Bass Player Atom Ellis
has been a staple in the Bay Area Music Community for
well over 20 years. I recently hooked up with Atom
again. We had lost contact with one another for quite
a few years . I have always found Atom to have a fast
wit and to be a super nice guy. So I decided to do the
following interview with one of my favorite people to
share with you.
Punk Globe: Since I first met you, you've been quite
busy on that bass. Can you give us a brief list of
some of the people you have worked during this time?
Atom: Um, I guess the list would include...
Psychefunkapus, Atma Anur, (Chatterbox legends) The
Bad Boys, Dave Mason, Pop-O-Pies, Dieselhed, Linda
Perry, Link Wray, Carl Hancock Rux, Richard Thompson,
Virgil Shaw, Chuck Prophet, Silver Wings Sessions, and
most recently Lord Nasty.
Punk Globe: We first met while you were in
Psychefunkapus? You were riding on the crest of that
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fish Bone, Faith No More sound
and had a major bidding war to sign you.
Atom: Well, Psychefunkapus formed in 1986 actually so
there really wasn't much of a crest to speak of at
that point. We were kind of a confused art rock band
at that time and were just beginning to play shows. At
some point around 1987-1988 Manny Martinez joined our
band as a second vocalist/rapper and we started doing
some rap stuff. He was a New Yorican salsa singer who
also blended a Curtis Blow type rap style while he was
in a previous band with our first singer Eugene Harris
(a band called Commercial Zen). Manny also played in a
number of salsa bands with his older brother Ray who
also joined our band for a few shows and recordings
when available. When Manny brought his rhymes and MC
showmanship to the Psychefunkapus picture in the later
80s we blended that with our punkier artrock
sensibilities and came up with the unstable musical
chemistry which came to be known as Psychefunkapus.
Manny's very first look at a mosh pit actually
happened while he was behind the mic at his first
Psychefunkapus shows. He was visibly confused by it at
first but quickly caught on. That guy could really
work a room. A born entertainer if you will.
When we began to explore our funkier side we were
probably influenced a lot by local funk bands like The
Freaky Executives, Commercial Zen, and stuff like
that. We also started playing shows in San Francisco
where we bumped into Primus and became a regular
opening act for them (back when the band consisted of
Les, Curveball, and Todd Huth). Watching Les play in
small clubs at that time was both ridiculously
entertaining and scary. He was so good that it humbled
the rest of us and pushed us to get better. As a
bassist I was also a huge fan of guys like Louis
Johnson and Larry Graham so I was more than happy at
the time to try to pull off similar stuff even though
the result was... lets say, whiter. Paul Johnson, our
drummer, had also inherited a healthy Parliament/Funkadelic
collection from his older brothers living in Marin
City which we all fell in love with.
My honest assessment looking back is that these were
all primary ingredients which combined to make us a
clear choice to some of the more unimaginative A&R
people out in the field trying to sign their own FNM/Chili
Peppers in the post "Real Thing" environment.
Punk Globe: You had an original spin on that sound
combining Punk, Metal, Ska, Jazz, Fusion and
Rockabilly into your sound. I think that is what set
you a bit apart from the others.
Atom: I think Psychefunkapus owed much of its
originality to the fact that we simply had no clear
band leader or lead visionary. Our sound was basically
forged through a painful, pseudo-democratic, 'balance
of powers' style, push and shove process- (complete
with filibusters, land grabs, and the occasional
treaty signing) It was probably very similar to anyone
else's first band experience except we got signed and
had to deal with it longer term. Frankly, its a
process I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy.
if its one thing a non-practical, completely
unfeasible, schizophrenic approach to running the
organization can do for ANY band it's to guarantee
originality. Personally, I never really felt like we
found "our" sound. We had many sounds. Our set-list
was a mixture of Punk, Metal, Pop, Ska, Jazz,
Country,... but we had very few songs that actually
melded any of those styles with much success. We may
have been heading in that direction but... OK, we WERE
different that's for sure. And in Psychefunkapus, if
someone felt like rapping over your metal tune, they
would do just that. The words: "stop that!" were all
too rare in the Psychefunkapus rehearsal room, and for
better AND worse - it showed.
Punk Globe; How did you come up with the name
Psychefunkapus for the band?
Atom: I can barely remember the actual origin. I
remember that Paul had become fascinated with "the
Funkapus" ( a creature from the Funkadelic mythos) and
somehow Psyche got added to the front because Funkapus
clearly wasn't enough syllables.
