Southern Culture on the Skids, Los Straitjackets & The Fleshtones

Southern Culture on the Skids

Long the bards of downward mobility, Southern Culture on the Skids have always embodied a sleazy, raucous, goodnatured, goodtime take on the culture of the South. Recently described by Dwight Yoakam (in Filter) as 'really on the outside, like Dick Dale meets Hank Thompson,' SCOTS have mixed high and low culture for decades, endlessly touring, serving up moonshine martinis and poultry picking for fans everywhere.
Since 1983, when they formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, SCOTS have played their unique hybrid of Americana, surf, R&B, rockabilly, and swamp pop (the band describes their sound as 'toe sucking geek rock kinda weird, but it feels good when youre doing it'), all the while driving fans into ecstatic, sweatdrenched paroxysms of joy. Assisted by his cohorts in chaos drummer Dave Hartman and bassist/singer/heartbreaker Mary Huff Miller and crew have been prolific and ubiquitous for over twenty years.
From their 1985 debut Voodoo Beach Party, to the international smash, 1998s Dirt Track Date (featuring the hit single 'Camel Walk'), and up to 2007s gender bending album of cover tunes Countrypolitan Favorites, Southern Culture on the Skids have continued to throw what Rolling Stone dubbed 'a hell raising rock and roll party.' Their 2005 live outing, Doublewide and Live!, captured all of this on tape, dirty, rough, wild and above all fun!! 2010 saw the bands first selfrelease, The Kudzu Ranch, plus the reissue of their classic 1991 album, Too Much Pork For Just One Fork. In 2011 the band released the out of print 1996 Santo Swings EP digitally for the first time ever on Cinco de Mayo.
Now this fall the band is gearing up for the release of Zombified Extended Reissue on September 27, 2011. Southern Culture On The Skids tribute to the horror and exploitation movies that populated Southern theaters and driveins during the 60s and 70s, Zombified is being released this fall on Kudzu Records. Originally released in Australia as an eight song EP in 1998, Zombified is now a fulllength album with the addition of five new tunes.
The new and improved Zombified has been remastered and repackaged with cover art by Sean Starwars and design by Yee Haw industries. Rick Miller, guitarist and singer for the band said, 'you know, the Zombified EP never had a proper U.S. release and the band is excited about it happening now as a full album.' The album will be available in all formats, CD, digital download and LP.

Los Straitjackets

No one equals the finesse and power of Los Straitjackets when it comes to delivering high-energy rock and roll instrumental music. Since first donning their trademark Lucha Libre masks before a record store appearance in 1994, the band has recorded 11 albums, played around the world, and never failed to inspire an audience to smile while rocking out.
That’s why it came as such a crushing blow when original guitarist Daddy-O Grande was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in the spring of 2010. After Daddy-O was unable to finish a European tour, the band—Teen Beat, Mister Peet & Eddie Angel turned to his cousin from Guadalajara—Gregorio El Grande—to fulfill their obligations. After stepping on stage with no rehearsal at an outdoor gig in Haddon Heights NJ, the band has not missed a beat since. They’ve burned up the road since—including a memorable benefit concert for Amis at Los Angeles’ Mayan Theater that featured guest appearances by the likes of Conan O’Brien, Johnny Rivers and many more.
Of course, we can’t substantiate their actual identities, but it has been theorized that the “Clark Kent” guises of the band has contributed to their sound. Originally from Minneapolis, where he had formed The Overtones and first recorded his now classic instrumental Calhoun Surf, Danny Amis cut his teeth as the bass player for No-Wave instrumental favorites The Raybeats.

Amis met a mask-less Eddie Angel at a Nashville show where original drummer Lord Chevron/Jimmy Lester was playing and discussed their mutual love of Link Wray. Angel was playing with his legendary and recently re-formed Planet Rockers—but he cut his teeth on the DC music scene, where he got his first lead guitar job with Rockabilly aesthete Tex Rabinowitz’s band The Bad Boys.

