The Bay Area Garage Explosion that occurred in the early Nineties is one of my favorite times in modern music. Not only did it give us great bands such as Supercharger, The Brentwoods, Rip Offs, Mummies, and countless Russell Quan vehicles, it also gave us great personalities. Guys who seemed like the coolest dudes on the planet back then to some high school kid listening to their records in his bedroom on the opposite side of the country. Guys like Trent Ruane, Larry Winther, Greg Lowery, Darrin Rafaelli, and Shane White. They all possessed a wicked sense of humor and a genuine passion for rock'n'roll that warped countless teenage minds and record needles. I almost looked forward to reading the in-jokes and looking at the pictures on the sleeves of the records as much as hearing the actual music. They all made similar trashy music, and they made it fun. And speaking of fun, what was funner than reading an issue of Pure Filth? Not much, that is if you could get a hold of a copy. Shane White was and is perhaps the funniest motherfucker of the bunch, and the perhaps the surliest as well. At least I got the impression that he was the one that gave the least amount of fuck about what you thought of what they were doing. And perhaps that's what made his biting and twisted commentary even funnier. And although still entertaining us through his MRR reviews, Shane's recorded legacy is still what he's best known for: from the unheralded greatness of The Fingers, a band who deserve a retrospective/singles comp more than most, to playing in classic outfits like the Spolied Brats, Rip Offs, and Infections, Shane's done most everything. Joke bands (Tight Fits), ill-fated bands (Loose Lips), played in countless LA punk outfits, and most semi-recently released a single with Northern Soul type outfit The Vaticans (who are now deceased, I believe). A year or so ago Lowery gave me Shane's number as part of a plan of mine to do interviews with all my favorite Bay Area dudes and do a piece on the Spolied Brats, but I never got my shit together. Luckily, Troy had enough good sense to track Shane down and do the job I was too lazy to ever start with this quite informative and intimate chat. So go stoke the fire, dim the lights, whip your dick out and read on...
TB: Where are you from originally?
Shane: I was born in Torrance, California but was raised in east LA. East LA is basically where I had all my teenage experiences; I stayed there until I moved to Frisco in í93.
TB: What was the first concert you attended?
Shane: John Stewart, he was a folk singer who was in the Kingston Trio. I come from hippie parents so folk and country is in my background. I went to more interesting concerts when I got older.
TB: What was the first band you played in?
Shane: It was this band called The Dogís Breakfast in 1980. I wanted to play guitar, but got stuck playing bass. I didnít want to sing, but I got stuck singing and playing bass. All I wanted to be was a guitar player who didnít say anything and I got stuck doing something I didnít want to do for a decade.
TB: How many bands have you been in?
Shane: I used to be able to shout them all out off the top of my head but now Iíve kind of lost track. Iím sure over thirty by now.
TB: You were involved in the old LA punk scene. Can you describe your experiences in it?
Shane: My first ďpunkĒ experiences were stuff like Madness, the Specials, Plasmatics, and Rockpile. These are bands I saw then and I thought they were punk as shit until I heard the Sex Pistols. I saw bands like Black Flag, TSOL, Adolescents, Bad Religion, and Social Distortion etcÖ I was lucky to be there.
TB: Did you ever see the Angry Samoans?
Shane: I saw them when the only thing they had out was Inside My Brain, when they had their classic five piece lineup. I saw them the night John Belushi died, Metal Mike came out and called him a big fat creep and said he was glad he was dead. They stirred up a lot of shit particularly with Rodney.
TB: Do you think Decline of Western Civilization was an accurate portrayal of the LA punk scene that you knew?
Shane: It was kind of a fadeout from the first wave to the second wave. There a lot of first wave bands in it like X, the Germs, Alice Bag Band (who were the Bags obviously). The movie concentrated on the second generation, bands like the Circle Jerks, Black Flag. I thought the movie was accurate, because I knew people that bizarre and rowdy in real life. I remember seeing it the first week it played and there were cops up and down the street. It was like going to see a Black Flag show but it was just a movie.
TB: What are your views on We Got the Neutron Bomb(Brendan Mullenís book)? It seems a lot of bands got left out of it.