But just when I thought our band had become completely
irrelevant I read an article in Rolling Stone that
said something like: "...Hoobastank, worst name since
Psychefunkapus!" I laughed my ass off. Then I made a
Punk Globe: How long had you been playing bass
Atom: I guess about 10 years. I was mostly playing by
ear then to my AC/DC and Zep records and started
"jamming" with neighbor kids shortly thereafter.
There was a local legend of a kid in my hometown of
San Geronimo named Paul Yarnell. He turned us all onto
the Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix albums we hadn't
heard yet and he had a pretty nice collection of
guitars, basses, and effects that we all played with.
There was usually a pretty long line for the wah wah
peddle. It became pretty clear during those early days
that my fingers were way too pudgy and my hands far
too large for the guitar. Playing an open A chord for
instance was impossible for me. 3 fingers wouldn't fit
and playing it with one or 2 fingers just meant that
one of my other chubby fingers were muting other
strings... The bass on the other hand felt perfect.
Also it was more of a natural physical feeling for me
to hold the bigger strings down and pluck them. I
could feel the notes whether I was plugged in or not
and it felt good.
Erik and kevin Meade of the Jackson Saints were also
part of that kiddy jam circle. Erik would later turn
us all on to The Clash, Television, The Talking Heads
and a lot of newer punk stuff. He even showed me one
of my first bass lines- "Psycho Killer" by the Talking
Punk Globe: Tell me about some the bass players
that you listened to. Who influenced you in being so
diversified and in the pocket with your playing?
Hard to pinpoint exactly but I can say the following
people influenced my bass playing profoundly at
various stages: John Paul Jones, Tina Weymouth, James
Jamerson, Duck Dunn, Charles Mingus, Herbie Flowers,
Louis Johnson, John Entwistle, Lemmy, Ron Carter,
Larry Graham, Bootsie Collins, Les Claypool, Scott
Thunes, Paul McCartney, Percy Jones, Nino Rota (listen
to the bass parts in those Fellini movies!), Colin
Moulding, Carol Kaye, Danny Thompson, George Porter
Jr. ... I'll just
stop there. I have to add whoever the guy is that
plays on those Doris Duke albums too even though I
can't think of his name.
In high school, as a younger "student" of the
instrument, I took note of all of the prog rock and
flashy jazz guys too. So if this is supposed to be an
honest interview we better add Jaco, Stanley Clarke,
Jeff Berlin, Geddy Lee, and Chris Squire to the list.
I used to really geek out on that stuff and at one
point I could play a slower, somewhat retarded version
of Teen Town and Jaco's version of Donna Lee by
Charlie Parker pretty well. Then I stumbled onto punk
rock and other music that was happening in San
It took me years to realize how good Paul McCartney
was. As a younger player I just didn't get it. He just
sounded slow to me when I compared his playing to
something like Jaco. I had a 1-dimensional pallet. I
had to mature musically before I could really
appreciate the kind of melodic playing he was pulling
off on songs like Hello Goodbye, Penny Lane, and the
entire Abbey Road album. ...With amazing feel as well.
Punk Globe: What other instruments can you play?
Atom: I still goof around on guitar and keyboards but
nothing fit for human consumption. I played keyboards
in a few bands but mostly as a weird noise generator
person- (i.e.: More of a Brian Eno wannabe than an Art
Tatum wannabe.) Anyone lucky enough to witness the
last round of Linda Perry shows in the bay area were
also treated to some of my incredible recorder licks
in the middle of a cover of "Stairway", (lucky
bastards!) I hadn't practiced much since grade school,
but apparently I still had some pretty tasty licks in
I also completed a walk-a-thon once. ...Did pretty
good. Wait, what was the question?...
Punk Globe: The band finally settled with Atlantic
Records. Was Jane Bainter your rep there?
Atom: No, but ironically I think she may have checked
out a Dieselhed show at the Viper Room years later and
promptly passed. Psychefunkapus was "discovered" by a
small fry A&R guy at Atlantic named John Axelrod and
promptly handed over to John Carter (a senior A&R
director who had written "Incense and Peppermints" and
had just finished completely turning Tina Turner's
career around when we met him.)
