NAZI DOG GETS TREATED LIKE DIRT
Yes, I do think that ‘Treat Me Like Dirt’ is far superior to ‘Please Kill Me’ but then again it’s simple. It’s mathematics. I know Richard. I know Legs McNeil and Lester Bangs. When he was alive. I have a different vantage point. I am not a 24-year-old...
Treat Me Like Dirt is Canada's answer to Please Kill Me. Yeah, yeah, we also balked at the idea of reading what sounds like a more polite Ontario version of the seminal oral history of New York punk--but what the book lacks in names you've heard of, it makes up for with a good share of dropping acid and going to get a VD test on Halloween, bands storming the stage and stealing each other's instruments, heroin, forced electro-shock treatments, biker attacks, venues being burned to the ground, riots, full-body casts due to car crashes, women peeing in jukeboxes, gangs… and a lot of petty rivalry and whining. When it was released, Please Kill Me took a lot of heat for being edited to be as trashy as possible, but, let's face it, that's what made it good. All hits, no misses, and a real page-turner. The format is pretty much exactly the same--an oral history of sewn together snippets of punks recounting stories, with the odd press review thrown in. The star of the show is Nazi Dog (aka Steven Leckie), singer of The Viletones, who is almost universally hated by his peers, and portrayed as a manipulative opportunist constantly cutting himself with bottles onstage (there are stories about him ripping people off on almost every page). We decided to call him up to talk about the new book and the good old days. Talking to him was a trip, partially because we were never sure what he was saying was true, but mostly because he sort of sounded like he was lying on his back masturbating the entire time.
How do you feel about the book? Have you read it?
No because Liz [Worth, the author] didn't even give me a copy of it. If you were in a book, and 80% of it was about you, would you be upset? I just chalk it down to the expectation I have of people under 30. They just don't get it. They don't have the huzztpah. They don't understand that "oh, I've written a book here, maybe it would be wise to get Steven Leckie a fucking copy since there are over 30 pictures of him in the book. But she didn't even give me a fucking copy!
Yeah It's mostly about you, how did you feel when you were approached about the idea of the book?
I didn't feel anything about it. I felt better that Nirvana covered me. I feel better that Guns and Roses cover me. "'Screamin' Fist' holds up," Lemmy told me himself, "better than 'Ace of Spades'." "Screamin' Fist" is better than "Ace of Spaces"… I'm not going to argue with Lemmy. I'm not going to get in a tussle with Lemmy.
(very long silence)
I know he's flattering me. But I feel more about that than this book. The book is just a sort of a vague recollection from various people from what I've heard. Why would I feel anything about that?
Um, right. So What was Toronto like at that time? The violence in the city back then is one of the themes of the book.
The Toronto punk scene was far more violent and encouraging by a landslide than New York. The Cramps and Dead Boys had a much larger love and following in Toronto than they did in their own home. That's why they were here all the time. This was their bread and butter. This was their thing. It was a big deal here. The US is certainly squarer. Why is that? When I went down to CBGB's in '76 or '77, I saw all the bands that were my so-called peers. Why is it that they were all 10 years older than me. I think the world and history views punk as more of a teenage rebellion product that came out of '77: The Sex Pistols, Clash, The Damned. When I came out of the gate The Ramones already had an album out, Talking Heads already had an album out, Richard Hell, Jonathan Richman… they already had their thing. So a real purist punk would know NYC already had it's run and they didn't have a follow up. It's like what Scott Fitzgerald said about Americans not having a second act.
At one point you had a gang of some pretty scary dudes, The Blake St. Boys, who are described as thugs who just got into the scene for the violence, now most if not all of them are in jail for murder. How is it different when you walk into a room with these people?
They were a gang who followed us. If you were to get half a dozen guys who wanted to be Rock Machine or Hells Angels to surround you when you walk into a club it would give you a lot of clout in an instant. So that's exactly what I did. I knew the power of the visual. It intimidates them. You stood a little straighter. You paid a little more attention. You realized this is about something more than what is up on the stage. You understand? And that is what Blake St. was. It was fear that I wanted to re-introduce to rock and roll. Rock had lost it. When you would walk down the street people would seriously pay attention because they didn't know if it was a rock band or if it was the Drooges from a Clockwork Orange. For real.
The book talks about how you dropped the name Nazi Dog because you claimed you were threatened with bombing from the Jewish Defense League, but then it's followed up with a lot of people saying that that never happened.
