Usual Suspects Issue 7.5


Usual Suspects
Issue 7.5
Penguin Press

The Usual Suspects is a zine that I only heard of recently. Through a friend of a friend kind of thing I was introduced to author Dave Gurz. Gurz is the writer of two eBooks, You’re Gonna Die Out There and Subterranean Emerald City Blues. I was lucky enough to read both books and became a regular reader of his blog, The Sun Burns Cold.

Anyway, Gurz and I have been rapping back and forth since November of 2012, and one night and he mentions that he used to do a zine when he was in prison. So, years later Usual Suspect is back.

The thing I like about Gurz’ writing is that while it’s about music, it isn’t. Music is the theme that runs through it without being the focus. If you’re a fan of punk, you get what he’s saying without him beating you on the head screaming, “I’m a punk rocker.” The same goes for his stories. He writes about street life, not the kind kids nowadays live. There’s no, “I’m mad at mom and dad so I’m staying at Bob’s for the next three days.” It’s more like homeless and penniless. The key thing to Gurz’ writing is though he strolls down memory lane and visits some pretty horrible memories, you never feel like he’s bragging or boasting. There’s never that whole, “I’m the baddest motherfucker in the world!”

You feel like it’s a combination of church confession and major self-evaluation. He knows what he’s been through; he shares, but needs the reader to know I’m not a lighter version of 50 Cent trying to make cash off of my bullet wound.

If you know how to read and/or like to read, grab a copy of Usual Suspects, I did.

For a copy contact the author at:

On to the story . . .

Years ago I worked at medical health insurance company. I worked my ass off at this company, but I was lousy at the politics. So, I would submit a ground breaking idea, they would use it and never credit me. I would confront them they would play dumb and I’d rebel.

Somehow in my young and dumb mind I thought I’d win. Ultimately, after three years I was let go in a massive downsizing. Like a lot of young idiots, I had the mind-set of, “They can’t let me go, they need me.” Sadly, we are all replaceable.

While the bosses were, mostly, douche-bags, I met lots of very cool people. And dated far more women-folk than I should have.

One of the people I met at my years at the company was a Hispanic man named Louis. Louis, I believe, was from Spain and was impeccably groomed. Beard, hair, suit, you name it, he was a classy guy. Louis worked his way up in the company and ended up being the supervisor of the claims support unit.

Despite very different backgrounds, we hit it off. My sense of humor didn’t offend him much.

Anyway, I didn’t hang out with Louis much, as he was married with two pretty young daughters. He was usually homebound. Then one day after work he asked if I was going to the Happy Hour? Down the street from the job there was a Red Onion (which I played a drunken game of pool with Kelsey Grammer) and every week someone from the job was throwing a party, someone’s birthday, someone’s last day, someone was getting married, somebody got a hair-cut . . . you name it, we drank to it. So, I was surprised when Louis asked. I said, “Yeah, I’m going. You?” He said, “Yeah.”

I didn’t ask Louis at the time, but I could tell something was up with him. The next time I saw him was at a house-warming party (it was really an apartment) for this girl Marlene (I think that was her name), who was the subject of much gossip herself for hooking up with a co-worker at a drunken Jacuzzi party a few months before. Anyway, Louis comes to the house-warming with his wife, who is a very nice woman, but very withdrawn. I got the impression she didn’t speak English and was shy.

Louis’ wife hadn’t left his side all night, nor did she talk. She nursed a beer and smiled and nodded. After a few hours she startled us all by getting up and whispering, “Where’s the ladies room?”

Almost an hour goes by and someone asks Louis, “Where’s your wife?” Everybody headed towards the bathroom and all you could hear was a faint, “Help.” Turns out Louis’ wife used the restroom and went to leave and the doorknob fell off, locking her inside.

The next hour was spent trying to find tools or a screwdriver of some sort. Finally after two hours the apartment manager provided us with a pair of pliers. Everybody took a crack and finally, we got the door open. Louis’ wife emerged very embarrassed and asked to leave immediately.

