The Sonics interview

Punk rock in the late 70’s was said to have come from the UK. The Sex Pistols claimed the tag at that time and propelled the image of bored, rebellious youth as we know it. Looking back to the roots of this anarchic disposition it’s easy to pick up on the fact that their influences and many other household names we know today from the punk genre such as Iggy Pop and The Ramones to name just two, took their inspiration from the garage rock scene that spread through the suburbs of American youth culture in the early 1960’s.

Back then rehearsal rooms and studios were not a luxury like in today’s cities, so setting up your gear in the family garage, shouting the odds through a microphone and making as much noise as possible was the order. That spark, that uprising brought Garage Rock (also known as Garage Punk) into the underground, ignited by a network of bands taking their pre-rehearsed tracks into local venues and releasing 7″ records to reach others in different areas and quite literally exploded as the sound of teenage rebellion.

This sonic throwback of the surf rock scene spawned one of the best bands of all time from Tacoma, Washington called The Sonics and knowing that they were in town for the Meltdown Festival curated by The Kinks frontman Ray Davies, Alex Penge hooked up with Rob Lind (saxophone and vocals) and Larry Parypa (lead guitar and vocals) before the show at the Mint Hotel in London to find out more about the band who are said to have kick started the ‘punk’ movement.

Welcome to London. Are you looking forward to your upcoming show at Meltdown with Wire?

Rob: Very much so, yes. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Have you met Wire before? Have you played any gigs with them in the past?

Rob: No, we’re aware of Wire’s great reputation, but we have not heard of them.

Larry: …which is why when we went in there (for the sound check) and adjusted all our amps for them. So it wouldn’t sound like crap!

Tell me more about the Washington garage rock scene where it all started off. Apart from The Wailers (your manager, Buck Ormsby’s band), were there any other bands that fell under the radar?

Rob: The Pacific Northwest which that area is called was a real a hotbed for rock and roll bands. There were lots of good bands. Lots of good people came out of there.

Larry: Like Jimi Hendrix?

Rob: Well The Ventures did have a great reputation and a lot of worldwide hit records when we were young guys starting out. We liked their music. There was another band called The Frantics.

Larry: Uhh ho, gee!

Rob: They were killers. They were real good. But they didn’t really get much notice outside the local area.

You were famous for your pioneering recording techniques and arguably influenced a generation of garage rock revivalists. Did you at the time think that this technique was going to catch on and influence a lot of people?

Larry: There was no choice. We didn’t have any choice at the time. There was only two-track recording available. Mono sound on the first record. We didn’t have four-track until the later albums.

So it all started off just trying to get the record out in the first place?

Larry: Well it’s a standard, you know. We played live essentially. It wasn’t like each person had their own track and if they made a mistake they could redo their bits. We just went in there and usually did the band all at once. Then the vocals would top it off later.

Rob: It was a two-step recording process. Step one would be to roll the tape. Step two would be to play.

Rob: Those recorders were in a variety of different recording facilities. We’d go in the studio and whatever was in there we’d use.

Larry: I think (the recording) of ‘The Witch’ was in a radio studio where they cut the ads and somehow gave us the room to record. It wasn’t in the real recording studio I remember?

Rob: “Go in here boys and knock yourselves out!”

Were there any other cover songs that you were thinking of covering for the ‘Here Are The Sonics’ album that eventually never made the cut?

Rob: No, I don’t think so. ‘Leave My Kitten Alone’ (by Little Willie John) wasn’t on that album but we liked that song a lot. We don’t play that song anymore. Half a dozen songs that we played regularly on those albums we don’t even play now. We also have a new record with four original songs and we’re playing those in our sets now.

What was it like sharing stages with bands such as The Beach Boys and The Shangri-Las?

Larry: It would be interesting if you asked The Shangri-Las what they thought it was like sharing the stage with us. We really screwed them over. They were doing their own tour and we were doing our own tour. Somehow an agreement was made that we were going to back them up in their songs. I don’t know why, but we didn’t learn their songs and it didn’t turn out too well! They still remember that.

Rob: We probably appeared with The Beach Boys more than any of the other big acts. We got to know them pretty well and saw them a lot when they came to the Northwest.

Larry: I think The Kinks was my favourite act to play with. I was most impressed with them.

Rob: I’d have to agree with that too.

Larry: I remember they were wearing a lot of black, they had a sinister sound and they were moving. Those guys were really something!

Rob: Back then the state of popular music in the States was really anaemic. We were up in the Northwest playing hard. I remember one day I was in my car driving down the street, I didn’t know who The Kinks were as they weren’t famous at the time and someone on the radio said, “…here’s a new record from England”. [Rob reinacts the opening of ‘You Really Got Me’]. I heard that and almost ran off the road! We all got on the phone together, “…did you hear what those guys from England are doing?! Holy cow!” After that we learnt a bunch of their songs. We loved them.