Most of the west coast people at Atlantic were pretty
worthless though. Most of them spent their time
blowing smoke up our arses, talking to us about the
inevitable new Pyschefunkapus cartoon that would be
coming out soon, explaining to us that we would be
bigger than the Beatles, etc... (all of which
miraculously never happened.) I have no idea about the
west coast staff now but in 1990 the word on the
street was that you had to talk to the NYC offices to
get anything done and that became my experience as
well. John Carter was fired shortly after our first
release with Atlantic which at the time seemed like a
death toll for Psychefunkapus. We were saved when
Jason Flom from the NYC offices (who later headed
Atlantic's Interscope division) decided to pick us up
and let us do a second record. Later I learned this
all happened because Sebastian Bach of Skid Row bent
his ear about us. I didn't even believe that story
until visiting the Atlantic offices in NY while
Sebastian was in town. We ended up drinking and going
to a Dwarves show. He was a huge Dwarves fan as well,
which totally blew my mind, and of course he was the
prince of Manhattan at the time so it was pretty funny
just to watch the small mob that followed him around
But yeah, Jason Flom was a breath of fresh air. It
wasn't until I met Jason Flom at the NY offices that I
really understood where we stood with Atlantic. He was
blunt and respectable, a very refreshing change to
what we were hearing from LA at the time which was
I still remember the first meeting that my manager and
I had with Jason in NY. I stood up and I told him I
hated the production of the first record, that I
thought it ruined the bands image, and that if he
expected another record like that he could go blah,
blah, blah... Jason sat patiently through my entire
rant and then shut me down with: "I dont give a F___
what you guys put out as long as it sells over 150,000
units. If we come in under 150k units this time then
our business here is through , period." It was
amazing. As blunt as he was about it I had to admire
the fact that this was the first straight answer I had
EVER received from anyone in that company and I loved
him for that.
Punk Globe: After you released your first album
with Atlantic you were getting all this great press
and always on the road. It must have been fun but very
exhausting. Did you use a bus or a van to tour with?
Atom: Well, I hated that first album myself so that
was a pretty painful time for me artistically. I
started complaining to the producer (Marc DeSisto)
early in the tracking about all the reverb he was
putting on everything for the rough mixes. There
wasn't a cymbal hit or vocal on the whole album that
didn't seem drenched in reverb and effects to me. My
complaints prompted Marc to request: "...no band
members at the final mix." He sugar coated his
argument to the label by telling them he could get the
job done much faster without the band present, an idea
the label loved of course. Our manager fought to
include one band member present and Marc DeSisto said:
"OK, but only if its John" (Meaning John Axtel, our
guitar player and youngest member who actually liked
most of the reverb Marc was adding). With that John
and Marc went to L.A. to mix the album.
I ended up ambushing the final mix session for a
listen anyways but they only had one song to complete
at that point- ("A.M.", one of the three songs I can
even listen to from that album). I sat at the board
with John and Marc who were both grinning from ear to
ear and listened to the results under headphones. I
literally became sick to my stomach by the time I got
to the second chorus of the first track- "Moving". I
knew immediately that our loyal fans were not going to
like it and when I began asking myself- "who would?",
I came up blank. I expressed this loud and clear to
those in the room even asking John Carter at one point
to explain to me who he thought would like it. Rumor
had it that the fit I threw there nearly got our band
dropped which would have probably been a blessing.
What really hurt me personally was the fact that when
the rest of the band finally heard those glossy mixes
they thought it sounded fine (Paul Johnson being the
exception). This killed any momentum for a remix and
left me feeling pretty lonely in some ways within the
band. I've never held any delusions about
Psychefunkapus being some amazing band the world never
saw because I just don't feel that's the case. We were
good and we were fun, but relevant?... What I will
always wonder to some degree is: How would things have
been different if we released a more honest sounding
record? And what would have happened if Karen
Carpenter didn't think she was fat?
So, to get back to your question: Those initial months
after the album came out were tough. No joke. I felt
that we had carried the ball 99 yards down the field
and then fumbled at the end zone. So...
Touring became like crack for me. It was an escape
from the crappy album that we were supporting, since
our live sound didn't change a bit. It was also
refreshing to hear like minded opinions of the album
from new and old fans. My favorite comment, which I
heard over and over when we'd play free shows on
college campuses, went something like: "Man, I heard
your album on the school station last week and came
down here to heckle you... but you guys sounded
nothing like that. What gives?" It was fun to hear
that stuff but also frightening to realize that we
clearly had a huge hill to climb if we were ever going
to present the real Psychefunkapus to a real
I never wanted to stop touring though. It's the
funnest thing ever. I still love it as long as I'm out
with friends. Exhaustion was something that happened
to long distant runners and mountain climbers. Sleep
seemed VERY optional and always the least exciting
choice of things to do with your few remaining late
night hours in some brand new mysterious city.
