Interview: Greg Hetson (lead guitar Circle Jerks, Bad Religion and formerly of Red Kross)

Greg Hetson,Circle Jerks,Bad Religion,Redd Kross,Punk,Rock




      
Let’s start off with the LA scene of yester year. You’ve lived in LA pretty much your whole life. We’ve all seen Decline of Western Civilization, for us that didn’t come up in that time or place can you paint us a picture of the So Cal scene from back in the day?
It was just a huge music scene for all genres back then. You had a big metal scene. You had a pop scene, (they called it power pop). There was all the metal stuff with bands like Motley Crue and Wasp. Then there was the punk rock scene. There was even an alternative country scene. Dwight Yoakam used to play the same clubs we did. The metal clubs were established, then anything that wasn’t metal played at the underground clubs. One night it would be the Blasters, the next night  it would e Black Flag……All the bands would hang out together  because it was the only place to be heard if you weren’t playing what they thought rock’n’roll should be. It all kind of intertwined, but the biggest thing besides the metal thing was the punk scene back then. The live music scene as a whole was cool back then.

Things changed, what happened? Do you think the labels, or maybe the music industry lost interest in maintaining credibility in lieu of making a quick buck?
To me, what’s a record label job to do? It’s to take bands, get them out there, market them and sell them so they can make some money and the bands can make some money. I don’t know about credibility, it’s a business. There’s people who are credible and there are people who aren’t; in all genres. I don’t really buy into this indie versus major, evil versus cool thing.

What about radio stations and music television? Granted I’ve lived on the east coast my whole life, it may be vastly different on the west coast, but here it’s the same 10 shitty songs every hour with some asshole DJ piping in some mind numbing bullshit in between.
It’s still pretty much programmed and commercialized for the most part. I mean there’s a pretty decent station who under the guise of calling themselves an indie station (it’s owned by Clear Channel) but it’s still totally free form. There’s not really a set list. There’s guest DJ’s every day. Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols has a show, Joe Sib has a punk show. LA does have the best stations I guess. Even California seems to have some good radio stations, I mean compared to the east coast and other places. I spent a lot of time in the northeast New York area and it was just dismal. The radio up there is horrible.

Aside from the radio, it’s undeniable the scene’s taken a nose dive. Here’s one of my (and I think a lot of other people’s) pet peeves, and playing the Warped Tour I’m sure you’ve come into contact with your share, how do you feel about the "emo kids"?
 It doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t like the haircut. I mean when you get down to it who wore the first "emo" haircut? Adolf Hitler. One more reason to hate the haircut. So that’s what I think about emo, Hitler. *laughter* And you know what? A comb over is a comb over. It’s never fucking cool. You want a comb over?

With my male patterned baldness, I could rock a comb over. We both could. But it looks like we both choose to be bald.
Greg- That’s right, bald is beautiful. So to all you kids out there losing your hair, just fucking shave it. It took me years to come to that realization.

I’ve never seen you with a comb over.
No, but I was bumming. I was bumming when I first started losing my hair.

When did you start losing your hair? My hairline made a full retreat the day I turned 21, like "welcome to adulthood fucker."
Mid to late 20’s I started noticing it.

What pisses me off is I can’t even rock my mohawk anymore.
Shit, I even went and seen about transplants and was like I’m not gonna do that! Cut my scalp open for that?!? And then, you know what I realized? Chicks dig the bald head. I didn’t know that.

Dawn the photographer- Yeah we do! It’s fun to rub on!
If I would have realized that 10 or 15 years ago, I would’ve lost even more hair. I think I got it from my dad. He’s been wearing a hairpiece since I was 21. 2 years ago, when he retired, he finally took the rug off. He sported it until he was 70 or something.

You’re a founding member of the Circle Jerks (who are playing tonight),  Red Kross as well as a long time member of Bad Religion, what got you into punk in the first place?
Greg- I guess it was looking for the heaviest guitar oriented music out there. It was kind of a progression. After metal and listening to hard rock (Zeppelin and that kind of stuff), I heard the Ramones and stuff like that and it was just like "Ok, yeah." … saw a couple of local punk bands and it pretty much couldn’t get any more guitar driven than that.

Being the only band you’re not still affiliated with, what made you leave Red Kross and cofound the ’Jerks?
Greg- The guys, the brothers McDonald, at the time they were kind of wishy-washy. They weren’t sure if they wanted to do music full-time or what. I found a drummer and they didn’t like him because they thought he was too new wave and they didn’t want to tell me they didn’t like him. But anyway, I quit the band and then I got Lucky Lehrer, he was going to be the drummer for Red Kross but ended up being the drummer for the Circle Jerks. I think it worked out pretty good.