On the next year I would Louis at almost every happy-hour thrown. I was never sure if it was that he was a cool boss and wanted to be “one of the guys” or that he didn’t want to go home. One of these happy-hour’s I got pretty buzzed and let my supervisor know what I thought of him. He had been riding my ass for months trying to fire me. But I did my job perfectly. So, he started writing me up if I came back to lunch one minute late. To keep my job I would bring my lunch and eat it at my desk. So, at this particular happy-hour I plopped down next to him and asked him, “Do know how I’m able to put up with your shit day in and day out at work without walking out the door?” He looked concerned, and then shook his head, “No.” I continued, “Because I know that outside of work I could beat the fuck out of you, and there isn’t a thing you could do about it.” Then I smiled. My boss shot back his drink, then stood up and left. I took my drink and wandered off for the next person to talk shit to.

About a year after Louis’ wife got locked in the can, I invited him to a party at my apartment, I extended the invite to whoever he wanted to bring (I meant wife).

Louis shows up to my apartment an hour or two late with a girl, I think her name was Ellen. I thought nothing of this since everybody at this company carpooled. Anyway, I gave them each some beer and showed them where the chips were.

I’m meeting and greeting for the next couple of hours, when it hits me that I haven’t seen Louis in hours. I ask a couple of people if Louis had left? No one knew.

I wander around and walk into my room to find them dry-humping on my futon (Hey, it was the ‘90’s, OK?). They looked shocked; I left and shut the door.

They stayed in my room until almost everybody had left. Louis shook my hand and said, “We’ll talk on Monday.” I smiled and said OK.

So, on Monday we meet in a conference room he says, “I would appreciate your confidentiality.” I tell him, “No problem.” I had no intention of screwing his life up. But I did wonder, “What happened to the family man?” Over the next few weeks he and Ellen took every lunch and break together, so even without me telling, everybody kind of figured it out.

Once I got laid-off I never say Louis again. Despite his romantic issues, he was a nice guy.



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Top 10 Punk Movies


Top 10 Punk Movies

Number 10
The Decline of Western Civilization III
Studio: Spheeris Films
Director: Penelope Spheeris
Released: 1998

In some ways this film is a bit better than the first Decline, in that there is a stronger message (homelessness, and the lack of true political impact the initial 1980’s Los Angeles punk movement had), but the first Decline will always have a sentimental place in my heart. Performances by four bands were filmed: Final Conflict, Litmus Green, Naked Aggression and The Resistance.
Rating: *** three out of three stars.

Number 9
Punk Attitude
Studio: IFC Pictures
Director: Don Letts
Released: 2005

Originally shown on IFC, which I missed, this was released on DVD soon afterward. This has become one of my favorite films.
Rating: *** three out of three stars.

Number 8
Punk’s Not Dead
Studio: Aberration Pictures
Director: Susan Dynner
Released: 2007

What can I say it’s great!? They cover the entire history of punk, and then try to connect the pieces from the Sex Pistols to the Green Day/Sum 41 era, all without telling you what punk is and what’s not. I’ve watched it two or three times to try and absorb all the information.
Rating: *** three out of three stars.

Number 7
Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
Studio: Vertigo Films
Director: Julien Temple
Released: 2007

I really love the Clash, and any and all information on these guys I eat up, but the campfire narrative could have been left out.
Rating: *** three out of three stars.

Number 6
The Decline of Western Civilization
Studio: Media Home Entertainment Nu Image Films
Director: Penelope Spheeris
Released: 1981

Performances and interview footage of Black Flag and the Germs make this film a classic. Also performances by Fear and the Circle Jerks serve as icing on the cake.
Rating: *** three out of three stars.

Number 5
End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Director: Jim Fields
Released: 2005

Though I don’t truly believe these guys were “punk” by the definition I had growing up, they did play good stripped-down rock and roll, and the film is good. The scenes about Joey’s girlfriend being taken by Johnny, and Johnny basically saying he didn’t care about Joey were heavy.

