Life Won’t Wait by Michael Essington

20
Mar

This week we have a guest columnist, writer Marius Gustaitis, who some may be familiar with his great blog TRUDGING THROUGH THE FIRE (http://mariusgustaitis.com/), if not check it out.

I love when my intuition turns out to be right. When it confirms my suspicions. Tells me my assessments are dialed-in. On target. I love it. It’s deeply satisfying. Makes me feel good about myself. Makes me feel like I know what’s going on. Like I might have a clue.

I met Michael Essington a few months back at a Reagan Youth/ 13 Scars show at Los Globos in Hollywood.
The music was so loud we didn’t get to much of a chance to talk But I sized him up. I was a bouncer for a few years, and it’s just something I do. Maybe all guys do it. Size up a motherfucker. Try to figure out if they could take him.

Well, I wasn’t exactly at that point with Essington, since we hadn’t pissed each other off. I wasn’t at the deciding-if-I-would-win-in-a-cage-match phase of our relationship. I was just trying to figure him out. Trying to see if I could guess what he was all about.

He looked at ease. With himself. With his surroundings. Didn’t look like he had anything to prove. That told me a lot. If I ever did get any ideas about beating on him, this in itself would’ve given me pause. Guys don’t get like that without knowing they can handle some shit. And they know it…because they’ve handled some shit. You can’t fake it. Probably been through the chopping factory. Endured the blows of Life. But seems to have weathered it well. Call it character. Call it badassness. He’s got it. Like genuine.

Plus he’s got that bull neck and Taurine shoulders so in fashion with debt collectors from Queens. Probably did some wrestling in school. Football? Yeah, maybe, some boxing, too. He’s a ground-and-pounder alright. Gets you on the floor and pile-drives from above while your limbs are pinned. Knows how to head-butt effectively. You have to resort to fighting dirty with guys like that. Use teeth. Table cutlery. Pull on the peach. All while taking thunder blows to the brow and jaw and trying to blink your way through the exploding green balls and vibrating purple parallelograms in your eyes. You’re looking at major war shit.

But there was no need reach for the salt-shaker, yet. He was just sitting there watching the show.
I figured he’s ex-maniac, now settling into adulthood. I knew he had a family. I bet he’s easy-going and reasonable, until somebody really get’s under his skin. Then he blows. Yeah. Seems a little powder-keggish. Maybe some childhood stuff he’s still exorcising. Old stuff that fuels it. The Rage.

–I swear to you, these were my first impressions. Just from watching him. Now and then an occasional shouted exchange over the music. I had not read Life Won‘t Wait.

Well, needless to say, when I did, I was immensely pleased with myself. And my psychic powers.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I had him all figured out, or had known his whole story, but it turns out I did have a sense of the warp of the woof. I gisted it.

After reading his collection of autobiographical stories about life in the 818 (with interesting interviews with James Frey, Steve Jones, and Texas Terri Laird) I realized I had been right about a lot of things. Not like a jungle shaman high on Ibogaine right, but right enough to make beer money giving readings at a card table on the Santa Monica pier right.

Mike has been through some shit alright. Some quality childhood bummers. Family dysfunction. Suburban dissatisfaction. Valley Fever and it’s resulting health issues. A sensitive adolescence. An angry young adulthood, with it’s accompanying three handmaidens: Drink. Drugs, and Violence. Sprinkle in some punk rock/metal, jail time, and a volcanic temper, and you know what you have?
Somebody who would’ve been a close friend. Are you kidding? Fucker’s from my tribe. Forget about it.

So the book was a dee-light to read. A lot of head-nodding and chuckling. Whether he’s going to jail, the hospital, or dealing with stupid things surrounded by stupid people, Essington makes a good tour guide. He doesn’t bore you with details. Just points out some of the interesting sights. Gives a few historical facts for reference. Moves on to the next landmark. He’s smart, funny, and insightful. His work is informed and readable. Never mind prolific.

But to me, one of the most badass things about Mike, is that he doesn’t make himself out to be one. Oh, there’s this story and that one. Things happen. Shit goes down. But he let’s you decide what to think. He clearly delineates his facts from his opinions. Again, like a guy not desperate to prove anything.

Look, I fancy myself a writer of sorts, so as I’m reading his stuff, I see how he’s stripped-down his line–keeps the sentences simple declarative. Doesn’t write in Proustian curly cues. He just prints it. But I was also impressed with how little editorializing he does. He’ll tell you what he thought, what he felt, but not go on and on about what he thinks it all meant.