How did you and Keith meet up?
 We used to practice in the same spot, the church in Hermosa Beach. It was like us (as in Red Kross), Black Flag, The Last and a couple other bands… the Descendents were there too. So anyway, I met him through that, we grew up in the same area. He quit Black Flag maybe a month before I quit Red Kross. He literally heard me quit Red Kross in line to go see a gig at the Whiskey and basically (I think his words were exactly) *in an excellent Keith Morris impersonation* "Fuck those guys. Let’s start our own band, man." So we did.

A common bond a lot of punks share is coming from broken homes - does this hold true for yourself?
 It was pretty normal. My parents stayed together until I was 17. My family life and childhood didn’t really play a role with me getting into punk. I found out about it through a friend’s older brother who had the Ramones and Dead Boys records. Then I found out there was actually a local scene around the time I was a junior I high school and started to go see bands live.

Here’s a question that’s plagued me in regards to the Circle Jerks since I first heard of you guys damn near 20 years ago. What’s the story behind the name?
We were looking for a name. We played a couple of parties under 3 or 4 different names. Ray Pettibon, the guy who did a lot of the Black Flag artwork (he did a few fliers for us too), we were at his house and he had a copy of the American Slang Dictionary. We just started looking through that and laughing and we seen the term Circle Jerk and we were like "we have to name our band Circle Jerks. This is just ridiculous!" That’s kind of how it happened. Our original bass player, Roger, he wasn’t too happy. He was like "I can’t tell my dad I’m in a band called Circle Jerks".

Granted you guys went your separate ways there for awhile……
 A couple of times. We broke up in ’90 and got back together in ’94 and then broke up again around ’95. That was short lived.

….whereas most bands break up for good after a couple years, you’ve been together for 25 plus years. What keeps you guys coming back to the table?
I guess some of the other guys just need some cash here and there. Let’s call a spade a shovel here. (laughter) But we have fun doing it ya know. We like a little spending money out on the road and do what we need to do. But it’s not like we’re trying to pull some kind of scam. We always go out there and try to give it our best. We enjoy it. We’re like one big dysfunctional family.

Do you ever kick back and think "look at all the people I’ve influenced"? I mean with (your early years with) Red Kross, Bad Religion and the Circle Jerks it’s pretty safe to say you’re somewhat of a punk rock legend.
That’s what people keep telling me. I don’t really think "oh my god! I’m this trail blazing artist!"  But I definitely feel fortunate and understand there are people who have been inspired by some of the bands I’ve been in. It’s kind of strange. It’s funny too, people will come up and say "oh my god! You inspired me!" or this and that and you always feel uncomfortable. So a couple of years ago on the Warped Tour and the Damned were on there. So I saw Captain Sensible sitting at this picnic table and I thought I gotta go up and tell him. Dude, I gotta be that guy. I’m in Circle Jerks and Bad Religion and people do this all the time, so I got to give him a dose of that. So I told him "I saw you guys when I was like 17 and it was a mind altering experience. You’re so influential to me!"  and that sort of shit. So it’s come full circle.

Can you once and for all explain to those who may not be in-the-know (nobody reading this magazine of course) what that little area in front of the stage where people tend to migrate towards and dance is called and what it’s for? I’ve always thought the words mosh pit refer to a place angry ignorant knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing  apes go to intentionally try to injure people whether they be man, woman or child.
 I don’t know what a mosh is. I don’t know where that term came from; maybe it was an east coast thing. But I know the term "slam pit"; I guess it originated in LA. Although nobody called it that back then. It ended up in the LA Times somewhere around 1981. They were doing a big expose’ on the music scene, the punk rock thing and the pit and how it was dangerous and this and that. I think some kid was fucking around with the journalist when he asked "What’s the name of your dance?" and he said "We call it the slam, it’s the slam pit." And you’re reading this article, and you know the LA Times is a respectable paper and it was just like "What the fuck is a slam pit?" I don’t know who coined the term mosh. But we just call it the pit. There’s a little history on the words "slam pit", it was a figment of some lame journalist’s imagination.

It’s been 10 years since the Circle Jerks put out a new album (Oddities,…..), tell me the time has come for a new album.
Greg- We’ve been trying to work on some stuff. We got a couple of songs. We’re not quite ready to rip’em live yet. We keep saying we’re gonna do it, but we haven’t yet so….. I can’t make any promises, but we’re trying to get some shit together, maybe next year, maybe not.

I think that’s a good way to end it, with a little hope on a string.
Cool. That was painless.