Especially at 23 years old.
Our first tour was in a rented RV of all things which
turned out to be a complete scam. First of all, its
cheaper than a bus but not that cheap. Then the real
scam begins to unfold as you accidentally rip off half
the RV's interior wall trying to pull a paper-towel
off the rack (strategically mounted to the flimsy
fiber-board surface), or you toss your case of
smuggled bottle rockets onto the toilet seat and watch
the seat shatter into a dozen pieces, and on and on.
By the end of trip, we had run up a huge fix-it bill
which the rental company converted to Pentagon prices.
When we called up afterwards to "reason" with the RV
experts about all of these "frivolous" charges they
simply directed us to their well staffed legal
department for clarification.
It was pretty fun to roll up to shows in the RV
though. It had an air of white trash luxury that a
tour bus just couldn't have expressed . Nothing says:
"New Money" like an RV, and the shoe fit. We were
fresh off the block.
Punk Globe: "Skin" was your sophomore release. Who
Skin was a pretty wobbly project from the start that
featured a band more splintered than ever, a label
more confused than ever, and a manager who was just
struggling to keep it all together. Gene-Genie (known
better as the "white guy" lead singer in
PyscheFunkapus) had quit, leaving a huge hole in the
band's chemistry. About a month before "Skin" was
recorded I had approached the manager as well and
announced my retirement but was talked into staying on
for "one more".
The band was pretty mixed about deciding on a Producer
(surprise, surprise!) I really felt it was important
that the album have a more honest feel than our first.
I figured it a no-brainer at that point to make an
album much closer to our "live" sound rather than to
continue in our previous direction. I felt even the
A&R suits at Atlantic would agree with that.
Skin was ultimately produced by Jerry Harrison and his
engineer Jay Mark. But this conclusion was also
riddled with that signature Psychefunkapus drama.
Originally we had singled out an upcoming producer
named Steve Linsley (former bassist of the Jim Carroll
Band). I fought hard to have Steve included because I
felt he had the "right" sensibilities and that he was
someone who knew something about a garage band taking
its next step. Another popular guy on the short list
was Jerry Harrison (formerly of Talking Heads) as he
also possessed that NYC punk mystique and had already
established himself as an able producer. So in our
typical schizophrenic compromising fashion the band
all agreed that Jerry would produce and that Steve
would engineer. I think we may have forgot to ask
Jerry and Steve what they thought about that
arrangement until we were in the studio.
It was a really naive and unfair thing to ask of both
guys and of course it didn't work out. Ultimately I
hold the band at fault for the demise of that unlikely
I loved having both guys on the project at first.
Steve was a bass player and brought in a beautiful
50's P-bass that was used quite a bit on that record.
We had some great early bass tracking sessions where
he let me screw around for hours trying to nail
impossible parts or just trying out crazier
experimental approaches to putting bass on the tracks.
Things that I NEVER had time for on the first record.
We had a lot of fun.
Jerry was great too, as well as an amazing
keyboardist/visionary whose rolo-dex of musicians is
as infamous as he is. When we needed someone to lay
down a minor clav part, for instance, he dialed up his
buddy Bernie Worrell who came down the next day and
took care of business, when we needed a surf guitar
solo that was out of John's reptiore Jerry and I
landed in L.A. the next day to pull Dick Dale out of
his 20 year retirement and play on the track. We spent
time outside the studio talking about the recording,
going to see local shows, and crap. His piano part on
"Banana Slug King" will always be one of my favorite
things on that record.
At some point a few weeks into the project however,
Jerry announced that he NEEDED to have his engineer
Jay Mark on the project or he couldn't guarantee a
timely release. And this would mean that Steve was
out. There was some discussion about it but Jerry had
basically laid down the trump card. It was
heartbreaking but ultimately it was Jerry's call
(since he was the one on paper responsible for putting
something decent out on schedule.) I was stunned but
could also imagine the nightmare of someone asking me
to work under specific conditions that I wasn't
comfortable with and holding me responsible for the
outcome. The stakes were high: Atlantic Records were
infamous for not paying if terms were not met. Jerry
had to finally sue the label, our manager, and the
band to get paid by for his 3-4 months of 12 hour a
day work. Business as usual for Atlantic at the time.