Shane: It seems incomplete, there really hasnít been a definitive LA punk book written. Iím not sure if it really can be written, it would have to be in volumes. If you take all the books written on the LA scene and piece them together, a story starts to unfold. There are so many books out there. I loved the Darby Crash book, now that one captures the first wave pretty authentically. That American Hardcore one was despicable. It was terrible, I couldnít understand where it was coming from. He didnít have the right material to write that book, he didnít know what the fuck he was doing. A lot of stupid shit got covered, he tried to make too much of a distinction between punk and hardcore. When I went to shows, I didnít differentiate Minor Threat from Christian Death. It was all punk to me. The term hardcore makes me think of sweaty gangbangers and jocks who all secretly want to suck each otherís dicks but donít know how to approach it so they beat the fuck out of people.
TB: What were some of your favorite bands you saw live?
Shane: I was a big Red Kross fan, I liked the fact that they were young. Steve McDonald was my age and his middle name was Shane and he played bass too. Black Flag was great and I also liked some of the artier bands like 100 Flowers and 45 Grave.
TB: Favorite Black Flag singer?
Shane: Even though, he was only in the band for a short whileÖprobably Ron Reyes. He loved his voice and he had personality. Dez was good, but his voice got too sandpaper-y. Ron was more articulate. I like em all even Henry. He did a good job.
TB: Why did you move to San Francisco?
Shane: For a few reasons. LAís music scene was dead, the pay to play system killed it. In the early 90s, it was horrible trying to book shows there. When I would play SF with the Fingers, there were people actually into what we were doing. Also I was trying to play in a band with Trent Ruane from the Mummies. He was going to disband the Mummies and do something different, and we were going to do something together. Thirdly, I moved up to move in with this girl. I ended up ruining my friendship with Trent and Ralph and getting myself into this relationship I never should have got involved in.
TB: When did you start your fanzine Pure Filth?
Shane: Early 1990. We started it to interview this band OBS(Our Band Sucks). They were this outrageous group Me and my friend Ralph Balcarcel were so into them, we were willing to start a magazine just to interview those bastards. Before you know it, the ball was rolling.
TB: What kind of a reaction did it get?
Shane: A little scene developed around it over time. In the beginning, it was mostly just read by our friends. After a while, people outside of our circle started reading it, even people overseas.
TB: Why did you end the magazine?
Shane: When I moved to Frisco, Ralph and I were having problems with our friendship.
TB: Was there another man involved?
Shane: HahaÖnoÖanother woman. I started seeing this girl a lot of people werenít fond of. It ruined our friendship. I did two more issues after he left. Those are the worst two issues, because Ralph wasnít writing anymore. He had a good writing style. Also I shouldnít have let my girlfriend write, because she was a moron. It came out really stupid. I lost track of all the people who were involved in the magazine except for my brother. Iíve been trying to find Ralph so I can talk to him. I wouldnít mind burying the hatchetÖnot the salami, haha.
TB: What was your favorite issue?
Shane: I liked the Oriental Edition, the Gay edition.
TB: Of course with the classic Fistfuckers Manual by Mike Lucas.
Shane: I liked the special Larry Winther edition.
TB: Which one was the worst?
Shane: The first one was horrendous, it was all hand written. We had no typewriter.
TB: What were the favorite interviews you did?
Shane: The funniest one was with Our Band Sucks. The one with Crowbar Salvation was good too. Another good one was the one with Jack Baker, who was this black porn actor. He was in the Traci Lords movie, he had been on Happy Days. It turned out becoming a two part interview. He was very articulate and had a big background in politics. We learned all this crazy shit from him. The Headcoats was a good interview, because Billy Childish was drunk.
TB: You recently wrote an article in MRR about Greg Shaw (R.I.P). What are some of your favorite Bomp releases?
Shane: Thereís quite a few. I like the Willie Alexander and the Boom Boom Band re-issues. I also liked the reissue of the Kerouacs single. I like the Zeros, all the Stooges stuff he put out and all the power pop shit. I have those old Waves compilations, it has all this crazy shit on it like Psychotic Pineapple, 20/20, the Romantics. I even like the Venus and the Razorblades ďPunk-o-ramaĒ single even though that thing is one of the most horrifying things Iíve ever heard but I love it for the total cheeseball factor.
TB: Why did you start writing for Maximum Rock n Roll when you used to make fun of it in Pure Filth?
Shane: In Pure Filth, we wanted to bait people, challenge people. We took pride in our obnoxiousness, we wanted to shake things up. Iím not a fan of MRR, not even now. Thereís a lot of aspects of the magazine Iím not into. However, when I met Tim Yohannan, I really liked him. He asked me to write and I did. All I did was take the stir it up attitude of Pure Filth and applied to my reviews in MRR. I was young and part of being young is being contradictory and hyprocritical. You donít know what the fuck is up. Itís like Mark Perry said, ďYou donít know nothin and you donít really care, do yaĒ.