Magnolia Pictures also put out the Bukowski documentary, edgy company.
Rating: *** three out of three stars.

Number 4
Another State of Mind
Studio: Time Bomb
Director: Adam Small
Released: 1984

I remember hearing about this when it was being filmed, but it never played anywhere that I could find, so this classic had to wait over twenty years before I could watch it. I picked it up this past weekend on sale at CD Trader in Tarzana.

It’s a good film with cameos from John Macias from Circle One, Keith Morris from Circle Jerks, and of course Social Distortion, and Youth Brigade. Unfortunately Mike Ness isn’t always sober so you miss out on anything too profound, but Shawn Stern’s opening dialogue is very cool, very punk in a nutshell.
Rating: *** three out of three stars.

Number 3
The Filth and the Fury
Studio: Fine Line Pictures
Director: Julien Temple
Released: 2000

This was the best documentary on punk I had ever seen until American Hardcore. These guys were great.

The little commentaries from Billy Idol and Siouxsie Sioux really help create a fuller story. Good stuff.
Rating: *** three out of three stars.

Number 2
American Hardcore
Studio: Sony Pictures
Director: Paul Rachman
Released: 2006

This is the best documentary on punk I have ever seen. They put a heck of a lot of research into this, but like all things on this genre . . . things get left out, no Misfits or Dead Kennedys, but otherwise a real good piece on the American Punk scene.
Rating: *** three out of three stars.

Number 1
Fight Club
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Director: David Fincher
Released: 1999

This film, once you get past the basic violence, and get into the message – it’s 100% punk. The whole concept of stripping everything down, and doing away with corporate America (blowing up TRW, coffee chains, corporate art, etc.). It takes a couple of viewings, but it’s all there. Great flick.
Rating: *** three out of three stars.

These are my choices, I’m sticking to them, but I’d love to see some comments.



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Joe Carducci – Interview


For years I had heard about Joe Carducci, author, song writer, screenplay writer and for a time, quarter owner of the infamous SST Records. Carducci is a definite jack-of-all-trades that for whatever reasons our paths never crossed, but I always wanted to rap with the guy and through the technology of Facebook I tracked him down.

1. First off, I want to thank you for agreeing to do this interview. What was your position at SST? When did you become a partial owner, when did sell your share, etc?

Everything was very informal then. My sense of things was confirmed when I read Black Randy in Brendan Mullen’s book, We Got the Neutron Bomb, describing the early L.A. punks being seized by “missionary zeal”. If someone as perverse as he would call it that then I know I’m not fooling myself. I think late baby boomers had had their expectations for music raised incredibly high by the music right up to before they picked up instruments in, say, 1974. Suddenly everything went bad and rather than giving up on music and becoming painters the opposite happened. Greg and Chuck saw on their first tours in 1980-81 that when a record shop had Black Flag records they had got them from me at Systematic. So when I told Greg in July 1981 that I’d come down to L.A. and run their label for them they figured I could do it. I wanted to be in L.A. for my writing and as long as I had a place and food it was fine by me; I didn’t come down for one-quarter ownership or even a salary. I just didn’t want to waste my time. But by 1983 we got serious about registering the four owners and that was more about me having to write checks when they were on tour and having to have things legal in order to license records overseas and register copyrights etc. By the end of 1984 the label was functional and we were important enough to our distributors to get paid quick enough to pay the studio and pressing and printing bills. So Mugger left the Black Flag tours in late 83 and he hired D.Boon’s sister-in-law Jeannine Garfias to do mail-order, and I convinced Ray Farrell to move down from San Francisco to do promotions. Before than we had band people filling in at the label: Boon, Watt, Spot, Henry, Dez, Robo, Dave Claassen, Bill Stevenson, Byron Coley and others in a pinch. Just as I was leaving more people were coming in as paid employees: Naomi Petersen, who’d been our photographer since 82, Jordan Schwartz, Mike Whittaker, Linda Trudnich, Kara Nicks. I trained Rich Ford, who’d been in Chuck’s band SWA, to run manufacturing in early 1986 and then was out in March.

