Can you tell us about your background like where you
are from and what got you interested in playing guitar?
SJ: Los Angeles the westside Santa Monica - I was fortunate my
childhood was back in the time when kids could roam around free,
and in a place where there were great places to do all that
roaming. I was a total tomboy and spent my days exploring the
hills (Santa Monica mountains) and fantasizing that I was an
Arctic explorer, a cowboy, an Indian, a Civil War scout, a lone
traveling adventurer. Liked animals, not people. Loved music
from day one. It took me into another world.
Punk Globe: Thanks so much for the interview Sylvia.. How old
were you when you first picked up a guitar?
SJ: I thank you! For letting me do this interview, and for having
your online zine!
Back to the childhood thing - actually I'd been playing piano
since a young age (six?), and writing songs too. Not "songs"
exactly --instrumental pieces. I didn't start guitar until much
later, after I was playing keyboards in a band, age 16 or so. At
first I just messed around with it, not intending to switch my
main instrument. It was another way to write music; the songs I
came up with on guitar were different from the keyboard ones and
worked better with a band. But then I found myself falling in
love with it. Really truly falling in love with it. Not only did
I switch away from keyboards in the band, I was playing my
guitar every available moment of the day and the night.
Punk Globe: Do you remember the name of the band that you played
your first show with?
SJ: My first show was when I was organ player in the Leaving
Trains, and we opened for the Urinals. The whole thing happened
by chance. At the time the Trains used the parking structure at
UCLA as our rehearsal space. We were raw beginners with crappy
equipment, I was still in high school, the others not much
older. We were bashing away one night in that parking structure,
our trashy punk sounds reverberating on the concrete walls, and
some guy rode up on a bicycle. Most people unfortunate enough to
be in the structure while we were playing went quickly on their
way. Partly because not many people were into punk or indie back
then, but mostly because we really were awful. But this bicycle
guy just stopped and listened. So after a song we started
talking, and it turned out he was Kevin Barrett, drummer of the
Urinals. To our great shock he said he liked us. To our even
greater shock he said they were playing that night at a club
nearby, and asked if we'd like to play an opening set. U ? ! We
were terrified! But we did it, and it went OK, and looking back
that's kinda cool for a first-ever gig.
Punk Globe: Who some of guitar players you respect?
SJ: I appreciate most anyone who plays with passion and true
honest self-expression, but the ones who I really respect are
the ones who bring some real originality and personality in
their playing, who try to do something different with their
playing. There have been so few over the years who really broke
ground, changed the landscape. Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen of
course. More recently Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine),
Omar Rodriguez (Mars Volta). Current local L.A. guitarists: Tony
Fate (Bell-Rays, Black Widows, Carnage Asada), Jeff Levitz
(Puppies & Kittens), Jonathan Hall (Backbiter).
Punk Globe: Is it true that you are a lefty? Like Jimi Hendrix
and Blare n Bitch?
SJ: Yep! But I play right-handed. When I got serious about
guitar, I thought I'd have to switch to left-handed, that
playing "backwards" would always hold me back. And who knows,
perhaps it does. I seriously considered switching over. That
would have meant starting all over again - but worse, it would
have meant having a limited choice of guitars, it would have
meant never being able to try out or borrow other people's
guitars, or being able to just pick up a guitar and play
impromptu, at a friends' place or a party or whatever. But the
final factor that made me stay with right-handed guitar was
this: it felt awkward to go left for higher pitch, and right for
a lower pitch. I'd played piano long enough it was ingrained in
my brain and body that pitch gets higher to the right, lower to
the left, that's how a keyboard is and a left-handed guitar
fretboard just felt wrong and unnatural.
Punk Globe: Tell the readers who some of your favorite bands
SJ: Such a wide range .... there was a time, as an angry
teenager, when I didn't like hardly anything that wasn't
punk/alternative, that was the only music that really spoke to
how I felt. Nowadays I like many genres.
Old stuff like Love ("Forever Changes" album), Spirit, Hendrix,
David Bowie (70s stuff), Stooges, Stones. Punk from 70-80s like
Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Stranglers. The Minutemen. The earliest
Jane's Addiction. Current or recent bands: Fatso Jetson, the
Last ... there's even some current mainstream stuff I like from
System of a Down, Avenged Sevenfold, My Chemical Romance,
Even though it's been 10 years since Nirvana I'm still getting
used to the idea of there being some good bands in the
mainstream. Back in the 80s there was such a huge chasm between
the indie / alt / punk scene and the mainstream / major label
Punk Globe: During the late 80's and through the 90's it seems I
was reading your name all the time. Then nothing what happened?
SJ: Yeah, well I blew it :) Actually, first I was away in
Europe, from 1990-1995. We'd toured there a few times and it was
so much better than in the US I ended up just staying. I was
living the dream. Touring, recording, seeing the world, and not
having to work a day job (ya!). Eventually I had to come back
though, and when I did I just couldn't get it back together. It
was a bad time for the scene, a lot of clubs were closing, my
bandmates and associates were also having hard times, I was
beset with personal problems, messed up my life and hid away for
over 10 years. Now I'm back and on fire to make up for lost
Punk Globe: In the early 90's you recorded an album "Lick My
Pussy Eddie Van Halen" on SST Records.. Tell us who thought of
the title and also about the music?
