The Spits, Retox, Ghostwolf

The Spits

Damn if The Spits don't make their brand of musical retardation all seem so easy: Like all their releases before them, they've stocked School's Out with 10 instant classics, with each and every song in its place and every single one of 'em indispensable. Don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned, that's pretty rad and in the pantheon of all that was originally cool about first wave American punk (and why it still remains as essential as it did from day one), with this, their best release to date, The Spits have earned themselves a much deserved seat at the table alongside groups like the Ramones, Bullet-era Misfits, Crime, The Eat, et all...

Spiced up with some Are We Not Men-era Devo and maybe a little dash o' Chrome thrown in too (bassist Erin Wood's SPIDER side project showing through), School's Out is the accumulated, fetid stew of body fluids left behind in the mattress room of Plato's Retreat where some crotch crickets got introduced to the tableau and ultimately made the place really start to jump, and on these ten songs they're jumping every which way.... School's Out is so enjoyably diseased, your pie hole will stretch and bear pearly whiteness ear-to-ear. School's Out's a proverbial flea circus celebration of nihilism, wanton drunkenness, incorrigibility, juvenile delinquency, teen sex, vandalism, petty crime, hooliganism, self-mutilation and aliens-which is just about everything in a not-so-perfect world punk rock is supposed to be.

See, The Spits are so much of THAT era, but not a revivalist act by any stretch. For one thing, they're FRESH and newfangled without the vagaries of modernization or plasticized homage that'd otherwise give 'em a whiff of falsehood and illegitimacy. The Spits actually manage the not so easy trick of making it all their own and consequently they've pretty much single-handedly revitalized this thing of ours and paved the way for a completely new generation of maladjusted squids giving 'em the go-ahead to squirt ink anew. And if all that seems rife with over-statement, then stop and consider the long line of bands who site The Spits as a major influence (Black Lips, King Khan....) or the laundry list of new-jack labels currently du jour (HoZac, Woodsist-hell, even the newly reconstituted Siltbreeze to name several) in one form or another shine a little brighter because of them.


All that matters in the grand scheme of things is the band is not directly comparable to what has come before them. But if we must: RETOX is an outcome of stagnant and boring western culture, as well as the self proclaimed counterculture, which has slipped into a sea of pointlessness. The band manages to detach themselves from what one might consider a promotional paragraph trying to explain what is not really important to the band themselves; such as a list of influences – they are influenced by much more than music, but more so by the world at large. The band has no goal for what the future holds. Sonically, the band's crude and primitive aspects make sense in this day and age. The band is a reaction to the world that the members and their comrades have lived in: shitty childhoods, bureaucratic frustration, and the overall justification of continuous war. That sensibility coupled with a modern artistic delivery, the music is educated as well as furious, and most importantly, blurring genre lines of punk, hardcore, thrash, metal and whatever else seems fitting to the critics. RETOX features members of some grand dick-sucking accomplishments, acts such as The Locust, Head Wound City, Holy Molar, All Leather, Some Girls, Swing Kids, Cattle Decapitation, Struggle, The Festival of Dead Deer, and The Crimson Curse.


Douglas "S.A." Martinez, better known as a vocalist/lyricist in the alternative rock band 311, has embarked on a side project (Ghostwolf) produced and mixed by songwriter Evan Anderson and producer Ryan Siegel. According to Martinez, Ghostwolf became a vehicle to cope with the loss of his beloved Chocolate lab, Irie. (Lesser-known fact: the band was almost named "Ghostdog", but there was already a movie with that title). Within the lyrics of Ghostwolf's debut album Lunar Halos, Martinez sheds insight on his relationship with Irie, "the closest thing ever to [him] that passed away", and philosophizes on the hardship of physical loss, in general.

We caught up with Martinez to discuss Ghostwolf's Lunar Halos, his bandmates and life away from the city which, at times, he misses dearly. If you have ever wanted to tour Los Angeles via S.A.'s favorite haunts, keep reading.

Was it difficult to collaborate long-distance (via technology) with Ghostwolf bandmates?

S.A. Martinez: It's a little disjointed, you can say. It's not traditional. I prefer being together with the people I'm working with. There's just something about interfacing in person, but actually it was cool doing it the way we did it because I have never done anything like that before. Sending something away and having it come back sounding different, with something added to it element-wise, was cool. It works; so many people are doing it like that these days. It's just a sign of the times, I guess you can say.

A lot of the project for me was getting back to square one and redirecting my energy in another way; and it's not to say 311 doesn't have that, because it does; it embodies all of that. Ghostwolf is just a natural extension, for me anyway, of the 311 tree.

Were all of the songs on Lunar Halos made that way?

Yea. I would do vocals at home and Evan [Anderson] would take that and go somewhere and I'd maybe hear something, like weeks later. And with Ryan [Siegel], it was the same thing. Ryan tracked drums in New York and maybe even in Los Angeles. It was just one of those projects where you let people do what they want to do. That was the cool thing about it; and really, the whole thing started with no expectations whatsoever. I mean, Evan approached me years back and asked me if I wanted to work on some songs with him and I was like "okay", you know. He was maybe like 17 or 18 at the time, but he's a very talented musician. His actual production qualities are very mature for his age. He's got a great ear for producing songs and elements and structure. He really has a knack for it.

So you were sent the music and you added lyrics after hearing it?

Yea, basically the music came first and I just wrote to it. Evan and Ryan really crafted the project and I added melodies and lyrics and what-have-you. The thing about it was that it was just one of those projects that flowed really easily. Evan would give me something and I would just take it from there. I would have ideas almost on the spot, generally. For the most part, it sort of wrote itself.