Interview: Blag Dahlia (Dwarves)

                                                     
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PHOTO COURTESY OF Nate Bettinger

Big D- Let's start off with an obvious, yet often neglected question: where did the Dwarves get their name?
Blag- Wow man, years ago we just drew up a list of names. There were a bunch of bogus ones on there and the Dwarves was the only one everybody liked. So we said "alright, we'll be the Dwarves. It'll be a sixties type punk thing." I think one of the ones we didn't use Puss Antler. I don't know, I'm glad we're not Puss Antler.
Big D- Puss Antler?!? Shit, I think everybody's glad you didn't go with Puss Antler. At times it's easy to peg your influences (for example Salt Lake City in regards to the Ramones) but at times there are so many things going on at once it becomes a little more cryptic. Care to enlighten the world of your more subtle inspirations?
Blag- Yeah, Salt Lake City is basically a Ramones song for the most part. If you look at the last record (The Dwarves Must Die) it's kind of got every genre on it. There's pop-punky stuff, there's the Ramones thing, there's more hardcore stuff, but then there's also hip-hop influences, turn table stuff, experimental stuff, noise stuff and just every kind of genre in there. I grew up seeing a lot of bands and listening to a lot of rockabilly, sixties punk. I like every genre of music. It just depends on how good you do it. I don't just do one thing.
Big D- I find it funny that there are bands out there like the Transplants (doing the hip-hop thing) that come off seeming genuine at times, but other times just coming off sounding hokey as hell. Then the Dwarves (w/ a masked naked guitarist in tow) pull it off almost effortlessly.
Blag- I thought the Transplants were a cool idea. Ya know, I had brought a similar idea to Epitaph and they said "nobody's going to like that". But I thought the Transplants thing was a cool idea. I don't really know how well they pulled it off, but hey, at least they tried it. It's interesting; it's cool to know you can do punk rock and hip-hop. You just have to be clever about it.
Big D- When did you start getting into hip-hop?
Blag- I was always into it. When we did Blood, Guts and Pussy we were listening to Straight Outta Compton. It's hard to see the influence early on. I hadn't really learned how to sequence drums or program things, or really figured out how it fit in with what I was doing. But, I've always been a fan. I'm also a big fan of disco music, a big fan of old R & B records and blues records. It's all one thing basically, music is all one thing. At least that's the way I see it.
Big D- I've noticed throughout the years your albums are riddled with samples, something (until recently) punk bands (or even rock bands for that matter) hadn't thought to utilize in their music.
Blag- You're right. We've been doing it since before there were samplers. We did it when there were just cassette decks you did it with. It's always been a part of us, even with Suburban Nightmare back in the mid-eighties. It's funny; when you read articles about us they never mention that. They always talk about blood and nudity and mayhem. Nobody ever says "hey, this is the first punk band to use samples" but we were. So it's nice when someone appreciates it. On the last record, I was the first guy to start looping old garage and surf records, you know, loop'em like hip-hop records. Almost nobody does that. People loop funk, but they don't really understand you can loop anything. I think that's a whole genre we came up with. I can't say what songs we looped or people would come after us with copyrights, but you can loop anything if you're smart about it.
Big D- Your lyrics are infused with dark humor, often with underlying themes of violence and vulgarity, did you have a traumatic childhood or what?
Blag- No, I grew up in Highland Park, right down the road from here. It was fairly idyllic as childhoods go I guess. I've just always been a nut case. I've dealt a lot of drugs and got into a lot of shit with people and that kind of thing. As a kid I was just very aggressive. I got into a lot of problems; it's not my parent's fault I promise.
Big D- Speaking of maladjusted youth, back in the day punk and juvenile delinquency went hand in hand. Now-a-days it seems like money and fashion has all but killed the scene. What are your thoughts on the evolution of punk rock?
Blag- Well yeah, it used to be more for people who didn't fit in. Now it's more for people looking for a career. I mean, I see punk bands whose moms and dads come to the show and help them load up afterward and shit. I don't get it. I can't condemn them because whatever it is to them is what it is. But, when I was a kid I wouldn't be caught dead with my parents at a show. There's also a lot of "my girlfriend's with me on tour" bullshit these days. I'm not a fan of that shit either. But I still hear good punk bands every now and again, it's like a continuum. If somebody plays well, they play well. And if they write a good song, they write a good song you know. There are still people doing that. But, the punk scene is pretty boring these days. From what I can tell it's a lot of clean little folks doing their clean little thing and trying to make a career and trying to bring their girlfriend and hang out with their mom. I don't give fuck; we're still fucking sluts, snorting blow and shit.
Big D- So do you think punk is a dying genre?