Can you imagine how refreshing? Not to have some writer’s philosophy of life railroaded down your throat. My readers should be so lucky.

Anyway, both traits require discipline. To keep the line clean. And to keep the philosophizing to a minimum. It takes restraint in the writing, and some measure of faith in his readers–that they can fill in the blanks. Those qualities make Mike the writer he is. And the person.

And that makes running with Essington, as a reader or road dog, a low-maintenance for big payoff experience. If you haven’t gotten to know him yet, I wouldn’t wait too long. Life sure doesn’t. Neither does Death. So make a new friend. One that can handle himself if the shit goes down.

–Marius Gustaitis, Camarillo, CA. 2014

 

 

Life Won’t Wait is out now, grab a copy today: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

The Adicts – All The Young Droogs

19
Mar

The Adicts
All The Young Droogs
September 11, 2012
DC-Jam Records

Keith “Monkey” Warren – vocals
Pete “Pete Dee” Davison – guitar, vocals, piano, synthesizer
John “Scruff” Ellis – guitar, vocals
Shahen Hagobian – bass, vocals
Michael “Kid Dee” Davison – drums, vocals

1. Battlefield W1
2. Wild
3. Stomper
4. My Old Friend
5. Stop the World (I Wanna Get Off)
6. Give It to My Baby
7. Rage Is the Rage
8. All the Young Droogs
9. To Us Tonight
10. Catch My Heart
11. Horrorshow
12. Love Lies Bleeding

Way back on September 10, 2012 at The Key Club in Hollywood, CA I saw the Adicts, a month after they released All The Young Droogs.

I’m probably one of, like, three people on the planet who had never seen The Adicts, so when I got invited to go to this, I jumped on it. The Adicts are known for their wild shows . . . so, I had to go.

I got to the Key Club at about 7:45 pm (on a Monday night). Parked across the street in a lot, the guy charged me $10.00 or was it $100.00 either way it was as painful as running naked through a cornfield backwards.

The tickets were outrageously priced at $25.00 to $30.00 a pop. I’m not sure if I’ve ever dropped that much for any band.

Got in line, told the ten foot tall security guard that I was on the list, he looked at me, shrugged and said, “Get to the back of the line.” Another cornfield experience. So I buzz the Symbol Six manager, Ginger, let her know that in the back of the line, she says, “come up to the box office.” I do, they let me in.

I walk in to the club, and it is deserted. Maybe twenty people milling around.

And after five or six bands and hours of trying to stay awake at 1:00 am The Adicts hit the stage. Monkey was draped head to toe in Christmas lights. Shooting confetti from an umbrella, throwing oversized playing cards into the crowd as well as dozens of stickers. These guys put a great show.

Within minutes the place went nuts, the bouncers were pulling kids out in chokeholds, I was midway back and I saw something flying at me from the corner of my eye, I ducked and some broad’s high-heel pump knocks the guy behind me.

Anyway, the band was great that night and so is their new album.

All the Young Droogs is the ninth studio album by The Adicts. It was released by DC-Jam Records on September 11, 2012.

In April 2012, it was announced that the band had signed to DC-Jam records, and would work with producer Derek O’Brien on an album to be released the following fall. The band recorded 16 tracks at O’Brien’s D.O’B. Sound Studios starting on May 28, 2012. Guest musicians included The Dickies guitarist Stan Lee on “Horrorshow” and O’Brien on drums and vocals.

There was also a crowd sourcing initiative for the album, part of which can be found on YouTube.

Rating: ** * two out of three stars.

On to the story . . .

I’ve been in a bit of a fog the last couple of weeks, trying to get this book knocked out and the chapbook out (both on a shoe-string budget) that I was, sort of, feeling sorry for myself. Then two things that I saw this week really changed my point of view.

First there is a Hispanic guy that combs this area for cans and bottles. I couldn’t place an age on him, he’s weather-worn and beat down. Shopping cart and numerous Hefty bags full of recycle goodies. I see this guy every few days around Northridge. If I have any plastics, I give them to him. Well, on Monday I saw him dealing crack about a mile from my place. I had to do a double take, weird moment when our eyes met.

On Tuesday I popped into a Jack in The Box for a cup of coffee. And I see the afternoon manager at a local 7-11 camped out in one of the booths with her boyfriend. Their phone plugged into one of the outlets and all their backpacks filling the seats at the table. Apparently she works her shift, camps out and then a few hours before her next shift they go somewhere to clean up and change then she comes to work.