Punk Globe: Did you feel that Atlantic gave you the
proper support for Skin?
That's a confusing question. I guess it all depends on
what you mean by "proper".
At the time I may have thought they should have
"developed" the band for several more years, backed a
ten year tour even though MTV and AOR radio hadn't
picked it up yet, and really let us blossom to our
fullest . ...but that all seems incredibly naive
today. They are a major label which generally means
they swing for the fence. Don't hate the player... Its
just like a home run derby where everything inside the
park is considered an out. For all the money they
spend, nobody cares about a base hit. Psychefunkapus
ended up selling close to 40,000 copies of that first
record. When I first heard that figure I thought
Atlantic would surely throw us a parade. Instead they
almost threw us out. They just barely decided to try
another record and we probably forgot to thank
I get a little tired of hearing all of the "evil
industry" complaints. Show me the industry with the
conscience first. They are there to make money,
period. If you're pissed off about the payola
situation that's one thing but today it occurs to me
that resenting Atlantic for not "supporting"
Psychefunkapus would be a lot like resenting the guy
at the bowling store for selling you "slippery" shoes.
That's just what they do and we should have known that
Punk Globe: While surfing the net for information
about you. I found one Magazine who declared "Skin" as
one of the most overlooked records of that era. They
commented on the tight rhythm section and were
particularly impressed by you on bass.
Paul (the drummer) and I had a pretty good
chemistry that hinged on our knowing how the other
person tended to mess up. If I rushed something Paul
would hit the gas and catch up before anyone noticed
and vice versa. It was all smoke and mirrors.
Paul (the drummer) and I went on to play together for
the next few years after the band broke up. We were
roommates and close friends and would play on anything
that came along. We spent a few weeks in Hawaii
playing in a bad cover band. We worked with Dave Mason
and backed up John Denver's wife in Aspen when she
decided to launch her singing career. (thats another
article!) During that stretch it seemed we could give
a crap about the actual music we were playing, it was
looking for any excuse to play together. And we had
Punk Globe: I remembered seeing you with playing
with Dieselhed at the Paradise . That was quite a
departure from Psychefunkapus. How long did you play
with them? Did they tour allot?
Dieselhed toured a lot actually for an unknown act. We
toured whether we had an album to support or not.
Sometimes it made no real sense for us to tour and we
left anyways. Much of that travel was instigated by
our drummer Danny "Atlas Face" Heifitz but he rarely
faced resistance. We became masters of the Econoline
arts and strict discipline was maintained through a
punishment known as "Clown Wig Torture".
"Clown Wig Torture" would only come up if someone ran
the van out of gas, held up the group for longer than
20 minutes, or something along those lines. In the
case of any of the above crimes the guilty party was
forced to wear a classic rainbow clown-wig that we
kept under a floor mat in the back. And you had to
wear it for the entire leg of that particular sojourn.
It was pretty brutal having to walk into some truck
stop mini-mart or roadside diner with that thing on
...the rest of the band keeping their distance. There
is something unapproachably embarrassing about wearing
one of those wigs because it seems like such a
mainstream attempt at being weird. It fails in every
way imaginable... the horror.
Punk Globe: Was there a certain area or country
that were loyal Dieselhed fans? White Trash Debutantes
did well on the East Coast and The Pacific Northwest.
We also had great shows in Columbia MO.
Dieselhed seemed at home along either coast and in the
south. The middle parts and especially the mid-west
were often troubling. Austin TX was like a second
home. We never played Columbia MO darnit. We always
got booked in K.C. and it always sucked.
We were well received in Europe. I think we played
into their wild west fantasies or something. They
finally had some real hicks trapped under glass for a
set and they wanted to watch us to figure out what
made us tick. It felt a bit Schticky at times but the
beer was always good and people were a lot more
friendly than we were used to.
Punk Globe: They were on Bong Load Records right?
How many recordings did you do with them?
Before Bongload we put out 3 albums and a few 7"
singles with Amarillo Records. The singers (Virgil
Shaw and Zac Holtzman) were very prolific writers.
There was always a new record to do. Greg Turkington
at Amarillo was the most under-rated independent label
president of all times. Too bad he got tired of it.