Blag- Yes I do. I think rock'n'roll in general is a dying genre. If you live in an urban environment, everything on the radio is dance music and hip-hop and deconstructive stuff. Rock'n'roll has always came out of a kind of suburban bunch of people who came together. It's much harder to put together as a music genre. Where, as in hip-hop, if you have one guy making a good track and one guy who can rap, you've got a song. In rock'n'roll you're only as good as your weakest link. So you get a bunch of friends together and maybe the drummer is good but the bass player can't play, or maybe the guitarist is good but the singer sucks or whatever. Making a good rock band is very difficult because you have to have four or five people who are all good. Generally you maybe got one good person in a band and the rest of'em can't play. That's the thing with the Dwarves, I always get really good musicians, we're like the Wu-Tang Clan of punk. We bring people in and out, if one good guy has to go do another gig or something different, I get another good guy.
Big D- You mentioned the Dwarves revolving door in regards to musicians….
Blag- Clint Torres just went to Gnarls Barkley that was cool.  Nick Oliveri from Mondo Generator comes and goes. Just all kinds of friends who come and go….
Big D- ……who do you have with you now?
Blag- Drums is Dutch Ovens, who plays with KMFDM, Bass is Chip Fracture who is in a really good punk band, John Cougar Concentration Camp. He's also got more of a metal band called End of Power. Fresh Prince of Darkness played in Moto Christ. And of course HeWhoCannotBeNamed, he's got a band now called Waco.
Big D- Aside from the police, hang overs and STDs, who are the Dwarves sworn enemies?
Blag- Oh I don't really have enemies man. I think it's more like I call it as I see it. A lot of times people can't handle it. You say something about somebody or something about their band and they just cry. But I don't have any enemies. I go where ever and do whatever; I'm not worried about it. Life is too short.
Big D- Maybe your reputation precedes you, but you've been known to thrown down on occasion at your shows……
Blag- Well yeah, but I'm not the kind of person who goes out to the bar looking for a fight. I'm not one of those jock kinds of guys that do that sort of thing. The Dwarves' music brings out violent impulses in people. I've been attacked a lot; then again, I've also sort of freaked out and went off myself (which I try not to do if I can help it).
Big D- So what's Blag the Ripper's fight record look like? How many tallies in the win, loss and draw columns?
Blag- Every fight I've ever started, I won. Every one where someone was pissed at me, they won. I don't really look at it as a win or a loss. Violence is always a loss. I don't believe in violence. But I'm not going to let it scare me out of living my life. I've been attacked by people for things I've said, things I did, things they thought. But I don't let it scare me; I don't let it move me. I'll go anywhere, see anybody, I'm right here.
Big D- By now I'm sure you've grown quite accustomed to crazy shit popping off at your shows, has there ever been a time when it just wondering at the end of the night "what the fuck"?
Blag- Happens all the time, just the other day. The weirdest thing to me is when people run up and they love you and they love the band and they're just so excited to see you. The other day this guy ran up and hit me the balls. You could tell he was just having a great time and he loved it, loved the band and that was his way of showing his appreciation. I just instictively knocked him out. I mean shit. please don't hit me in the balls. I don't know exactly what to say to people in that situation. I understand it makes you excited, but it's weird for me. It happened in New York last year too. A guy came out and threw a bunch of punches at me. It's like "fuck dude that hurts". I wish people wouldn't do that shit, but what can you do? They're jumping around and having fun.
Big D- In 2006 you published your second book Nina. For those of us who haven't gotten a chance to read it yet, how about a brief rundown?
Blag- Nina is about a dirty fifteen year old girl. Her parents die and she does her thing. I wanted to write a book about a woman (or in this case a young girl) who was in control, instead of being a victim, a man eater. I wanted to write something funny and people have seemed to like it. I got Niagra to do the cover and there's a bunch of neat stuff in there. I hope people enjoy it.
Big D- Do you find writing more gratifying than making music?
Blag- Well, it's gratifying in a different way. Like, if you sit around and write stuff you're not as likely to get a blowjob afterwards, but I enjoy it. I think it's a great thing to do. People should read and write more, it's an interesting thing to do.
Big D- Back to your lyrics, has Tipper Gore or any other Bible thumping right-wingers taken up arms against the Dwarves?
Blag- Sometimes they do, but I think we've flown under the radar for the most part. People didn't know what kind of shit we were doing. We were just too obscure, which is fine by me.
Big D- All it takes is one teenager's parents to find a copy of Blood, Guts and Pussy.
Blag- I hope they do. I want that because it would stir up some shit you know.
Big D- I can't think of a single Dwarves' song at the moment that wouldn't carry a parental advisory, but you've worked on a couple of projects aimed at children (the two that immediately come to mind are Brats on the Beat: Ramones for Kids album). How did those come about?