Later that day I had to pick something up from that very 7-11 and she rang me up. Again that awkward moment when she looked at me.

To quote Lacy J. Dalton: “Honey we ain’t got no hard times, We ain’t got no hard times at all.”

 

 

Life Won’t Wait is out now, grab a copy today: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

Mad Society – Riot Squad

12
Mar

Mad Society
Riot Squad EP
1981 – Hit and Run Records

Vocals: Steven Metz
Guitar: Marc Vachon
Guitar: Louie Metz
Bass: Cathy Sample
Drums: Aaron Glascock

1. Riot Squad
2. Skitz
3. Napalm
4. Termanally
5. Little Devil

I had forgotten all about these guys until I ran across this picture of Steven Metz on Jennifer Lynch’s website. I read somewhere that Mad Society’s baby sitter put them together as a band. I was impressed with the fact that they got up, and accomplished something, but honestly I always felt they were a really bad Germs rip-off, the Adam Ant style face paint – a Darby rip-off. The agonizingly slow music and the play on song titles Little Devil, and Darby was the Lexicon Devil. Hey, but what do I know?

In 1981, Mad Society released a five song EP with photography by Gary Leonard (responsible for all the cool Take My Picture columns). They also contributed to a variety of compilations, and left a bit of a mark on the scene.

In the whopping eleven months they were together the played all the main “punk” clubs at that time from the Starwood to the Whiskey to the Cuckoo’s Nest; they opened for such bands as The Adolescents, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, X, The Weirdos, and The Plugz.

The vocals overpower the rest of the sound; the instruments are mixed very low. Musically, this is amateurish (I know, isn’t all punk amateurish?). Good attempt, but not real impressive. Most memorable about this band were their ages, eleven and twelve. Marc Vachon later became the guitarist for the 1980’s hair-metal band Junkyard, along with a couple of other former “punk” musicians (Brian Baker, etc).

The Mad Society vinyl is very collectible, but if you don’t own it, just take my word for it, it’s not great.

Rating: * ** one out of three stars.

On to the story . . .

I had, just as everyone else did, read up on John Stabb’s July 17, 2007, attack. I had not heard of John Stabb, and was only aware of Government Issue by name. Aside from the tragic assault and surgeries Stabb had to go through – I was kind of intrigued by the racial aspect of this incident. Let me clarify right off the bat, I am not an “Archie Bunker” card-carrying racist. I am, also, married to a woman of Egyptian and Syrian decent, making my son half Middle Eastern decent, and I have a daughter who is half Puerto Rican, so if I am racist – I suck at it. But living in Los Angeles or any major city, you end up with some prejudices. I was surprised that after reading a few accounts of Stabb’s attack that I found only one mention that the attackers were Black. Not that this matters in the big scheme of things, it wouldn’t change the results of Stabb’s attack, but I merely point this out as an example of this country’s warped sense of political correctness. If this had been a Black guy coming home from work, and he was surrounded by five White guys, and beaten like this – Al Sharpton would have been chauffeured to the site, and called for some kind of boycott, and the media coverage would’ve been phenomenal.

About a decade, and a half ago I got caught in the beginning stages of the Los Angeles Riots, my car battery died in L.A. about 30 to 45 minutes after the verdict on the police officers was announced. I didn’t know that it had been announced, so I asked the first person I saw for a jump, which just happened to be a Black guy. He, obviously, knew the verdict. He was breathing real hard, and his eyes were bugging out, he was in fighting mode. After I asked him for the jump, and saw him tripping out like this, I told him forget it, that’s when he changed up and said, “No, it’s cool, I’ll help you.” I guess my point is there is good, and bad in every culture, but our media is so scared to focus on all aspects of these events that everything we hear is blatantly biased. We are not allowed to hear about racial violence perpetrated from a Black guy to a White guy. We can be bombarded with Black NFL players, and their violent antics, and Black gang violence, and prison riots, but Black on White crime may make the media look racist.

Twisted.

 

 

Life Won’t Wait is out now, grab a copy today: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

Subvert

05
Mar

Subvert
Subvert (Compilation)
Release: 1994
Selfless Records

John Purkey – Drums
Shawn Durand – Lead Guitar
John Grant – Rhythm Guitar
Eric Greenwalt – Vocals
Marc Brown – Bass (second half of album)
Gerry Erwin – Bass (first half of album)

1. Atrocities
2. What Does It Mean?
3. Sometimes
4. Ghosts of Hiroshima
5. Live Thru It
6. They Turn Away
7. Free Your Mind
8. Psychopath
9. Game
10. Running Out of Time
11. We All Fall Down
12. Stand Up
13. The Madness Must End
14. Psychopath
15. Power for Who?/Power for What?
16. We All Fall Down
17. Psychopath
18. Man in the Crowd
19. The Madness Must End
20. What Does It Mean?
21. Power for Who? Power for What?
22. Instrumental

This album is basically a compilation or complete discography of everything Subvert ever released. It includes the Free Your Mind album, The Madness Must End album, A Simple Solution to a Complex Problem demo and their song from the Home Alive comp.