Your fascination with space is very apparent on this record. Where do you think that fascination stems from?

It's undeniable. We're speeding through it as we speak, even though it doesn't feel like it. Everything fascinates me; this life is fascinating, you know. It's something that will fascinate me til my dying day, I'm sure. Then maybe we'll find out something about it. It's about worlds and resonances. It's a never-ending process and one I find inspirational on so many levels; and it helps with writing music, I guess. Ghostwolf, the name, really comes from the fact that the closest thing ever to me that passed away was a dog and those things never leave you. The worst to experience in this world and then to cope with it too is the whole letting go aspect, especially of loved ones. I never had anyone close to me pass and then I had my dog of 12 years pass and it was the worst thing in the world, you know. So a lot of the record is kind of about that. What we have to learn is that, yea, we do let go. Everything--everything--is gone at some point. The form anyway; I'm not saying necessarily the spirit, because I think there are higher resonances.

Is that particular loss something that you were experiencing while writing the lyrics or was it an experience that just stuck with you?

The record never really had a schedule, per se, but it definitely happened within it. The last song on the record is about [dealing with that experience]. It was just something that affected me more than I realized. At the time, our first-born was around and my wife and I sort of just moved out to the country and I was essentially just by myself with our dog, and the dog was dying, and it was just one of those moments where there wasn't anything I could do. I saw the writing on the wall and I picked her up and she made this cry, and knew I had to take her to the pet hospital, which was over 30 minutes away from where I was located. It's just one of those things that totally sucks. I said my good-byes that night and it's just one of those moments that I pretty much won't forget and is still crystal clear to me.

Does living in country influence your lyrics now in ways that living in L.A. didn't?

Yea, for sure. I guess you're surrounded by it and it's your reference point. I maybe don't realize it, but we are a product of our environment in a lot of ways. It was a big adjustment for me moving up there, I'm not going to lie. I loved, and I still love L.A. It was just that time in our lives to move.

Culture is not a cool thing for people because it's a program, you know, and there's so much that I feel that we aren't connected to. When you get out into nature, you feel good... but for some reason we are wired so weird and a lot of our culture and the programming within in it really doesn't flow with how the natural world would suggest otherwise.

What is the dynamic of your band like? I'd imagine your nephew Evan respects and looks up to everything you do. Were you more of the authoritative figure when contributing to this album?

You know, Evan and I are sort of more like brothers, sort of, than uncle/nephew. I dunno. As far as blood goes, I'm the closest to him than I am to anybody in my family. So the dynamic in the band is very relaxed as far as that goes. We do butt heads [when working together], but it's nothing that is something we can't work out. And I know he and Ryan have another dynamic within their relationship; they have their project Exes of Evil as well as Ghostwolf. I've known Ryan for a good amount of time too, and he's just great to work with. He's so talented and he's got great ideas. And actually we're going to work some more together when he's out [in L.A.] and we already have some other Ghostwolf songs, so we're going to try to kick out some more tunes.

Will Ghostwolf be performing on the 311 Cruise [March 1-5, 2012] next year?

Possibly. We haven't really discussed that yet. We haven't really discussed what we want on the cruise. It's not out of the question though.

Do you think it's easier or more difficult to start a band now, as opposed to the 90s, when 311 was first starting up?

I think it's much harder these days. Number one, there are no filters in place. I mean, everything is accessible now. You know, filters are good (laughs) because there is a lot of stuff that you don't really want to hear. It's hard to say. I would would bet money it's harder; it has to be. There aren't the support mechanisms in place for bands to launch like there used to be. Labels [used to have] money to fund bands out on tour. How can a band afford to do that now? They can't afford gas and they're barely making enough at a gig to buy gas. To really make it work, it's almost set up for you to fail, unfortunately. But is it impossible? No; nothing is impossible. You would just have to approach it differently. There are obviously more avenues of distribution for music these days, which is a good thing.

Do you think L.A.'s music scene is on par with other cities' scenes?

L.A. leads the way mostly. Sure, obviously, there are things happening everywhere and there are music scenes. And that's the great thing. There always has been local scenes going on everywhere in every era of modern times. Sure, there might be ups and downs as far as musical outputs, but L.A. is always there. L.A. is always a unique space and so many creative people end up there; there's a reason--you go where your people are; that's where you want to be.

I know Evan tours with you and 311 as a production assistant. Do you guys work on Ghostwolf material while touring with 311?

On occasion we have. This tour, I was trying to schedule a day to do a vocal track on a song, but we just have not... this has just been a long tour (laughs) and on days off, you just crash. Our day is so scheduled. It runs like clockwork and you fall into a groove on tour. It's great, but it's so nice to be able to chill [after a two-month tour] and work on other stuff.

When you're inspired and lyrics start forming in your mind, is it difficult to compartmentalize which band you'd like to attribute them to, or is Ghostwolf and 311 completely separate entities for you?

With 311, when we're working on music, there is really no time to focus on anything but work because that is a scheduled sort of thing and there are "deadlines". Sort of. You want to get things going. You can't rush things. It's sort of odd when you're talking about creating because it takes time to create and make something great. I would say, for me, it's one in the same because I can talk about the same things in a 311 song that I can in a Ghostwolf song. I don't really differenciate too much from that. Musically, it will be different because it's mostly Evan and Ryan creating that foundation, but as far as themes go, I'd say you could mash up a Ghostwolf lyric with a 311 musical bed somewhere.

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