Easily the most impressive catalogue of music and
recordings by any independent label I can think of:
Sun City Girls, Neil Hamburger, Faxxed Head, Secret
Chiefs, Anton LaVey, Zip Code Rapists, Joe Pop-O-Pie,
Dieselhed, and on and on. When Greg decided to call it
quits I was more sad about all that stuff going out of
print than I was about having to find a new label.
But after that we found a home and recorded 2 more
records with Bongload (Beck, L7, Elliot Smith, etc.)
Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf weren't the best at
promoting and distributing a record but they can still
record the shit out of one. Plus we recorded at their
ranch/studio out past Arcata CA which had a dirt bike
track and a huge river in the back for inner-tubing.
It was like a recording session stacked onto a
red-neck vacation. We were in heaven. At any rate both
labels felt far less surreal than my experience at
Atlantic and made much more sense for a band like ours
to be associated with. It just felt good not to be
wearing the slippery shoes again.
Punk Globe: You played with the original punk. MR.
LINK WRAY. Now, that impresses me! How long did you
play with him?
I played with Link from 1996 on through 2002. About 6
years total I guess. It overlapped a bit with the
Globe: Speaking about not getting your just dues. He
is an legend. How was touring with him?
It was a treat to play with Link onstage. I've never
met a more inspired musician in my life and this was
Link Wray between the ages of 68-76 years old. I can't
even imagine what he performed like at age 30.
The thing about Link is that all of his classic songs
are based on 2 or 3 chords and a riff. Anyone can play
those songs but somehow it just never sounds the same.
The problem is- you have to be as excited as Link Wray
is when you hear those chords come out of your
amplifier. That's the impossible part. You can really
hear that excitement on the original recordings and in
his live performances. It's undeniable. I'm convinced
he is some kind of portal. There's no way else to
The only contemporary that even comes close in my mind
would be someone like Iggy Pop. Even most of the
classic punk bands from the 70s and 80s seem more like
"acts" to me in comparison. In both Iggy and Link you
have very honest and original artists. Not honest in
any sort of ethical way, just honest in the sense that
they couldn't sound any other way if they tried.
Willie Nelson has that.
Onstage with Link there were no rules, no set list, no
guessing what Link would do next. He was just a wild
animal pacing up and down the stage playing whatever
came to mind. Sometimes he actually wrote up a set
list and gave one to Danny and I but after awhile we
learned not to take them to seriously. He was just
going to play whatever came out of him. It was just
"heads up ball". Sometimes he would go into a solo
from one song and when he came out of it he'd be
playing a completely different song. We got pretty
good at following him wherever he went and acting like
Punk Globe: Link Wray is right up there with Lemmy
, Debbie Harry, Tina Turner, Charlie Harper .. Still
rawking.. Listen and learn kids. Any shows that stand
out playing with Link?
Yeah, god bless the lifers. Every one of them. And
with all due respect to Lemmy, Debbie, and the gang...
Link was doing his thing when they were still in
diapers. He would tell us stories in the van about
gigs he played in 1948. 19 fucking 48!
As far as standout shows, Link Wray is a funny animal.
Generally, if he has one good show at a particular
venue all future shows at that venue will be great.
The converse was generally true as well. He just
seemed to find his places. The Horseshoe Tavern in
Toronto, The Star Bar in Atlanta, The Electric Lounge
in Austin (RIP), and The Hotel Congress in Tuscon all
stand out as places Link felt very comfortable. Also,
when we played a huge outdoor biker festival just
outside of Lyon in France they embraced him like their
leader. He felt it too and absolutely ran with it.
I think Link was a little confused when these huge
bearded biker guys with hairy bellies hanging out of
leather vests came up to him and thanked him after the
show in thick yet delicate French accents. It was
confusing to all of us actually but they were great.
Just different than the bikers here in northern
Punk Globe: You also played on Richard Thompson's
album "Mock Tudor". What was that like?
I was scared to death actually. Originally it was
going to be me and my old drummer Danny Heifitz (from
Dieselhed/Link Wray) helping him out on a few tracks
but then at the last second Richard buried a hatchet
with one of the original Fairport Convention drummers
(Dave Mattacks) and I had to go in alone.
The guys were all extremely nice. For some reason that
I still don't understand Richard's regular bassist,
Danny Thompson, will not touch an electric bass. He
only plays standup. But have you heard the guy play?