2. How did you manage to not just survive but also thrive in the extreme SST environment?

I’d guess you’d say I have a writer’s personality. I’m from a large family, half Italian but some people might think you’d be voluble, fun, etc., but I’m not much fun. I mostly just do the work I need to do. I’d say I figured out in late high school that writing what I want to write was going to take a while to master. I mean my screenwriting, but it goes double with regard to writing prose in the books or the blog since I never really expected to do that kind of writing, and probably wouldn’t have, had I been able to get scripts made earlier. But as regards SST, I fit in because the early punk era was full of people who leveraged the hippie era to do what they wanted and we generally respected that about each other. I was like those guys only minus even the limited partying they did.

3. What led your decision to leave Los Angeles and pursue writing once again?

Well it was nine years worth of the music scene split between Systematic and SST. Systematic needed SST and its touring bands to sell records at that level, but SST needed radio to sell enough records to warrant the amount of work done on those records. So the only further music biz thing I might’ve done was radio to see it through, break the logjam. But otherwise Black Flag was done and new bands post-1982 or so weren’t as interesting – the frontier had closed basically. The straight import-distributors all started labels signing up generic bands (goth, roots, synth, hardcore…) and the culture got taken over by college bands, completely different from the drop-out bands that invented it. But mainly I had a clearer idea of what I wanted to write by then so I wanted to get back to that and see what I could come up with.

4. What was your first exposure to punk rock?

I think it was hearing KROQ in 1977 playing “Sheena” in rotation and running ads for Ramones “Leave Home.” I heard that song and the short clips of the heavier 2nd album tunes enough that I got into it. I understood it as stripping the Black Sabbath power back to a 60s garage simplicity. I didn’t run across any of the Hollywood punks when I was there but I bought the first issue of Slash at Peaches and looked over the 45s they had. I moved to Portland in September 1977 and started buying the New York bands’ albums and then picked up the LA and UK singles through working at Renaissance Records which became Systematic Record Distribution.

5. Other than being at SST, give us some of your greatest memories of being in the punk scene back in the 1980’s.

Well it was earlier than that, up in Portland in 1978 when the first local punk shows were being put on and bringing a small number of interesting people together. It was a hippie town pegged to San Francisco and the Holy Modal Rounders but one time I was closing the record shop and the last couple customers were going to get a pizza so I went with them, we stopped by another record shop picked up a couple more of the punk rockers and then ran into more before winding up at the restaurant with about a dozen kids, it was a scene! And they sat us in a back room. Otherwise, it had to be going on short tours to Arizona or up the coast with Black Flag had to be the coolest thing I did, especially when it was Greg, Chuck, Dez, Henry, Robo, Spot, and Mugger. I moved to the Meat Puppets van once from Seattle to Vancouver and the MPs were smoking pot until they snapped to 3 miles from the border. I never smoked pot so I wasn’t really conscious of the things they had to worry about. But we made it through the check point okay. And in LA in 1982 when BF toured Damaged, I went out with the Descendents to the weekend gigs they were just getting all around town on the basis of their first album – they didn’t draw a lot yet so you got to watch and listen to them with about 25 other people who couldn’t believe how good they were. Then in 1983 the Minutemen were getting to play around Hollywood a lot and if BF was touring D. Boon would pick me up on his way to Hollywood and then since he was usually going off to party after the gig, I’d grab a ride back down to SST with Mike Watt. So just being able to talk to those guys about music and media and art and politics. When Black Flag was in town the same went for them. On Wednesday nights at SST in Redondo Beach in 82-3 we’d know the L.A. Weekly would be in at Music Plus on P.C.H. so often Greg and I would walk down Grant to Aviation to P.C.H. to get a copy to see who was playing where that week.

