Sometimes you get a chance to meet and talk to someone that truly is a wealth of information. Danny Dorman, guitarist/bassist, is one of those people. He is almost like a guy that these young kids getting into punk should be required to talk with after they finish reading American Hardcore. Danny has played with some of the biggest and best names in punk rock and isn’t slowing down.
It’s guys like Danny that really kept Los Angeles punk moving all these years. When a lot of us (me included) were getting straight-laced jobs, starting families, Danny was touring, and writing the next great punk album. For this alone I applaud the guy.
1. You’re currently the guitarist for Death on the Radio, how long have you been with them? And how did you get this gig?
I’ve been with the band since November of 2011, I was friends with Mary and Lee Powers from the underground, and I was playing in “The Livingstons” on bass, and Mary was interested in singing a song with us, and came to a few of our practices, we were trying to come up with a song for her to sing on, she saw us play at the Redwood Bar and was impressed enough to want to do a song.
Well, it started off me picking up the guitar and playing a song idea I had, and she spotted my guitar talents, and how well I was willing to try different things.
2. You’re playing guitar in DOTR, but you’re known, primarily, as a bassist. How’d this switch come about?
OK, they had this other guy in the band playing acoustic guitar and he quit, (Thanks for quitting), and I came over to Mary’s and Lee’s house and showed them what I got, and they said your in! And we then jammed with our fantastically talented drummer Roger DeLong, and we wrote a song right away.
I played my Burns twelve-string and it just took off from there, that song is called Breakout, and the song after that was a Lene Lovich song called “Say When”) I always thought that should be done as a Punk rock song.
3. We were talking a while back and you told me about auditioning for Fear; tell me a bit more about that.
Well, I didn’t make it to the audition, before I got to, they tried out Flea and he got the gig, I was only 16 at the time, so I legally could not tour, but Lee has seen me play bass, I lived like two blocks away from him in Reseda, and me and a few of my friends would hang out at with him and Philo, and they had a house called “hell house” where all kinds of mad crazy party’s took place.
4. You have played with everyone from DOTR to Agression to Wasted Youth. Give us a run down on your musical career.
OK my 1st real band that had original songs was Circle One, I joined the band in 1982 right after they played Devonshire Downs, my 1st show was at the T-Bird Rollerdrome, right after that, I went on a West Coast tour with Circle One, Agression and Channel 3, we went to Frisco to Phoenix and Tucson, and it ended up in Las Vegas, soon after that we went into the studio to record the ”Patterns of Force” LP, and I did two Mystic compilation albums, “Destroy LA” and “It came from Slimy Valley” and I continued playing till about 1984, then back again at Fenders in 1988, then at that time I was asked to play with LA’s Wasted Youth, they had already been through two other bass players after Jeff Long left, there was Jay Bentley from Bad Religion, and Tim Gellegos for a few gigs, then I joined the band, who at the time, they were playing with a guy named Jeff Dogren on vocals, when I Joined the band, Scranny- Danny re-joined the band, and we played the Stardust Ballroom with the Circle Jerks, that was billed as the return of Danny Spira, that line up lasted maybe a year, till the day we went up to Frisco to play, and Chet got pissed off at the promoter, and got us kicked off the bill, so we drove home not getting to play, soon after that gig we played a gig with the “Red Hot Chili Peppers” at Oscar’s Cornhusker way out in Pomona, and they (not naming anybody) were not getting along at all, after that gig, Me, Scranny, and Allen Sturtz just kind of didn’t want to play anymore, after that, we had a gig at the Olympic Auditorium , So I got my friend Mark Aber from Agression to play drums, and “Pablo Rossi” joined on vocals, that was for one gig, then I left, then Joey Castillo Joined on drums, and they played for about a year without me, and recorded “Get Out Of My Yard” with some bass player they got out of the Recycler, and then he left the band, so I got asked to do the “Crack Across America Tour” of 1986, in 1987 we recorded a six-song Demo, but that was never released, after that they wanted to go speed metal and I thought that was lame, so I left again, That was the 80’s.
In the 90’s I Joined a Psychedelic garage band with Todd Homer (Samoans) and Larry Robinson (Apollo) called “Mooseheart Faith Stellar Groove Band,” I recorded one record with them “Cosmic Dialogs” I hear it was big in Germany.
And now I’m the stand in bass player for Agression, its fun but I’m only the stand in bassist, when Big Bob can’t do it.
5. Who were, and are your influences, musically and personally?
Well I grew up when Jack Bruce and Geezer Butler were hot shit, then I was watching cats like Chuck Dukowski of Black Flag, and Derf Scratch and Mike Roach, and Todd Homer ( Angry Samoans).
But on Guitar, the teachers that taught me stuff, or people I jammed with are as follows:
• Mike Vallejo from Circle One
• Kyle Toucher from Dr. Know.
• Chet Lehrer from Wasted Youth
• Philo Cramer from Fear (I played bass in his band King M’butu Ngawa)
• Stan Lee from the Dickies, I helped write a Dickie song, “Make It So.”
I learned guitar from watching people like Paul Cutler from 45 Grave who really is a guitar hero, and D Boon from the Minutemen, I didn’t jam with him, but he talked me out of enlisting in the military, thanks D!
• Dez Cadena, when he had DC3 and when he was in Black Flag, Dez would amaze us on guitar!
6. Back in a time where most of the music being produced was extremely amateurish, you were pretty polished and professional, what was your training?
