No Age is a skater-art-surf-punk-pop-experimental-noise-rock band from Los Angeles. On their albums Weirdo Rippers and Nouns, it seems like guitarist Randy Randall and drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt are all about having massive kicks before the whole shit-house goes up in flames. Also, with songs titled “Sleeper Hold” and “Neck Escaper,” they might be really into professional wrestling.
But No Age isn't just about Hulk Hogan and having fun. They're political, too. And on June 29, the guys are headlining a show with Tearist and L.A. Fog to benefit some organizations attempting to stop the construction of a Walmart in L.A.'s Chinatown. The concert's at Human Resources (410 Cottage Home Street) in Chinatown, and the next day, there's a protest and march beginning at the Los Angeles State Historic Park. I called Randy on the phone to talk about this stuff.
Hey Randy, what're you gonna do today?
I'm gonna meet up with Dean and do some practicing. We've been working on new songs and putting together new ideas for the next record. We're still in the songwriting phase, so I'm not sure what the release date will be. Hopefully, [it'll be] by the end of this year or early next year, but that could be entirely false. I don't know.
What's up with this anti-Walmart show?
It's about raising awareness. The funds will go to a couple labor organizations, and some organizations that represent the Chinatown community.
Why do you hate Walmart so much?
They killed my dog, man!
Actually, I don't personally hate Walmart. I think Walmart is a symptom of a larger economic position that defaces the world. We're all in this together. Economies are collapsing everywhere. In America, Walmart represents something that's part of that problem. You know, Walmart is beneficial—they offer less expensive products, and that's a good thing. A family of five can survive on a small budget by shopping at Walmart. And what's wrong with that?
Yeah, nothing's wrong with that. But when you look at the whole system, you ask yourself, "Well, why does this family of five have such a small budget for food? Shouldn't they have more money for food? Why can they only afford such cheap products that were made and sold by people who weren't paid a fair wage?" Their terrible labor practices have been well documented. Walmart is just one of these companies in which people are supposed to be happy to spend less money on their basic needs and not question why they're expected to survive on so little money. If you love Walmart, awesome, shop at Walmart. If you don't, that's fine. I don't care where people buy their underwear, but what's important is to start a dialogue about these ideas.
And this store seems like a particularly shady case. I read that some legislation was passed preventing large chain stores from opening in Chinatown, but that Walmart was provided its permits the day before that decision.
Yeah, after 5pm the night before, someone working overtime slipped the permit through. It doesn't sound above the board, but that's not unusual for Walmart. They grease palms and make shady backroom deals. They're willing to do anything to get their stores running. It's a big dinosaur. It's been shown that when Walmart comes into a community, 25% of the local businesses in a close proximity end up shutting down. They're not there to work in harmony with the community that already exists. They just want to make money, and in doing so, it impacts the local businesses. Chinatown is filled with Mom and Pop stores. It's just individuals who own businesses, so when you throw a corporation in there, there's a huge impact.
Tell me about the specific location where the store would be. I'm in Philadelphia, which has a small Chinatown, and I'm picturing a huge fucking Walmart sitting just beyond the entry gate, ruining the whole fucking scene.
It's similar to Philly's Chinatown, but maybe a little larger. I'm spacing on the name right now, but there's a good vegan place in Philly's Chinatown…
Are you thinking of Kingdom Of Vegetarians?
Yeah, that place is really good. But Chinatown is a place that's close to where we live. We've grown up and been around that area, and we know it's going to have a negative impact on that community and the local businesses. We have a similar gateway, with like this ornate entry plaza thing. The Walmart would be one block West of that. If you're coming from neighborhoods like Echo Park or Silver Lake, you'd pass by the Walmart when you come into Chinatown. There was actually a case in 2004 where Walmart tried to move into Inglewood, another neighborhood in L.A., and the community banded together and prevented the store from opening. It's possible. Communities can speak up and make a difference.
Is the goal to shut this fucker down?
Yes. This thing can be stopped. The permits are already approved, but there's definitely a sentiment among the city council to ban these stores. There's a political environment here that doesn't support Walmart's goals, and at least wants to do more research to see what the impact is going to be. I think if there's a large turnout to this concert and protest, it will send a message to the political powers. The show's only five bucks, but if that's not your thing, the rally's free. It's about putting your body in the masses and sending a message to the corporations and the local government.
Man, I've been listening to No Age since 2007 and I never realized you guys were so damn political. I thought you were just two guys that liked to have a lot of fun.
Well, that's the trick. I think we can do both. The mass media has this idea that you're only supposed to be one thing, because multifaceted human beings aren't a good talking point. For us, we never wanted to make the art about the politics. Politics are an action, they're things you do. We live politics – it's a vegan diet and not driving a car, and who we vote for. All this just comes out of caring, but we also like to party. I don't think they're mutually exclusive.
So, imagine that No Age is in charge, and you have to decide what to put in this empty space in Chinatown instead of the Walmart. What do you think should be there instead?
Yeah, I'm granting you this power.
Oh, man! I think I'd open it up to the community and ask them what they want to be there. It's not about me, it's about fulfilling the community's needs. It's a decision that should be made by the people who live there.