So, was it an honour meeting Ray (Davies)?

Rob: It was. We did a short tour with them when they came to the Northwest and met them at the Spokane Coliseum back in the dressing rooms. I want to choose my words carefully here. There were a numbers of large acts (and we played with most of them at one time or another) that were good in the studio but when they played live they couldn’t hold their end up like they could in the studio. The Kinks were probably even better live than they were in the studio. That’s why we liked them so much. They were great. We thought that “those English guys are just like us”!

Over the years there have been many covers of your song ‘Strychnine’ ranging from the likes of The Flaming Lips to The Cramps to The Fall. Which cover would you say is your favourite?

Rob: To be honest, I have not heard many. Actually the best version of ‘Strychnine’, the absolute best version of ‘Strychnine’ that’s out there is by this band called The Sonics! (laughs)

How was the recording process for your new EP ‘8’? Are there any plans for any more future releases? An album release maybe?

Larry: All we have to do is get together and work them out in one recording, we just haven’t done it yet and haven’t tendered to business really. We used that particular studio (Sound House studio, Seattle) and recording engineer (Jack Endino, who worked with Nirvana, Mudhoney and Soundgarden) for the EP because we wanted something that was unprocessed, by going in and getting that one-take type of song. We didn’t want to overdo it. In fact, we play the new songs differently now to how we recorded them. We wrote the songs, went in to record at the studio and now play the songs live a little differently.

Rob: The live performances have definitely adapted those new songs from the studio. We are definitely planning on making a new full length album. We’ve been on the road almost constantly during the month of June. We’ve spent three weeks in France and Belgium and then ran back across the States to Long Beach, California for the Ink & Iron Show, which was a really big show. Then we had two days to wash clothes and come back to London.

Larry: Then we come over here and the weather’s exactly the same as it is in Seattle!

Rob: If you want to know what the weather’s like in Tacoma and Seattle, it’s just like this!

Are there any tours or festival appearances planned for the future?

Rob: We actually had a tour set up this past April in Japan, starting in Tokyo, but they had that unfortunate disaster over there and the tour got pushed back. What we’re understanding now from the Japanese promoters is that we’ll be back over there for late Winter or early Spring time. We’re sad about that as we have a big fan base in Japan and are all looking forward to going over there.

Finally, what music are you guys listening to at the moment? Do you like any current British music?

Rob: I like all different kinds of music. There are bands that we play together with at these shows that we’ve never met before and become friends with. One I can name in particular is The Detroit Cobras. They’re great guys and girls and we had a great time working with them! I worked out a t-shirt swap with the bass player, so I’ve got a Detroit Cobras t-shirt and he’s running around Detroit with a Sonics t-shirt. We know The Fuzztones quite well and have performed with them in the past.

We’ve become friends with a number of different groups. In my case, most particularly The Hives from Sweden. We’re pretty good friends with them. I exchange emails with one of the guys. When we played Stockholm a year ago they surprised the crowd and came out and did the encore with us. Pelle (Almqvist) sang ‘The Witch’. Rock musicians aren’t supposed to say they like anything apart from rock music but I love Cajun music. I also love listening to Bluegrass.

When we were here the time before last, one of the groups that opened for us was The Horrors. As a matter of fact, I think they’re even more popular now than they were a couple of years ago. They had a big record out I understand? Nice lads.

Larry: Yeah, nice guys. Pete Doherty was supposed to make an appearance also. But he shunned us off! Everyone expected that though!

Read a review from the Meltdown Festival here and find The Sonics at www.thesonicsboom.com

Top 10 Most Punchable Faces in Rock and Roll

punchable facesFlicking through the music press this week I started to get anxious and could not work out why. I pondered on whether if it was related to the weekend of carnage that just passed or the sheer audacity of fake rock stars that are pouring into print these days as there seems to be a barrage of people that annoy you so much that sometimes you would like to punch their lights out.

So, after contacting our freelance writers and having a huge discussion on who will make this list, we present you with this month’s, (yes, this may have to be done again if you get involved at the end) Top 10 Most Punchable Faces in Rock and Roll!

10. DARWIN DEEZ

It’s hard to know where to even begin with this plum. He wears a fucking stupid headband that’s made from a mouldy doily, has a moustache that wouldn’t look out of place on a sexual deviant and wears jeans so tight they make me feel infertile just by looking at them.

Oh, and his music is pony too. Log off, Darwin.

9. TOM CLARKE

It’s perhaps slightly redundant to include The Enemy’s Tom Clarke in a list of punchable faces, mostly because it seems somebody has beat us to it. They say pictures speak louder than words, and this idiom rings emphatically true in Clarke’s case. Just look at him! He’s like a living metaphor for the ugly duckling, except that’s not fair, because the ugly duckling wasn’t in a shit band. I mention the ugly duckling not as a throwaway insult, but because his features quite literally resemble that of mother goose. It’s a shame to gloss over Clarke’s music to judge him on looks alone, but his face is so distracting I couldn’t begin to delve into the horror that is The Enemy’s music.

