why does everything have to be gay? Why is everyone pushing me into this gay direction? Of course I'm fucking gay, I'm a fashion designer. Get over it.
What about Jimmy Somerville?
Who? Is that another fag? Look, I don't give a shit about those bands. Why do you keep pushing this? Do you ask black people about Sly and the Family Stone?
They were multiracial actually.
Look, I'm sorry to burst your bubble, but I fucking hate gays. I probably hate them more than you do. I am a gaybasher. I fucking beat gay people up. I fucking hate those people, seriously.
How can you get laid if you're beating up fags all the time?
Roofies! Are you kidding me? I have a huge supply. I drug up hot indie boys and I fucking RAPE them!
Speaking of which, can we get us on the list for that Patron tequila party they're having for you?
Who is it?
A black guy named Derrick Beckles.
Is he hung. Like, really hung?
It looks like a brown arrow pointing down.
Exactly how big?
You know that Black Panther picture of Huey Newton where he's in a wicker chair holding a spear? Well, imagine if the spear were pointing down.
All right, you guys can come. But no gay shit!
Arturo wearing the t-shirt which inspired the Ramones logo in 1975.
Arturo working on a Ramones backdrop in 1978.
James Straker, Arturo and Danny Fields in 2004.
The Ramones played 2,263 shows over twenty years, making them pretty much the hardest working rock ‘n’ roll band of all time. Arturo Vega saw 2,261 of them, making him the inspirational poster child for groupie slash fans everywhere. He only missed the other two because he was in jail during one and detained at the Canadian border for the other.
Arturo did much more than obsessively stalk the band and open their beers though. He became more like their artistic director and was responsible for designing their logo, which has gone on to be one of the most prolifically copied and replicated designs in the history of music and art. The band may not have sold any albums but damn they sold some merch!
I was in NYC recently and visited the Ramones Loft, where the band did basically everything, and where Arturo still lives.
VICE: So you designed the Ramones logo?
: The elements of the Eagle logo go back to the early 70s. The arrow-heads actually come from a t-shirt—a polyester, sleeveless shirt which was made in Poland when the Iron Curtain was still up. It was very rare to find anything made in Poland. I found these on 14th St and used to buy them for a dollar.
Oh yeah, I see the arrows there.
The logo also features a take on the US presidential seal, with the band members’ names circling an eagle holding a baseball bat and an olive branch. The reason for the baseball bat is because the band were big Yankees fans. The olive branch represents Joey’s saccharine, but mostly twisted, lyrics.
As a way of putting it all behind me I had the logo tattooed across my back. Not surprisingly, this ended up attaching them to me even more— now they are in my fucking skin. I can’t get rid of these guys.
This is part of an interview James and his buddies did for their new show
It’s coming to TV land soon. For more information check out www.tv-party.com.
The highlight of my time in The Zit Remedy would have been when we made our first video for “Everybody Wants Something”. It was shot on location at the Degrassi school and although Lucy and I had quite different visions about what the video should be like (I wanted girls in bikinis), I still think the video turned out alright. I definitely should have had more close-ups though.
Playing the school prom was cool but I had visions of concert theatres and large arenas. One time Bono from U2 lost his laptop computer and I just happened to come across it. I was going to release the album under The Zit Remedy but at the last minute I didn’t. I thought I would make more money with the reward.
After the band split I did a few solo albums but nothing much came of them. Joey Jeremiah and the Black Heads was supposed to be a reggae band but no label would touch us.
Plus I can’t play on drugs anymore. It takes its toll on you. I’ve been on Degrassi grass way too long. It gives me the jitters now.
The 1st series of Degrassi is out now on DVD through Force Entertainment.