Blag- The Ramones for Kids album was for charity. I'll do something if it's going to help people out, ya know sing a Ramones song and help some kids out, I'm fine with that. Sponge Bob was fun that stuff pays pretty good. It's fun to be on Sponge Bob. When I meet an 8 year old they're always real excited that I was on Sponge Bob.
Big D- Is there any other projects that would surprise Dwarves fans?
Blag- I wrote some lyrics for Good Charlotte, they didn't credit me but I got paid for it.
Big D- You say that with a straight face, you're fucking kidding me right?
Blag- Nope, and they're probably one of the worst bands I've ever seen. It's funny 'cause nobody in that band can play and they're complete pussies. Basically they're just a major label-setup job- bullshit band. But I've done this and that, you know, I'm a talented person. I can write lyrics for anybody or do whatever.
Big D- No shit, I wouldn't expect you to be involved with Good Charlotte! What the fuck did you write for them?
Blag- There's bits and pieces of my lyrics all over that first big hit record of theirs. I wouldn't say I was responsible for the album, but their producer was smart enough to see that they didn't have lyrics and called me in to help with things. They would have fragments of ideas and I'd help turn it into a song.
Big D- Being involved with efforts across the board, is there anything that stands out as your crowning achievement?
Blag- I think Dwarves Must Die is an important record because it touches on all genres. I think Blood, Guts and Pussy because the world needed a hardcore punk album at the time. It's kind of a blast of hatred. I think Young and Good Looking was a really good California pop-punk record when that was happening. I think those three are pretty major. I think my books are cool, but I haven't exactly written the great American novel yet. I'm working on it. I think certain songs I've come up with are pretty definitive (Everybody's Girl, We Must Have Blood, Salt Lake City along with certain songs and things that we've done like being the first punk band to use samples and just kind of stretching out.
Big D- Everybody familiar with the Dwarves knows your open about your sexual predilections. In this industry I'm sure you've come into contact with celebrities. Any famous flings you care to speak about?
Blag- I'm not really into famous women or girls in bands. I tend to like girls with glasses who have real jobs. I mean I've fucked beauty queens and girls like that, I won't mention names. Girls seem to be ashamed that they've fucked me. But they do it anyway. I got an email from a girl's boyfriend the other day saying that I should quit bothering her because she wasn't interested. Meanwhile I'd been fucking her for months. I thought that was funny. That kind of stuff happens a lot.
Big D- You've been open about drug use as well, are you still the party monster you once were?
Blag- No, I still do'em here and there. Mostly, I'd just smoke pot, take acid and snort coke. I really don't do that much anymore. And I don't drink so I end up not as fucked up as most people most of the time. Most people are just drinking all the time.
 Big D- So what does the typical Saturday night entail when you're not on tour?
Blag- I'm a pretty boring guy really, aside from living every teenager's dream. I avoid clubs like the plague. I'll go if I'm doing something interesting, but I'd rather watch a movie. I've been to a lot of shows. I've watched a lot of idiots get drunk, ya know. It's not a new trip for me. As I once said, every night is just Saturday night for me. I don't have a job so I don't recognize Saturday night as a special time. Every day I try and have a good time. I try to do some reading or writing and swimming if I get the chance.
Big D- With your last album Dwarves Must Die, there's speculation floating around that it's indeed your last album, say it ain't so.
Blag- You never know with the Dwarves, but yeah, that album really made the statement I wanted to make. You can make every genre of music; you can have different people involved with it. It pretty much did everything we wanted to do. So I don't know, we might make another one, we might not. I'm working on another record right now that's not very Dwarves-like. I'm gonna keep making rock ya know. You never know if it'll be a Dwarves record or what it'll be. I like to make a different thing every time you know.
Big D- I think we've encompassed the Dwarves quite well, anything we didn't touch on?
Blag- We didn't talk about the FEFU DVD, people have to get out there and buy that mother fucker 'cause. It's got twenty years of weird Dwarves shit. It's got our new video where we're being mauled by the Suicide Girls, tons of naked chicks. The DVD is well worth getting. You can get it and everything else at thedwarves.com. including my book Nina, the new DVD and if you don't have Dwarves Must Die you're really sleeping. You gotta go back and get that. I should come out with some new shit in a year or so.
Big D- Saying you get killed by a crazy fan tonight, what words would you leave the world to ponder?
Blag- The Dwarves are rock legends. If you're female, suck my penis. If you're male, give me your drugs and go away.
Big D- I'm sure those words will stick with me throughout my days. Thanks for chatting; I'll let you get backstage to the slopes and sluts.
Blag- Much obliged.