Thanks Mike, Well I hated being sloppy, I learned early on that when you’re playing bass, and you’re the rhythm section, you got to lock in to the drummers kick foot, and always know where one is, I had a hard act to follow with Jeff Long, but with hardcore punk bass you got to move the song along, not just play another rhythm guitar, I used to Love watching Derf Scratch play, he was right in the pocket, and doing it being drenched in spit!, he told me always play down strokes!
7. I hope this isn’t too far out, here’s a bit of self-analysis, so the question is what does Danny Dorman bring to a band?
All the experience of playing with all those great players, and my own hard edge and things I learned over the years.
8. Of all the many bands you played with, who did you most enjoy playing with?
Well It was never a dull moment with John Macias, my friends used to joke with me and say, ”If you fuck up Big John will kick your ass?” Ha!
And I loved playing with LA’s Wasted Youth, on the “Crack Across America Tour,” I got to see all the hardcore scenes around the country, WHEN THEY WERE HAPPENING IN THE 80’S Like DC, Ohio, New York, even Portland, and we were selling these T-shirts that said “Feel the negative vibrations” and “Our people hate what your people Love” and “Crack across America tour” right when that “Hands Across America” thing was happening. It was just a joke we didn’t smoke our coke then.
After Wasted Youth, in 1988, I played in Haunted Garage with Duky Flyswatter, for about 6 months, the last gig we played with KK from the Screamers on drums, During the tune “Green Slime”, I got hit with slime, and then silly string.
And now, I’m having a blast playing guitar for DEATH ON THE RADIO we all love playing and exploring new roads to dark and happy destiny’s, with D.O.T.R., there’s no limits on this, or we can’t do that, I’m digging the energy!
9. Of all the recordings you’ve done in your career what slab of vinyl (or CD for the younger fans) are you most proud of or best represents your skills?
The Hardcore classic ”Patterns Of Force” on Upstart records, originally released in 1983, it’s the 1st Christian hardcore punk record, at first I was like, singing about Jesus, that’s a good way to clear the room, but then after I thought about it, all the mainstream bands like Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult are all about worshiping the devil. So this sets us apart from the herd, and its going to bum a few lives especially at Maximum Rock N Roll!, but they were always trashing bands from L.A.
That’s what I liked about Punk rock in the 1st place, bumming Lives!
We also recorded a second Circle One record called “Never Give Up” on Artifix records, it has 5 songs that John wrote that were never recorded, one song that we re-recorded, and 5 songs we wrote in 2005-2008 but sadly, It wasn’t the same without John, and since it doesn’t have John on it, was not very popular, It’s the record I wish we recorded back in 1984.
Then I have to say the Latest LP, The Livingstons put out on Scare America records, ”Mad Cruel Woman” it has Mike Livingston from the “Mau-Maus on guitar, and Mark Aber from Agression on drums, and myself on bass, it was a fun record to make, we had Philco Raves engineer, he’s recorded everybody at Mystic Records, Dr. Know- Agression- Ill Repute- Mentors, probably every band in Hollywood, and I got Dave Leamon on the cover art.
But now on guitar 1st time ever on a recording, the new “DEATH ON THE RADIO ”Death Rock 45-7”, just released on Scare America records, sure to be a collector’s item AND IT ROCKS! Produced by Mike Villalobos of the Gears, and the cover art is also by Dave Leamon, also put together by RF7 Nick Lamagna and George Matranga at Scare America Records.
10. How much of a part did you play in the visual direction of the bands you played in and the overall art direction?
Well, to be honest I wrote a few parts on the “Patterns of Force” LP, but that was mainly a John Macias /Mike Vallejo writing team.
With Wasted Youth it was more like Chet writes all the parts I come up with my own bass lines.
With “Mooseheart Faith” (who?) It was the Todd and Larry show.
With DEATH ON THE RADIO we are a writing team, we all take part, I’ve shown Mary some parts I’ve had for years, that some people didn’t know what to do with, and she writes lyrics to it and we arrange them and make them great! It’s amazing!
11. Other than being in the incredible bands you were in, give us some of your greatest memories of being the punk scene back in the 1980’s.
Well the Exploited riot I got maced in the face and beaten by the cops and ended up at Oki dogs, not knowing how I got there, and then seeing the Damned at Godzilla’s was epic! and every Fear gig, they would talk so much shit and people would just spit and throw beer cans and lit cigarettes’ at them, and they wouldn’t miss a beat!
But I loved going to the Cathay de Grande and after that the Zero 1 Gallery, then crash at the Wig Factory, where we used to practice at, and it was P.U.N.X. headquarters. And all the riots like Mendiolas Ballroom and S.I.R; you can always tell a scenester when they divide everything by when a riot happened.
A lot of the 80’s were a blur because I was a dope fiend, and missed a lot of the cool shit that happened, heroin consumed my life, I dropped out of the scene soon after Raji’s closed down because of the 94 earthquake.
But in 2002 I got clean and came back and it’s more fun without being drunk or loaded!
12. Our last question, rather than complain about the current state of punk rock, my question to you is: do you find it strange or maybe amusing how incredibly accepted punk is now?
Well it’s bigger than ever now! and split off into this rock and that rock, the shock value is gone, when we used to walk down the street the jocks would yell out the car window ”Punk is bunk”, or “Get a haircut!” And say stupid shit like that, now there’s all these Hot Topic punks; we used to make our shirts and stickers, now you can buy it at the store. But I do have to say, it did last longer than the hippie movement!
Next week we’ll be back for part two of our interview with Danny Dorman. We’ll talk to him about outlaw writer Eddie Little.
LAST ONE TO DIE is officially out, order at: https://www.createspace.com/3669330.