Pure mastery. He's a first call acoustic guy who has
played with Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, Richard
Thompson, Eric Clapton, Marc Bolan, Rod Stewart, and
on and on and on... He was actually recording a track
when I first walked into the studio and I almost
turned around and left. The bar was officially set to
high and I just needed to vomit. It was definitely a
"why the hell am I here?" moment.
Richard and Danny actually greeted me as soon as they
were done tracking the song I walked in on and made me
feel more comfortable. They are extremely nice people.
Danny explained his 'no electric' thing to me and
helped me relax. I had a week to learn the songs from
a cassette tape Richard had made on a small cassette
recorder with acoustic guitar and vocals. I brought in
some ideas and worked them through with Richard,
Danny, and even drummer Dave Mattacks in that next
week of recording. Dave Mattacks was the 3rd legend in
the room. He had drummed for The Fairport Convention
fairly early on and later played with lots of people
including Brian Eno, Jethro Tull, Paul McCartney, and
Mary Chapin Carpenter. He was also the only drinker of
the bunch so we naturally gravitated and found a bar
at the end of each day's recording. I shamelessly
turned these drinking sessions into 'story time with
Mr Mattacks' and hit him especially hard for the Brian
Eno stories. It was during one of these stories that I
found out that the last bass player he had been
playing with before me was Paul McCartney. It was
probably a good thing I was sitting down with a stiff
Punk Globe: Tell me about playing on Linda Perry '
s demo of "I Am Beautiful" that Christina Aguilera
later recorded and made it a huge hit for Linda.
For a second, before she completely retired into the
world of song-writing, Linda briefly considered a
"come-back". She put a band together, that I joined,
and played a few shows around San Francisco. We also
recorded a demo of some new songs she was working on
which included "Beautiful" and some other catchy stuff
that we'll all probably be hearing soon.
Punk Globe: How did you feel when the song was
nominated for so many Grammy's? You must have been
At the time I was completely unaware that the song was
even on the radio. I don't watch a lot of MTV, I never
listen to pop radio, and I hadn't talked to Linda in
months so I was caught completely by surprise. I was
actually flipping the channels one night and quite by
accident landed on the Grammy's. There was a church
choir backing up Christina Aguilera and singing an
oddly familiar bass line acappella. It took me about
20 seconds to realize it was the same bass line I
stole from Paul McCartney and played on Linda's demo a
year or two before. I drank some whiskey and enjoyed
Punk Globe: As a freelance musician do you ever get
bitter about stuff like that?
Absolutely! Paul McCartney should be receiving some
serious royalties for that! And then I guess he should
write a check to the Stravinsky estate... or
No, Linda paid us well and we did our jobs. So goes
the business. She clearly has a knack for writing a
catchy number and if she tries really really hard I
bet she JUST might be able to repeat that success
Punk Globe: Tell the readers about playing with
That was quite recently actually. I only played with
them for about six months or so but I don't think I
was a very good fit for the band. I gave my notice
just before my first and only tour with them and was
fairly convinced that I had made the right decision by
Chuck is a great guitar player and the rest of his
band is amazing too. It was fun and challenging stuff
to play actually. It was completely opposite from the
Link Wray "heads up ball" style so it was fun to do
something different. But I never really fit in with
them as people. As an aspiring Satanist it felt odd to
be backing an album called: "Age of Miracles"...
I played on one song from that album called "Pin A
Rose On Me". I hear its playing all over KFOG at the
moment but I don't listen to much KFOG.
Punk Globe: Tell us about your latest project Lord
Nasty? How long have you been playing with him?
Lord Nasty has been around for a few years. What can
you say about Lord Nasty? He's a large clinically
insane black man who is addicted to porn and likes to
sing about it. Does it get any better?
He makes his own tapes by somehow looping samples on a
cheap karaoke machine at his place in Ukiah. Its
really fun to play because most of it is bare bones
R&B and early funk stuff from the sixties and we get
to wear fancy suits when we play the shows. We've
played a handful of shows around SF and plan to record
in the studio this weekend actually. Look out, 2006 is
going to be NASTY!
Punk Globe: Is Lord Nasty a lot like Blowfly? You
must get down to Hollywood to play!
We get that comparison occasionally but I haven't
heard Blowfly yet. People tell me Blowfly is a more
polished act but not as nasty as Lord Nasty. Maybe we
should all get together and do a Filth-o-palooza tour.
Too Short could headline.