TB: Can you describe your experiences you had while you were in the Fingers?
Shane: We were kinda lost. It was like a lost period where people had run out of ideas. You had shit like Sonic Youth turning it all back into noise again. Rap and metal were getting fused together, fuckin punk and funk together. We were confused, so we chose to disconnect ourselves from what was happening. We wanted to be a Raspberries-type pop band, but I had just started to play guitar. I taught Ralph to play bass. I started listening to old punk records again, I really hadnít been listening to much punk at the time. I was also listening to a lot of pop and 60s garage shit like the Sonics and the Back from the Grave stuff. The Fingers was a mish-mash of Raspberries pop with 70s punk and the 60s garage element. We used cheap thrift shop gear, you could get weird guitars and amps for cheap. This is before Cobain made it in vogue. That is one element I miss. I used a fifteen dollar guitar in the Fingers. It wouldnít stay in tune, it was hard to play, but it got that sound. Now bands go get the top of the line gear, itís all Marshalls and Gibsons.
TB: The next band you were in was the Spoiled Brats, which was pretty short-lived. What was the story with that band?
Shane: I did that one with my girlfriend Elka, who I was living with at the time. Her and I wrote all the songs except for the covers we did. I was playing lead guitar and I had definitely gotten better. Elka showed me a few things and she gave me this weird 70s Hagstrom guitar. We had Stig on bass, he had never played bass before. He was supposed to be our manager. He came to our first rehearsal and our bass player didnít show up, so we had Stig play bass. The girl who was supposed to play bass ended up playing rhythm guitar. We ended up playing twelve shows overall and three 45s. It was a great band, one of the favorite bands Iíve played in. I like the Spoiled Brats, cause it was very punky and it wasnít all fast. One interesting thing about the Spoiled Brats is that we were one of two bands that got to rehearse in the Purple Onion during the daytime. Stig moved to Utah with his girlfriend and I was like ďOh no, not StigĒ. Stig was the heart and soul of the band, he was Mr. Negative. I was having problems with the rhythm guitarist, so she quit. The band finally fell apart.
TB: After that you went on to the Rip Offs.
Shane: I was in the Rip Offs while I was still in the Spoiled Brats. Sometimes I had to play a show with both bands which was fuckin ridiculous. The Rip Offs was Jason and Gregís group to begin with. Then they got Jon Von and then they asked me because they werenít satisfied with Jon. I was helping them write material, so they figured I might as well join.
TB: What do you think about Gregís liner notes on the Rip Offs CD re-release? Was it accurate?
Shane: His history of the band is distorted by his animosities. Heís giving his history with the fact that heís pissed with Jon Von, my brother, and me. He views all three of us as these pussies that made the band dysfunctional. He needs to take a look at himself, because he was a member of that dysfunctional group.
TB: In the end, how did the band end and why?
Shane: It ended in the same way as the Spoiled Brats, all the arms and legs started falling off. First, my brother left, who we replaced with Wesley Gravolet. Then Jon Von left. Greg wanted to continue without Jon or Jason. I was like ďHow are we going to continue without VonĒ. I mean, look at all the songs he wrote. ďCopsĒ, ďWild JaneĒ, ďBaby Let GoĒ, those are all Jon Von songs. How are you gonna let that part of the band go. There was a European tour that Greg had been booking all year, but Jon was adamant. He didnít want to play in the group anymore. It was his right to quit regardless of his motives. If the band had been working well, Iím sure he wouldnít have quit. Jon Von has an ego too that he wanted to fulfill, not just Greg Lowery. It was very sour by then.
TB: Do you have any funny stories from your days in the Rip Offs?
Shane: The Rip Offs werenít really about playing music, a lot of our shows was just a bunch of racket especially our shows in Japan. Iíve seen videotapes of those shows and we were fuckin horrible. People at the time responded to it, why I donít know. I donít think Iíve seen one Rip Offs videotape where I thought, ďAlright, we really rockĒ. Itís more like ďHow are people getting off on this fuckin shitĒ? I think people liked the danger of it. People thought, ďWell if I go to see the Rip Offs and something flies at me and fuckin breaks my head open, Iíve had a punk rock experience.Ē I donít know what the fuck they were thinking. Due to that, a lot of the shows were fun, cause you could just go out there and be an asshole and get paid for it. I donít the Rip Offs was a good live band, the Infections were more like ďHey letís stop jumping around like idiots and play some musicĒ. Jon Von had great stage personality, he would set his amp on fire and do weird things to the audience. Greg was brutal with the audience, it was fun.