6. Who were/ are your influences, musically, writing and personally?

I first liked stuff I heard on AM radio (WLS and WCFL in Chicago): Paul Revere & the Raiders, Tommy James & the Shondells, The Standells, Davie Allen & the Arrows, The Hollies, Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix Experience… Then FM radio and album buying: Black Sabbath, King Crimson, Soft Machine… For writing I guess the first things I liked when my dad forced us to read books was Jack London, and Pierre Boulle novels. I think of Dostoevsky as the gold standard. In high school read a lot of Anthony Burgess, B. Traven, Ira Levin, and later Cornell Woolrich, Barry Sadler, and recently Michel Houellebecq. I don’t read a lot of fiction anymore. The culture probably needs a Jack London revival right about now.

7. I hope this isn’t too far out, here’s a bit of self-analysis. You’ve been in the music world for over thirty years as a label owner, and PR writer, so the question is what did Joe Carducci bring to SST?

Well SST had its own thing going on. I liked how they related to punk rock as rock music, rather than some anti-rock thing. So it made sense that Black Flag would find a way to tour. I bought records from a lot of American bands and only Black Flag seemed determined to take their music on the road. The political influence of British punk or the drug cool of the earlier 70s bands seemed to keep the rest waiting for something to happen, either the revolution or getting signed to a major. So what I brought was mostly just I was able to stretch the money and keep records in print better and better and get the drive wheel of the business rolling with some momentum. The label Greg wanted was more as a label for the stuff they liked but didn’t have interest from real labels. He expected that “Damaged” and future BF releases would go out thru majors and by rights they should have. But MCA and the industry at large was so retarded by rock radio’s disinterest that SST came to be more the kind of label I had wanted when I was up at Systematic. The major labels couldn’t imagine that a Black Flag might have a better shot at breaking through than a band like X or The Dickies or the New York bands. What happened instead was Metallica and then Nirvana breaking through the imposed retardation by Lee Abrams, Jan Wenner and other criminals.

8. It’s been more than twenty years since you first published Rock And The Pop Narcotic: do you feel that any of the more recent books that chronicle aspects of the SST/underground era of the 80s have contributed as positively as your book did?

I read a bunch of LA oriented stuff when I was working on by book about SST and Naomi Petersen, Enter Naomi, in 2006-7 but basically I don’t read much music stuff now. I have too much to read for work on a film book and other stuff. My impression is that there are a lot of good music memoirs, stories of individual bands, and history but probably not much about what happened to contemporary music – writers must just accept it as a given or they’d be covering television or videogames.



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Rat Music for Rat People/TSOL – Live 91


Rat Music for Rat People Vol. 1
Label: Go! Records
Released: 1982

1. DOA – America the Beautiful
2. DOA – Fucked Up Ronnie
3. Flipper – Life
4. Circle Jerks – Live Fast, Die Young
5. Bad Brains – How Low Can A Punk Get?
6. Bad Brains – Don’t Bother Me
7. Crucifix – Steel Case Enclosure
8. Dead Kennedys – Forward To Death
9. Dead Kennedys – I Am the Owl
10. Black Flag – Scream
11. TSOL – Weathered Statues
12. TSOL – Sounds of Laughter
13. Avengers – Cheap Tragedies
14. Dils – Blow Up

Although the lineup on this LP makes it seem like it would be better than it actually is, it’s a decent compilation nonetheless.

The first part of the series has live recordings only (various sources, sound quality is good to excellent). Great music from the stars of that era, no new songs, though. Like many of the albums of this time, I bought it solely based on TSOL’s contribution, but like I said earlier there are no new songs, just recycled poorly recorded live versions.

If you get the chance give this album a listen, it’s a good listen, but not worth owning. It’s a great snap-shot of a great time in punk rock.

Rating: ** * two out of three stars.

TSOL – Live 91
Label: Triple X
Released: 1991

1. Silent Scream
2. World War III
3. Abolish Government/Silent Majority
4. Triangle
5. Wash Away
6. Funeral March
7. Superficial Love
8. Thoughts of Yesterday
9. I’m Tired 10. Love Story
11. Man and Machine
12. Property is Theft
13. Dance with Me
14. Code Blue

This album is excellent. Very nice track selection for a live album (it could’ve used some more off of Beneath the Shadows, but whatever) the sound quality is good, and the on-stage banter from Jack adds to the album.

