ATOM ELLIS RAWKS
by Ginger Coyote

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.

...BUT 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 sandwich.

Punk Globe: How long had you been playing bass then?

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 Heads.

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 Francisco...

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 me.

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 all night.

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 mostly horseshit.

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 Psychefunkapus audience.

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 produced "Skin"?

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 marriage.

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 Sebastian Bach.

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 going in.

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 just about looking for any excuse to play together. And we had fun.

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 Dieselhed stuff.

Punk 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 explain it.

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 nothing happened.

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 California.

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 drink.

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 proud.

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 it.

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 something.

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 without me.

Punk Globe: Tell the readers about playing with Chuck Prophet?

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 tour's end.

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 at?

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 liked Bimbo's.

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 just chilling?

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 country music.

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 other.

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 up?

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 Ann?

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!

Photo credits
psychefunkapus/dieselhed photos: star Leigh
link Wray photo: sQc


 

 

 
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