Subvert were mainstays of the Tacoma scene from 1986-1991, they had hardcore stirred with a little bit of metal that’s kind of a mirror image of The Accüsed and Poison Idea, just more political and vocal about the government. They released the album “The Madness Must End” in the late 80′s which was recorded at the famous Reciprocal Studios.

Eric Greenwalt on vocals, Shawn Durand on lead guitar, John Grant on rhythm guitar, Marc Brown on bass and John Purkey on drums (he went on to play for The Load Levelers, Scourge, The Yolk Fellaz and he is currently in The Spins and Sleeper Cell). After the band broke up Eric went on to form Christdriver and Black Noise Cannon. Shawn went on to join Portrait of Poverty, Infect and 13 Scars.

The band had a handful of releases and played alongside some of the biggest punk and hardcore acts in Seattle at the time like Brotherhood and Aspirin Feast. These guys aren’t “Grunge” in the traditional sense, but I think they were connected loosely. Meaning Shawn went to form Portrait of Poverty with A.M.Q.A. alumni (who had Seaweed members in the band), not to mention Subvert shared bills with some prominent Grunge bands.

Sad to say I never got to see these guys live. I’ve since seen Durand’s band 13 Scars the last two times they’ve hit Los Angeles and they are great.

The standout cuts are: What Does It All Mean and Running out Of Time.

If you can find it, buy it.

Rating: *** three out of three stars

On to the story . . .

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older or maybe it’s just that I’m a quirky guy. But every time I go to a show I feel more and more out of touch with the other people in the crowd.

There are definite exceptions, there are bands like The Gears, RF7, Symbol Six and The Mau Maus, etc that have really nice people as members and I go to see them for their band and as people.

Over the summer I went to a big show at the Airliner downtown and I noticed there was two distinct groups of people, neither I fit in with, one group was twenty-something guys that all had denim vests all with various crust back patches, some studs and just right amount of dirt. The other group was a bunch of thirty-something male and females with their electric cigarettes. All of them staring down their noses at people that walked by. I wanted to remind them that the rule of thumb about not making eye contact while eating a banana also applies to electric cigarettes.

Now I was over at Los Globos on Sunday signing some books and the key group here was twenty-something guys with heavily painted leather jackets and overly tight skinny jeans. I can’t really say what’s right or wrong at these shows, but I know most of the time I feel like the old guy that crashed the party. Maybe I am.

 

 

Life Won’t Wait is out now, grab a copy today: http://goo.gl/n9ofGb

Adolescents – Welcome To Reality

26
Feb

Adolescents
Welcome To Reality EP
Label: Frontier Records
Released: 1981
Producer – Thom Wilson

Tony Cadena – Vocals
Steve Soto – Bass
Frank Agnew – Guitar
Steve Roberts- Guitar
Casey Royer – Drums

1. Welcome to Reality
2. Losing Battle
3. Things Start Moving

This is nearly the same line-up their debut album. At this point Rikk Agnew had left the band, and Steve Roberts replaced him on this EP. Casey would soon leave to form D.I.

Though Rikk isn’t playing on the album, he is on the cover in the cop hat. I don’t know the back-story on this, unfortunately.

Good strong EP, with all three songs written by Tony Cadena, Steve Soto, Frank Agnew, and some help on Things Start Moving from Steve Roberts.

All three songs from this EP were later re-recorded for the Adolescents’ second album Brats in Battalions in 1986. Unfortunately, due to the constant shuffling of Adolescents members and a five-year delay the new recordings weren’t quite as strong as the originals.

The new recordings, on the Brats in Battalions album, were done by Tony on vocals, Steve Soto back on bass, Rikk Agnew returning on guitar, and new additions Alfie Agnew also on guitar, and filling out the line-up Sandy Hanson on drums.

The cover to this EP was photographed by the great Edward Colver, as was damn near every other punk album of any worth back in the 1980’s. Diane Zincavage did Art, and layout.