In real life, that never occurred. The J.D.L hadn't threatened anything. I am still blown away that everyone at that time understood it didn't mean I was anti-Semitic or pro-Nazi. It was an era where you fit in musicians with names like Rat Scabies, Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Cheetah Chrome. All I did was up the ante. I wanted to say to the 70s as a decade, tease them and say, "Are you really liberal? Can you really take this? My idea was no more Nazi than a Roger Corman film was Nazi. That's all. It was always understood. Hilly Crystal was Jewish! It's not like when we played CBGB's he was like "No way you're getting on stage--you're a Nazi." No, Nazi Dog is a very cool name.
I also heard you also gave away Nazi medals at concerts as rewards for violence?
What happened with that was that I had a period of artistic growth. I already had a fair collection. You can get them in any major city, they are usually knock offs but whatever. I decided to just throw all my iron crosses and SS badges in the audience. For nothing, "here you go just take 'em."
I like the stories about The Viletones going around for months before even writing a song or playing a show with V-I-L-E-T-O-N-E-S written on the backs of their leather jackets.
The very first show I played when I was 18 was sold out, and there were crowds around the block. I can only attribute that to the promotion. All that hustle. You've got to really hustle. Why just fuck it up and put an anarchy symbol on the back of your leather jacket? Why put GBH on your fucking back? Be real. Be fucking real. You're not in business to promote GBH. You're a person. I never bought into any of that. Hustle yourself instead. I wanted it to be like that film The Warriors. It's like Marshal McLuhan from Toronto says, "The medium is the message." I understood that. As long as I present the medium the audience will understand the message. The message was menace and rock and roll. And also a hybrid came in punk partly due to the intellect of Malcolm McLaren and the French Situationists. I realized everything is a spectacle. The audience knows that. If you want to be a really good punk band I would highly recommend reading Jean Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers. It will change you. You read that from cover to cover and you will never be the same again.
What do you think about Toronto today--have you heard of Fucked Up? They tour the world and they won this thing called the Polaris prize, which is some silly award with some money attached to it. Could you have pictured something like that ever happening to a punk band in Toronto?
I am so happy that you are hip enough to mention them. I had the privilege of seeing them with Henry Rollins at the Masonic temple and I was so happy and so blown away. I had seen hundreds and hundreds of bands that wanted to get that punk sort of feel or sound, but when I saw Fucked Up I said "That's it --they got it." Let's face it in real life I would prefer if he were a sex symbol like Bowie, 100 pounds thinner. You know what I mean? But fuck that and all those little gimmicks they do in Toronto. They played a smaller club in a trendy area, I'm looking at the music listings one day and I see they're playing Friday night. The admission price that they put was $100. And I thought, "That is fucking brilliant." Of course it should be $100! Why didn't I think of something like that? What are you really selling to people? There will be a concert at some point in your life that you will remember for the rest of your life and what price do you put on that? Is it worth $5? Is it worth $20? I think $100 is a pretty good price. That's when I fell in love with Fucked Up. They really seemed way ahead of the curve.
I guess they aren't a pretty band. But they're a good one.
They don't need to be pretty. I love that about them. It's good to see a band doing well. Especially since in Toronto, circa '77, [punk bands were] struggling to be able to exist. Toronto is extremely expensive for an artist starting out.
There seems to be a lot of professionals in Toronto. Perhaps because you sort of need to be or you won't eat. The cost of living is pretty high.
Here you are expected to be as good or better than Bedouin Soundclash or Ron Sexsmith, you've gotta be real good. Yes, I do think that "Treat Me Like Dirt" is far superior to "Please Kill Me" but then again it's simple. It's mathematics. I know Richard. I know Legs McNeil and Lester Bangs--when he was alive. I have a different vantage point. I'm not a 24-year-old girl writing about something she didn't live through. I lived it. And knowing those two books the facts are just in there in black and white.
I am very fortunate. I became exactly what I set out to be. The real facts are in the cold light of day. All I wanted in '77 was to be thought of in the future.
And here we are.
I guess you're right, I wanted to be thought of the way I thought of The Flaming Groovies or The Sonics, MC5, Love. I knew fucking damn well they were the superior bands whether they got mentioned or not. More people want Chicken McNuggets than caviar! If you're mediocre you stand a better chance of making money. But if you love art it is worth every second.
I had gotten what I wanted. Just to take a leap into my brain, all I wanted was to live out what Rimbaud did in Charleville very close to the border in northern France. "That one day these poets… that these poets will exist." Just read A Season In Hell. I don't know if you are bilingual or not but if you are…you're lucky I'm not. You won't rely on the translator. Right in the very first stanza where he says… this is off the top of my head: One day, I will see the beauty on my lap and I found her distasteful. It's like you are I. Once we were children. We had everything. It was a magical world. And all of a sudden we would find it distasteful.
(very long silence)
The prostitutes are very tall in Montreal. You're very lucky.