TB: Iíve heard the last Rip Offs show ever in Green Bay, itís pretty awful. Why is it so bad?
Shane: When we did out of town shows, we had to use other peopleís gear. People were so freaked out to let us use their stuff so they would give us their shitty gear. So when it was bad, it was real bad. In Green Bay, we were so wasted from hanging out at the strip joint and drinking. Also there was a heatwave happening that was actually killing people. I donít think we played a note of music at that show, it was probably like seeing an Eis Neubaten show. There was a lot of tension too, that was it for us. That show was our Winterland, our Candlestick Park.
TB: After the Rip Offs, you were supposed to play in this band The Lab Rats with Greg and one of the Makers. What happened with that?
Shane: After the Rip Offs broke up, Greg and I were trying to figure out what to do. We were going to have Tim from the Makers come and play guitar. It just never happened. Greg was bragging about it, but it never materialized.
TB: Greg and you formed the Infections, which is my personal favorite. Tell me about that group.
Shane: In that band, I was more about just playing music. Greg still wanted some kind of stage show, so there was a clash. Greg wanted another gimmick, another Rip Offs. He said gimmicks are what the kids want. I just wanted to make some good punk tunes. I was practicing all the time. We had this other guitarist, Jason Dancer, who I though was pretty good.
TB: Why did Jason leave the group?
Shane: Jason was a good friend of ours, but we asked him to leave the group. He had a lot of attention deficit disorders, really heavy ones. It made him difficult to play with. We tried for a while, we played a lot of shows with him. He actually co-wrote quite a few songs with Greg; Lowery claims most of those songs. We brought in Justin Schenberg who was playing with the Spastics at the time. There is a classic line that everybody use to laugh about that Lowery said to Justin at the Purple Onion, ďHey we like the way you look, will you join our group?Ē Justin never let Greg live that down. He joined and I taught him the songs. Unlike Jason, Justin could sing and play. So we were able to have three vocalists which we wanted to have. It makes it easier to get a break during a show.
Justin played a lot of shows with us including the ones we played in Japan.
TB: Iíve seen pictures from those shows and you look like fuckin' Sting, man.
Shane: Sting from the Police? Really, thatís a compliment. We played our last show in Kyoto, Japan. We imploded once we got back to the states. We werenít gelling with Lowery anymore. We wanted to play real music and not do some punk rock gimmick bullshit stage show trip. Greg was fighting us on everything, he wanted another Rip Offs and we werenít going to give it to him. I like Loweryís voice. Heís a horrible bass player, I wish he would put down the bass. He has good pronunciation when he sings, heís got this weird snotty kinda bratty kid tone. So I think heís a good singer, but get him off that fuckin bass.
TB: What made the Infections LP different than the Rip Offs LP?
Shane: We wanted a group that rocked as hard as Teengenerate. Greg wanted to go the bozo route, jump around and throw things at the audience. We got to be good friends with the guys in Teengenerate. I really admired them for their background in music. They didnít really have a stage show, they just tore the place down and rocked. Thatís the page I was on in the Infections. The Infections LP is just a rock n roll record. I think that record is more ferocious than the Rip Offs LP, the guitar sound. The Infections LP was recorded on 8 track while the Rip Offs LP was six track. Those extra two tracks helped a lot. I was really bummed out by the Rip Offs record. I had already done my share of crappy lo-fi records, which were fun to make. I wanted something that sounded more powerful, not like 32 track studio type stuff though. I wanted something with as much punch as ďNew RoseĒ by the Damned. All we got in the Rip Offs was static and I didnít want to be lumped into all that Pussy Galore type shit, I hated Jon Spencer and all that shit.
TB: I have noticed most people who have heard the Infections 45 hate your song, how do you feel about that?
Shane: I ripped that song off David Johansen, who is my favorite New York Doll. I ripped it off him, he ripped it off some black dude, who ripped it off some other black dude. Nobody noticed it for a long time. I wrote the lyrics about this girl that Wesley and I both wanted to fuck, she was really sleazy. So it was kind of a true story, but hey who cares? I donít give a fuck. Itís just a rock n roll tune, thatís all. When I was in the Rip Offs, we used to say ďif you want that riff, rip it offĒ. Sometimes we got carried away.