This recording is from an all-original member reunion show in 1991. Because they had lost the legal rights to the name T.S.O.L., the show (and the album) had to be listed under the members’ full names. Most of the material is from Dance with Me and the first two EPs. Recommended, if you are a fan of that era of TSOL. These guys lead the way for currents bands, like AFI that want to get dark and creepy. Definitely one of the most original bands of all time. A very intense live band. Check it out.

If you get the chance to buy this album, grab it. It’s virtually all their greatest hits all on one album. I love these guys.

Rating: *** three out of three stars



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Weirdos, Naked Aggression, Killroy & The Dips – LIVE


Weirdos, Naked Aggression, Killroy & The Dips
The Cobalt Cafe
Sunday, August 24, 2014
Admission $13.00

I went to see the Weirdos show on Sunday night. And I have to say, as a fan, you should pretty much go to any show that Eric Lara promotes. The shows aren’t over-billed (never six, seven to eight bands) and he has a way of organizing the line-up so it’s not overwhelmingly hardcore. Fast band, slightly slower and back to fast. At my age I can’t do eight bands nor do I want to and the hardcore sounds of a machine gun shooting at a metal trash can doesn’t work for me anymore.

I’ve gone to half a dozen shows organized by Eric and his wife Krista and each one has been loads of fun. Well worth the money.

Every once in a while get the privilege to attend a show that is so perfect that you wonder if you’re going to get to see a better show.

There was a nice healthy turnout. The feel of the joint was cool too. I didn’t feel like I was at a club, it felt like somebody said “Come on over to my house, I’ve got a huge living room, and I’ve invited my four favorite bands to play, and by the way, you get to talk to John Denney.” Fuck yeah, I’m there!

Now, some of the best memories I have of shows always tend to be the stuff that happens outside of the clubs. The small talk, the drama, and friends you make, this night was no different.

From a fan boy perspective it was awesome to watch Zander Schloss (Circle Jerks, The Juicy Bananas, Joe Strummer The Weirdos, Too Free Stooges and Thelonious Monster, Red Hot Chili Peppers, El Patrullero, Low and Sweet Orchestra and The Magnificent Bastards), Greg Hetson (Bad Religion, Black President, Circle Jerks, G.F.P. and Red Cross), Dix Denney, John Denney and Jeff Friedl (The Weirdos, Ashes Divide, Devo, Puscifer, A Perfect Circle and The Beta Machine) load in.

The first band is scheduled to go on at 8:15. Well, The Dips played 8:45. I had heard their name, but I had never seen The Dips live. These guys were good. The crowd was still fairly thin at this point, but the band played as if they were headlining The Staples Center. They delivered.

The second act is scheduled to go on at 9:00. Killroy played until 9:30 or 9:45. I had seen them live once or twice before. The band puts on a great show. Nothing half-assed here, a real 1980’s underground punk-rock feel to their music. Killroy provides an adrenaline-charged set with some power vocals.

Nowadays, it’s rare to see a band that can maintain that kind of energy level throughout their entire set. Most tend to die down mid-set.

The third band is scheduled to go on at 9:45. Naked Aggression played until 10:15 or 10:30. Again, I had heard the name, but I had only seen them in the Decline of Western Civilization III movie. This band puts on a great show. The bassist, Meghan, also plays in the band A Pretty Mess.

The Weirdos were scheduled to go on at 10:30. If you haven’t seen the Weirdos live, you’ve been living under a rock for the last thirty plus years.

The band, John, Zander, Jeff and Dix, are great live. Energetic and very polished. It was great to finally see them.

At the end of the night, as I was waiting to snap a picture with John Denney, I got to say, “Hi,” to Lisa Fancher, the owner of Frontier Records.



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