If you don’t own it go, and pick up this up, or order directly from Frontier Records. It’s good companion for the “Blue Album.”

Stand out cut: Welcome to Reality.

Rating: ** * two out of three stars

On to the story . . .

If you had the opportunity to go back to your favorite punk rock moment, what would it be? Mine? Easy, back in April of 1982, at the ripe old age of sixteen, I got to hang out one night with Chris D., and Chris Wahl of The Flesh Eaters, and Randy Clark of Weasel Music. Randy and Chris were both in Weasel Music together, as well as playing in my old band Cold War.

In my tenth grade year, 1981-1982, I was attending Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, CA. One afternoon, as I was leaving, I walked into the back parking lot, where all the kids were boarding their buses, and as I walked by one of the buses there was a bus driver with real long blonde hair pulled back into a pony-tail. I was wearing my Germs (GI) shirt, and this bus driver yells to me “Great band.” I did a double take; I wasn’t sure if the guy was a fan, or a hippie trying to mess with me. As it turned out, this guy, Randy Clark, was not only a fan of this type of music, but he was a musician as well. We got to talking, and he told me he listened to everything from Pere Ubu to TSOL. It got to be a routine, everyday after school I’d stop by the buses, and we’d rap about music, and when I was trying to put a band together he’d look over the songs, etc.

He was a cool guy. In one of our first conversations he told me he was in an experimental band called Weasel Music, and they play all over Los Angeles, and that I should come see them next time they play. I agreed.

While waiting for the next Weasel Music show I put together one band, U.S. Against Them, and everybody I know wanted to play in it, but no one ever had time to get together, rehearse and/or record. So, I scrapped the band, and a few months later, and about eight new songs, I put together Cold War. After going over all the songs with Randy we settled on two to record. We did a demo with the tracks “Ritchie Dagger’s Eye’s,” and “Ronny the Clown.” Chris Wahl played drums. I was told to keep it hush-hush (or as you youngsters say, I kept it on the down-low) that Wahl was playing on the demo, because Chris D. didn’t want his band mates to play in other bands, but was cool with the Weasel Music project. I believe the bass player’s name was Eric, he was real good guy.

So, Randy set up a rehearsal/recording session in North Hollywood at a small place that Chris Wahl, I believe, also slept at. We ran through the tracks somewhere between eight to twelve times, and then we recorded the tracks. They were pretty decent. Randy, and Chris were really skilled, and it was Eric, and I that were amateurish. I still remember belting out the opening lines to Ronny the Clown:

“Eight o’clock, and the speech is ready to air,
Strings are pulled, and he just sits, and stares.”

It’s not as politically profound as I thought it was, almost thirty years ago.

One day, Randy tells me Weasel Music got a booking at the Valley West club in Tarzana, which I thought was cool. Everybody had been playing there lately, Bad Religion, RF7, Circle One, and a handful of others.

The club was about four to five miles from my house, so I asked my Mom if she would drop me off. Mom drops me off at around 7:45 pm, with the instruction of “go straight in the club, no hanging around outside.” I get out of the car, and Randy Chris, and Chris D. are hanging out at the front door, so I check in with the window (I was on the guest list), and b-line for the front of the club, just as Mom was driving away – she saw me. So, I went back in for a second. But she came back to see what I was up to, at that exact second I came back out. So, she waved me over, and asked what I was up to, I explained that Chris D. was one of the most famous guys in L.A. punk, he had a band with a few records out, he wrote for Slash, and worked with the Germs, engineered the Misfits album, and I wanted to talk to him and Randy and Chris. My Mom was cool, so I wouldn’t lose face, she gave me a couple of dollars, and said so I wouldn’t get embarrassed tell the guys she came back to give me some money. I get back to the door, and the guys ask if everything is cool, I tell them Mom was just dropping off some money. Well, they all start hooting, and hollering and started yelling “Mom, can we have some money too?” Embarrassing. I still managed to hang out with Chris D. for bit, after everybody stopped clowning around.

Eight o’clock came around, and Weasel Music took the stage, Chris, and Randy were fantastic, their singer, a female, I believe, was also pretty good. They played, about, a half hour set. Their token stage prop was a cheap blow-up doll that was next to one of the microphone stands.

After I graduated from High School I lost touch with Randy. I tried to track him down a couple of times, but never found him. He was real good musician, as was Chris, and a good friend.

The night and show was one of the most memorable evenings, of that time, of my life.

 

 

Life Won’t Wait is out now, grab a copy today: https://www.createspace.com/4019318

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