SJ: "Lick My Pussy, Eddie Van Halen" was just the one song - an
instrumental actually (with that title, what else need be
said?). Musically it shifts and lurches between a sassy mid-
tempo jaunts, raging fast punk beat parts, and a chaotic guitar
lead freakout part.
The title - it's battlecry of sorts. Back in those days there
were so few women who were bold, wild, and had skills -- at
least, not in the mainstream. At the same time we had tons of
hair metal dudes trying to pose as wild fearless bad-boys, who
were in reality bland, conservative and risk-averse. That
"Eddie" song was me throwing down the glove, throwing down to
the poser dudes, to the arrogant guitar-hero's using their
guitar as a phallic symbol, to the scaredy-cat always-one-step-
behind major labels, and to all the people (and there were many
back in those days) who thought women can't play lead guitar, or
at least not very well.
Punk Globe: Over the years you have worked with an impressive
list of people. Tell us who you have collaborated with?
SJ: The most known is Chuck Dukowski ((former Black Flag, and
SST co-founder), I was in his band SWA for a year, one very fun,
prolific, loud, busy year; We did an album called "XCIII" (SST).
The Leaving Trains, that was the first band I was in. Another
early band for me was Clay Allison, that was with Kendra Smith
(Dream Syndicate) and David Roback (Opal, Mazzy Star). I was in
the Nymphs (with Inger Lorre) for about a week when she first
got that band started in LA. My own band has had many different
people over the years: Dave Childs on drums (Lawndale, an SST
surf band), Jill Emery bass (later Hole), Chuck Arjavac (Anger
Transfer), Barney Firks an amazing bass player (Burning Hands),
Adrien Anthony (CHUM), Jason Kahn (Joe Baiza, Universal
Congress), Sam Henry (Napalm Beach). And of course my current
band, which is Steve Reed (Legal Weapon) and Tom Hofer (Leaving
I was a guest musician on various albums - the Unclaimed (60's
garage punk), the Leaving Trains again later, Sean O'Brien
(rootsy indie rock). Recently did a surf-guitar gig where I was
honored to play with some of the greats of that genre, members
of Surfaris, Bomboras, Halibuts ... got to jam with Mike Watt
and George Hurley, with Soul Asylum, with various SST people
over the years.
One time while bored in the van on tour we drew up a web of
musicians and bands - like a "Six Degrees of Separation" but for
music. To be connected you had to have done a recording or
played a live show. The web got incredibly huge in just minutes,
and we were surprised to find it was really only a few "hops"
from obscure people like us to huge names like Led Zeppelin or
the Doors. For example, we'd both played in the Leaving Trains
with drummer Hillary Laddin; Hillary had played in a band with
Ray Manzarek of the Doors. Once you've been playing music for
any length of time you've joined a huge community linking all
Punk Globe: Did you ever get a chance to play with Betty
SJ: sadly, no! I completely missed out on them! Some of them
have Psychostar now though, maybe we'll get to do a gig
together, I hope so!
Punk Globe: Do you have any Website , My Space or Facebook
addresses you would like to share with the readers?
Punk Globe: Any tours, recording or special shows planned for
SJ: We're recording right now. At last! New tunes abound. In
July we're putting out two songs for download - like a single,
except we're "makin' it a double". The plan is put out the rest,
on an album, in the fall. It's a tough environment now, no one's
got any money.
Plus we're gonna re-release the second album by my old band To
Damascus. By a stroke of luck I'd come across the master tapes,
which had been lost for years. Turned out they were at my folks'
house (long story), buried so deep they weren't found until that
house was emptied out for selling. I happened to drop by the
vacated house and find the tapes by the trash. Pure luck that
the bin was full, so the masters had been dumped on a
neighboring pile of crap. My family has not been supporters of
my music, needless to say. Anyway ... my former band-mates and I
recorded another tune to add on, like a bonus track, and we're
gonna re-release it.
I'm happy to be a part of the "Flipside 2010 Concert Series" -
three shows they put together at the Redwood in downtown Los
Angeles. We were on their first "preview night" with the
Livingstons(former Mau-Maus members), Million Kids, DeDe Troit
(former UXA), and the final night with the Gears, Million Kids,
Punk Globe: Any last words for Punk Globe readers Sylvia?
SJ: Support your local bands! and venues! Music needs support
more than ever. (That's one reason it's great you do this zine
by the way) And it desperately needs a new idea if anyone wants
to make a living. Not to get rich mind you, I never cared about
that, just to be able to keep doing it, and doing it all the
Otherwise we'll end up in a world where the only new music will
come from trust-fund kids, hobbyists, and computers. No offense
to them, but for something to get really good it needs a lot of
time and dedication.