TB: What was the deal with the Tight Fits, it was a joke band, right?
Shane: It was a joke that got taken too far. We just wanted to do a Spinal Tap kinda thing. We ended up doing three shows when we didnít intend on doing any. We did two 45s if you can believe it, which were completely ridiculous. The people that saw the band liked it, which I surprised with. I thought it was pretty crappy live, our drummer couldnít really play. A lot of people got ideas from it, before you knew it, everyone was listening to Motley Crue.
TB: After the Infections disbanded, you started the Loose Lips, a group most people never got into. Why do you think people didnít into that particular band?
Shane: Everybody wants you to keep putting out the same kinda record. I donít wanna keep putting out the same fuckin record, itís like been there done there. We liked rock n roll shit like the Dolls and the Real Kids. The Loose Lips LP was a natural progression from the Infections. It makes senses, thereís the Rip Offs then the Infections then the Loose Lips. If you play all three of those albums in a row, itís like three steps. You can tell we were getting better and trying new things. I come from the school where everything should be progressive, you shouldnít be like NOFX and put out 12 of the same albums. Iím from the school where yer together for two years and you put out one album and then you start a new band and put out an album that sounds completely different. Keep growing, thatís what punk is all about. Now itís all about redundancy, putting out stuff people can identify with. Fuck you. We didnít put out the Loose Lips record for people to like it. We were voluntarily cutting out most of our audience and it worked. The Loose Lips were a complete failure, people hated us. No one came to see us live, no one bought the album. We did what we wanted. I mean, I donít particularly like the album cover. Thereís some good songs on there and there are some stinkers too. If you can handle the Boys or the Heartbreakers, you can handle the Loose Lips. Yer a poser ass motherfucker, go back to yer mommyís tit.
TB: Are you playing in any bands right now?
Shane: I was in a band with my brother, but we just broke up. So Iím not currently playing in any band right now. I will continue to make music until all my hair falls out, my dick stops working, and all my veins collapse.
TB: What do you think about the Internetís influence on music today?
Shane: Everybody can access stuff so easily now. At one time, there was obscurity to things. You could go off and borrow here and there and nobody would get on yer tits about it. I like those days better, the mystery. What fun would the Cramps have been if everyone knew about that. Their novelty was that they were revamping all these old songs from the 50s, 60s, hell even the 40s. Now everybody is like a walking encyclopedia, but nobody was really there. They are just historians. People need to start their own thing, itís too hard to comprehend the atmosphere of a scene. So start yer own youth culture and comprehend your own atmosphere. People are jaded and bored now. Thereís too much being recycled, too much nostalgia. Iím to blame too, Iím not speaking from some pedestal. Everything is dead, itís kinda like hey what ďthenĒ are you into this week? Whatever happened to now? When I was a kid, it felt good to be part of something that was happening now. I could say what Iím involved with is not even a decade old, itís happening now. I donít know how I would feel saying ďhey this is my identity and itís thirty years oldĒ. It just seems weird.
TB: What could be done to shake things up, it seems there not really much left to discover or create?
Shane: Iím not saying there should be some new instrument invented. The thing a lot of people donít have now is attitude. Being that everyone has instant access to each other now, there arenít these little cults popping up anymore. Thatís what happened with punk. It was just a little cult that popped up around the world. All these little scenes influenced themselves. Now movements donít grow like that. Nobody is playing rock n roll with any particular attitude. Bands are playing for the most ridiculous reasons. The music doesnít need to be drastically changed, but the attitudes have to be brought up to date. That hasnít happened in a while. When you listen to music throughout the generations, you realize itís all kind of the same. There are some chords with some percussion, but listen to what the people are saying. Listen to how the words are different, how people are expressing themselves. Now listen to the music of today, thereís nothing there. Itís just nostalgia. People are trying to act like Johnny Rotten, Debbie Harry. They are just reiterating what their role models were saying back in the seventies or earlier. Theyíre not getting involved in whatís happening today. Even hippies were more in the now than the punks. Maybe people could tune out everything, all their stupid TVs and computers. Start listening to Charles Manson, take a lot of drugs. Maybe start fucking guys in the ass. Do something that will fuck yer head up so much, youíll be the next hottest fuckin band out there. Whack yerself out. All the people we dig from the past, thatís what they were doing. We donít have performers like that anymore, we donít have those kind of songwriters. They are very few and far between. Weíre on the Information Highway but it sure ainít making anything interesting.
Interview by Troy Canady
Pics stolen from the Information Highway
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