We really want to play LA soon and might go down with
some friends of ours in late August or September. As
always Linda, you will be the first to know. In fact,
if you book us an opening slot for the Debutantes you
could know before me!
That would be a pretty amazing show.
Punk Globe: You still call the Bay Area home! How
is the music scene there?
The music scene in San Francisco will always be
interesting but I don't know if it will ever be the
same as before the dot com boom days. We lost a lot of
artists in general to more affordable areas and
certain trends seem to be hanging on due to the poor
taste of the richer folk who moved in.
Cover bands, for instance, which were all but
non-existent before 2000, are still riding high. But
that slowly seems to be changing and more and more
live venues are popping up all the time. Thee Parkside,
The Hemlock, and 12 Galaxies may all be new to an
ex-pat like you for instance and more places are
choosing to be live venues over DJ bars which is a
good trend. Nothing against a good DJ but cover bands
and mediocre DJs nearly choked all of the new
up-and-coming original bands right out of the picture
and that tide seems to be turning now. Lets just hope
its not too late.
Punk Globe: Any favorite clubs you enjoy playing
In San Francisco? Lets see... The Great American Music
Hall is still hard to beat for a small theatre. The
Hemlock is small but has a great crowd. The Bottom of
The Hill is fun and still sounds good. And I've always
Punk Globe: Any band or solo artist that has
impressed you lately?
I finally got to see Slint when they played a few
months back. That was amazing! I don't get out enough
to help you with new stuff. My friend David Kaplan was
booking a new band a few years ago from the midwest
that he made me go see at the Bottom of The Hill. They
called themselves The White Stripes and I'm glad he
recommended it. There were about 25 people there to
see them but they rocked hard.
Punk Globe: Tell me what you listen to when you are
Well, I just finished ripping all of my CDs to my mac
so I've been doing a lot of "rediscovering" lately.
Delving into the R&B and Krautrock mostly but
everything really. I still can't believe how great
Brian Eno was with Roxy Music and after. Also a huge
fan of the Outlaws- Wille and Waylon. I've been
wearing a hole in my "Shotgun Wille" mp3's.
I just bought that new Carpenters 3 CD box set too.
Talk about a talent.
I guess I'm still just an art rock fag who loves
Punk Globe: Have you seen the book that Alfie
released about The Chatterbox? Were you in it? There
was a photo of WTD with Eric Meade and I.
I did see it! ...but Somehow I don't own a copy. That
has to change.
I don't think I'm in it. There are some pictures of a
few Bad Boys shows that I played bass in but I was not
pictured... sniff, sniff. Erik Meade is pictured
instead taking one of his super sexy solos. But how
can anyone else get any limelight when that guy is
taking all of those super sexy solos? That's why I
quit the band. Or maybe that was one of those bands
that broke up after everyone forgot to call each
How great is Alfie? She's the real deal. The last
honest pizza. Too bad she got tired of running The
Chatterbox because that was the last truly great rock
club in SF. Nothing even came close after that as far
as I'm concerned. It was an institution and Alfie
legitimized the whole affair.
DO IT AGAIN ALFIE !!! Only you can save San Francisco
Years later I would see her all of the time working
the front desk at Lennon Rehearsal Studios. Dieselhed
rented a room there for about 5 years. You can't look
into her eyes for too long or you'll think you're back
at The Chatterbox... ahhh, The Chatterbox.
Punk Globe: Any future recording plans or tours coming
Just the Lord Nasty stuff. And maybe I'll get my ass
to New York and play on some new (former Dieselhed
singer) Virgil Shaw tracks. I'm not sure if his
invitation still stands but I might just show up
anyways. Shitfaced and crying even, just to really
test our friendship.
Punk Globe: I have done my best to keep this
interview light and fun.. But I must ask a very
serious question. If you could be one of the girls
from the "Facts Of Life" which one would you be?
Blair, Totie, Natalie, Jo, Mrs. Garrett or Beverly
I'm sorry, it was the eighties and Blair had the right
hair. I'd be Blair for sure just so I could look at
myself in the mirror and comb that hair.
Punk Globe: Any final comments you would like to
share with us?
Yeah, I just want you to know how happy it makes me
feel to know that- No matter how much I slow down:
Debbie Harry will still be singing, Link Wray will
still be playing guitar, and Ginger Coyote will still
be rocking with The White Trash Debutantes and putting
out Punk Globe!
photos: star Leigh
link Wray photo: sQc