8. FARIS BADWAN

Talking of the horror, nobody likes a student wanker especially when they look they crawled out of a scene from The Munsters and are influenced by copycat Nugget’s wannabies The Fuzztones.

Faris Badwan, lead singer of The Horrors has been on so many covers of magazines since the band broke through the indie circuit back in 2007 that he probably is single handedly the reason why people don’t buy them anymore!

7. IAN WATKINS

You could have picked any of the 5 members of Lost Prophets for this list, in fact they should be lucky we have only picked on singer Ian Watkins but I guess if you want to front the ‘most fake rock and roll band of all time’ then you deserve to be in the Top 10.

Lost Prophets are the worst styled rock band since Slade and have tried their hardest to be everyone else apart from themselves from day one musically and fashion wise. They just never seem to have their own style, look at this shot to the right, girls tee shirt and a smelly glove? Also, the fact their music sucks harder than the latest Dyson creation zooms Mr Fake ass Watkins straight in at number 7.

6. DRAKE

If ever there was a face in the rap world that deserved a punch, it’s the one on the end of Drake’s neck. It’s hard to know where to even start – possibly the fact that he keeps wearing turtleneck jumpers like some kind of shit painter from the 1970s, the irony being that he sounds like he IS turtlenecking, the talentless prick.

And what about how his mouth looks like some kind of bastard child of a 15 year old MySpace trout-pouting girl and a retarded chipmunk with a coathanger in his gob? He can’t sing, he can’t rap and it’s high time he pulled the neck of that jumper up over his head and slinks back to the cesspit he came from.

5. PETE DOHERTY

This pasty faced utterly un-talented drug bore has a face that even his mother can’t love. His drug bloated boatrace is just asking for a rotten kipper slapped right across his chops.

He’s not rock n’roll or glamorous, his face is a scab pit, his music is the most boring drivel to have been released in years and he’s just rubbish. And he’s got really dirty finger nails and his little fat face is just asking for a punch. Can I go on?

4. LIAM GALLAGHER

There’s no denying that Liam is a proper rock star and back in the glory days of Oasis he couldn’t be touched for drop dead cool and arrogance, but that same arrogance has got the better of him with his new Beady Eye band. He was at his usual ‘we’re the greatest band in the fucking world’ best in the lead up to the music being unleashed on the world, claiming they were going to be bigger and better than Oasis.

The records came out and the world went mild. Somewhere in the background Noel is rubbing his hands together and laughing. Wipe that arrogant sneer off your face Liam, you ain’t all that. We’ve got our Beady Eye’s on you.

3. JOHNNY BORRELL

Johnny Borrell could be cited as the biggest cunt of all – if he’s not prancing about in his staple white denim half naked on a stage looking like a z-rate Iggy Pop, he’s gallivanting with the latest flashy C-listers or indeed protesting about green issues to add to his already lacking rock n roll credentials. Dare I say more?

Already the prize winner of the most vainest twat in pop this ex- Libertines loser and current singer of Razorlight could very well be the most punchable face known to man.

flats cunts2. DAN DEVINE (aka Daniel McGee)

Excuse me if we appear precious about our punk rock here at Crossfire, but we really fucking hate this Flats band that are currently sneaking into the music press as ‘the band to make punk rock dangerous again’. Claiming you are inspired and from the same ilk as eighties punk legends like Heresy, Discharge and Crass when you are actually a bunch of floppy haired indie twats with a frontman called Dan Devine, the son of ex-Creation records boss Alan Mcgee is wrong on every level.

Not only is the music total garbage, but Flats are nothing to do with the underground punk scene they claim to be so inspired by with their indie publicist, rider requests and touring with Mark Ronson (how very hardcore!). You can just see them now, turning up to the squat gig with their industry guest list and fashion clad, public schoolboy mates. These guys are total fucking knob-ends, don’t believe the hype.

1. LEE NEWELL

So here we are at the end of the line. The cocky frontman of Brother needs a punch in the face if for no other reason than to end his ridiculous facial expressions every time he’s in front of a camera lens. His attempts to clone the swaggering attitude of Liam Gallagher are limited to a pathetically artificial scowl and ambitions to be ‘the biggest band in the world’.

As for his reaction to Liam’s slagging of his band, he claimed to be more concerned with what his sibling Noel thinks about the band. Who are you trying to fool Lee? We all know where you got your inspiration for being a talentless twat with a gob bigger than his brain. Congratulations you dickhead, this will probably be the only Number 1 you will ever get in your career!

IF YOU THINK WE HAVE FORGOTTEN ANYONE FROM THIS LIST, PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT BELOW OR ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE AND WE WILL INCLUDE THEM IN ROUND 2.