Amis and Angel recruited Lester for a band called The Straitjackets. Then after adding a “Los,” recruiting Scott Esbeck on bass and donning the masks— they recorded two classic albums for the Boston-based Upstart label and beginning putting mileage on their Econoline van. Their second album, Viva, had a minor radio hit with the top-down, Pacific Coast cruising song “Pacifica,” put them on the map.
Amis and Angel continued their partnership—first replacing Esbeck with multi-instrumentalist Pete Curry, and later drummer Jason “Teen Beat” Smay signed on to replace Lester. When Amis fell ill, and his cousin Gregorio stepped in, many observant fans have noticed that “Gregorio’s” look and guitar style closely resembles that of Smay’s bandmate in the Hi Risers’ Greg Townson. Townson, who also played with James Brown sideman Pee Wee Ellis, and produced records by Bill Doggett and Willie John Ellison (lead singer of The Soul Brothers Six and writer of the classic “Some Kind of Wonderful”), brings an R&B sensibility to the band as evidenced by his show-stopping live covers of “You Send Me” and “Soul Finger.”

When Amis’ successfully underwent a stem cell transplant he began to recover, thoughts turned to new recording. It was decided to go into the studio with all three guitarist: Amis, Angel and Townson. And to produce the sessions the band tapped an old friend: drummer Janne Haavisto from Finland’s sadly defunct (and amazing!) Laika and the Cosmonauts.
With Haavisto in tow, and armed with a fresh batch of songs from Amis and Angel, the band entered The Pow Wow Fun Room studios in the Mar Vista neighborhood of LA. Los Straitjackets’ last record—The Further Adventures of Los Straitjackets, as well as both their Christmas albums and the Twist Party album—were all recorded here. The studio is a veritable museum of vintage guitars and amps, all collected over the years by Pete Curry. With Curry tweaking the knobs, a great guitar sound was never more than seconds away. Haavisto placed an emphasis on melodic songs, and he also played live percussion alongside Smay: picking up bongos, tambourines and shakers as the situation dictated, and creating a monster groove on every song.

The result is an album that rocks as hard as ever, but with a diversity and originality that is unparalleled in the Los Straitjackets oeuvre.
When two of the songs suggested horns, the band called in a favor from their pals at the Conan show- and Jimmy Vivino sketched out charts and brought The Basic Cable Horns in to add firepower to the swinging spy-jazz of Amis’ “Crime Scene” and the lilting Ska of Angel’s “Walking Down Third Street.” Organ was provided on several songs by fellow Cosmonaut Matti Pitskinki. And Finnish actress and musican Irina Björklund contributed Musical Saw to “Low Tide” as well vocalizing on “Sardinian Holiday.”

One song, “Mr. Pink,” which was spontaneously created at an earlier writing session, actually features Curry on drums (his first instrument—his career dates back to a job as an emergency fill in for Garage pioneers The Chocolate Watch Band at age 14). Haavisto fleshed out the demo with a counter melody line, and the band used it as is. “Brooklyn Slide” takes a dance groove, and slaps on Townson & Angel’s soulful melodic guitars over the top. A memorable video, with the World Famous Pontani Sisters shows off the Straitjackets heretofore unknown Breakdancing chops.

But guitar raveups are their bread and butter. And this record has plenty of those. Surf goes to Russia on Amis’ “New Siberia” and to Lake Placid on Townson’s “Bobsleddin’” And “Yeah Yeah Yeah” marries a power-pop melody with a trademark guitar sound that fans of Laika and the Cosmonauts may be familiar with.

The Fleshtones



HITSBURG, USA, June 2016—Forty years ago in Queens, New York, KEITH STRENG and his buddy Marek Pakulski discovered some guitars in a basement of a house they were renting. They didn’t know how to tune strings or finger a chord, but they dug Rock & Roll and R&B, which was hard to find in the mid-1970s pabulum on Top 40 and FM radio. They picked up those guitars, found some cheap amps, and started banging out noise. By ’77, local drummer Lenny Calderon was on board as the steady drummer.

One day PETER ZAREMBA, an art student friend with long bangs, a harmonica, and a manic vision, dropped by the house, grabbed a mic, and named the band THE FLESHTONES. They rehearsed by throwing locally legendary parties in the basement of that house, dosed with fuzz guitar and trash cans full of their signature cocktail, the Blue Whale, inaugurating a bacchanal that just won’t end. Manically covering obscure songs and offering their own nervy originals, they debuted at CBGB in May of 1976.

Zaremba remembers, “We were very wound up and blasted out our handful of songs at a ridiculously fast tempo. Still, people liked us and some even danced along, an unusual event at super-cool CBGB’s. We were invited back for another audition. Finally, we were a real band.” Laughs Streng, “We were horrible at CBGB’s! But we still passed. Hilly Kristal said to us, ‘You guys aren’t really that good. But there’s something there’.”

Indeed there was. In addition to gigs at that fabled club and at Max’s Kansas City, the Fleshtones found a home at the rock/performance-art home at Club 57 on St. Mark’s Place, and in 1978 signed with Marty Thau’s Red Star Records and recorded a full-length album. The next year they released their debut single, the classic “American Beat,” and with filmmaker M. Henry Jones created an innovative and influential performance-animation video composed of hand-painted cutouts. They signed with I.R.S. Records in 1980, adding BILL MILHIZER on drums and releasing the genre-defining garage rock classics Roman Gods and Hexbreaker, with Gordon Spaeth (RIP) playing sax, harmonica, organ, and the Juvenile Delinquent with a Heart of Gold.

In the mid- and late-1980s, Zaremba kept busy hosting MTV’s Cutting Edge. Throughout that decade and the 1990s, the Fleshtones released plenty of albums and singles, toured the U.S. and Europe regularly in front of packed clubs and large festivals, and anointed nonbelievers worldwide in bar-treading, conga-line-snaking Super Rock—a greasy ball of sonic and cultural influences ranging in feel from R&B, Disco, and Lost In Space to Garage, Frat Rock, and Mexican horror flicks.

Following Pakulski’s departure in 1986, the band entertained a few bass players, including Robert Warren (RuPaul’s bassist in Wee Wee Pole), Andy Shernoff (The Dictators), and Fred Smith (Television). In 1990, KEN FOX, late from Jason and The Scorchers, joined the goofy mayhem for good, contributing pop songs, high leg kicks, and charm at the merch table, battening down the hatches on a muscular, road-strengthened, party-hopping outfit who play with the same energy, abandon, and spontaneity in front of ten people as they do in front of hundreds.

The Fleshtones are the only band to debut at CBGB in 1976 that hasn’t experienced an inactive year. They have, in one way or another, inspired countless other bands over the decades, including R.E.M., Hoodoo Gurus, and The Dream Syndicate, and their showmanship and musical influence is palpable in many current bands throughout North America, Europe, and Scandinavia. The Fleshtones have survived Punk Rock, New Wave, No Wave, Neo Garage, Post-Punk, Grunge, and more Neo Garage, never succumbing to trendiness, scornful laughter, liquidated record labels, or non-alcoholic beer. They were the first band to play at Irving Plaza and Danceteria in Manhattan as well as Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey, and the first to be booked at the original 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.. They were one of the last bands to play Windows On The World on top of the World Trade Center. In between, they opened for James Brown and Chuck Berry, backed acclaimed English actor Ian McKellen as he recited a sonnet on Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes, and anchored the infamous Pyramid Club in the East Village while helping inaugurate the legendary Wigstock drag queen festival.

Tick, tock there’s another day. What to do? What to say?

Tried and true American Living Legends, the Fleshtones return with their new album, The Band Drinks For Free. Hell, they’ve earned it! To celebrate their fortieth anniversary, the gravity-defying Fleshtones take stock of their remarkable career, singing about the past and the future, knocked-out at how far the decades have receded yet excited for tomorrow night’s show. Recorded at Florent Barbier’s CCP Sound Studio in Brooklyn, New York, The Band Drinks For Free is a testament to surviving with a great attitude at great odds. If there’s a theme that runs through the album it’s the bittersweet surprise of Time itself, how days and decades slip into oblivion, Kinks-ian church bells tolling away all of those hard-won hours.

The opener sets the tone, a groovy update of Ten Years After’s “Love Like A Man,” confident and swingin’, riff-driven and churning with eighth-note organ blasts and gang vocals, featuring the Bellrays’ remarkable singer Lisa Kekaula in an epic fadeout. Like that stupid ol’ sun, the Fleshtones are burning bright, shining down on everyone, and are planning to last for a long, long time. At this point there may be too many memories, melancholy daydreams, piles of bills, and unsaid goodbye’s, but the Fleshtones are glad to be living today, even if haunted by the loss of youth and by the club at closing time. They’ve learned plenty along the way, too, like how to respect love, hold on to a dream, and play the Hondells’ “The Gasser.” If it all gets too heavy and you need to get off the numbing suburban roulette, just slip on Rick Wakeman’s Cape and hit the town. Where it will lead? Well, you just don't know!

“Keith and Ken have the deep songs on the album, I tried to get very basic,” says Zaremba. “One thing about this record is that making it was fun. We had a lot of material, and it came easy. Seems like we knew what we were doing this time! It doesn't get old. This is what we really like doing. It’s a dream come true!”

The Fleshtones are back again, and they’re drinking for free. Care to join them?

$25

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