Say what you will about Indiana, and for that matter the Midwest, but Indiana has the Zero Boys. And thankfully, the rest of us have the Zero Boys too.
They formed in 1979 and, fueled by a steady diet of Dictators, Ramones and of course Sedx Pistols, released the Livin’ in the ‘80s 7” a year later. Recorded in a single night, the now classic, 5 song EP put the band on the punk rock map, back when such a thing was sparsely populated outside the West and East Coasts. They toured. They recorded an album ('Vicious Circle', 1981), this time speeding things up, having changed their diet to hardcore bands of the time like Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, DOA and Circle Jerks. The songs got shorter, faster, harder…better. They recorded songs for a second album (at the time, released only as a tape, as the 'History Of…') and compilations (Master Tape I & II, compiled by Zero Boys frontman Paul Mahern). Then the broke up. Drifted apart if you prefer.
Over the past 20 years, the Zero Boys have drifted in and out of consciousness as a band. Vess Ruhtenberg replaced founding Zero Boys Terry “Hollywood” Howe on guitar, reforming in the late ‘80s and again in the early ‘90s. None of them stopped playing music. 'Vicious Circle' got re-released by Toxic Shock records (1988) with six extra songs. They recorded two new albums ('Make It Stop', 1991; Heimlich Maneuver', 1993) then faded out again.
On New Years Eve of 2000 (Endtimes! it was said) the Zero Boys played a show, marking the new re-birth of the band. It was the first time they played with both Vess and Terry on guitar. It was also the last show Terry would play with the Zero Boys. He passed away in 2001. But from that point, the band has been as active as ever, seeing 'Vicious Circle' repressed (Panic Button, Rifleman, and finally Secretly Canadian), releasing the 'History Of…' cassette as a proper album (on Secretly Canadian), playing more shows than they’ve done in twenty-years. And let me assure you – this ain’t no nostalgia trip, oldies punk reunion bullshit. The Zero Boys play with as much energy as they ever have. Check their old videos for evidence. They still blow away most other bands.
This interview was done before the second of two shows the Zero Boys played at 924 Gilman St. in Berkeley, CA. The band is: Paul Mahern (singer), David “Tufty” Clough (bass), Mark Cutsinger (drums) and Vess Ruhtenberg (guitar). Interview and pics by Mark Murrmann.
icki: Here it is 28 years on, more? And in a certain way you guys are bigger now than you were in 1980.
Vess: In almost every way...(laughter)
Paul: We got more chins, we got more fans...
icki: The show last night was pretty crazy--not to be too reflective, but was that similar to what it was like in the early Eighties?
Paul: No. We only played one show ever that was like that, back then and that was the show in Torrance, CA.
icki: That was the show with Minor Threat and the Dead Kennedys, right?
Paul: Yeah. I mean every once in a while, we might play a show with a bunch of other bands in the Midwest…I think there were a couple of shows where the kids really got wild. That was as much as ever, for sure, if not more last night.
icki: How often are you guys playing now?
Paul: I think we've averaged about two times a year for the last five or six years. This year I think we'll play more because of the re-releases. We'll probably play as many as eight times this year, maybe more. We'll see.
icki: How did the new reissues on Secretly Canadian happen? Did they approach you?
Paul: Yeah. Chris and Ben and Jonathan from Secretly Canadian called me one day – I literally live across the street from them – and they wanted to know why it was so hard to get 'Vicious Circle. I explain the whole thing about Lookout!, how it's on Lookout! they're not really keeping it in print. They then tell me, "We would like to keep this record in print forever. We don't want this to ever happen again." They're from Indiana and they see it as an important record from their home state, so they wanna make sure its always available. Then I told them about the 'History Of...', which they didn't know that much about and they became really excited and wanted to put them both out at the same time.
icki: With the 'History Of...', which until now was only released as a tape, that was originally recorded to be the second Zero Boys album, correct?
Paul: We were half way, two-thirds of the way through making a new Zero Boys record when the band slowly started to drift apart.
icki: You guys are all happy with the Secretly Canadian stuff? How the records turned out?
Paul: The pressings are great, the press has been great. Those guys are real nice, they're real easy to work with and they're real hardworking. It's been great.
icki: Personally, I'm super excited that 'Vicious Circle' is being kept in print. Along with the Black Flag and Dead Kennedys records, its one of the important punk records every punk kid should have. And now the 'History Of...', which is twenty years past due...
Vess: 'Vicious Circle' was my entry into punk rock. I was into…whatever...the Cars, Gary Numan, Devo, whatever was weird enough to have caught my attention. But this guy, freshman year, I guess a year after the record came out, he was like, "Vess, come over here man you're gonna dig this!" And he hands me the Ramones 'End of the Century'. I already knew I liked the Ramones, I was already into them.
Then he says, "Okay, but you have got to bring this back tomorrow." And I say, "What?" He says, "THIS, 'Vicious Circle'," and he hands it to me. I take it home and I thought, "I better just tape it because I don't have time to really borrow this guys record." So I tape it and there's over half a side of a 90 minuet tape left, so I taped it again! So I set myself up. Whenever I played the tape I heard the record twice - but that was my funny little intro to hardcore. The mind-blower was that it was going on down the street from where I lived.
icki: Vess, how did you end up in the band? When did that happen?
Vess: It was kind of audacious on my part. I, like many people, were getting sick of them not playing. I had seen them once or twice and I was like, "Why don't you guys just get back together?" Finally they said, "Sure, we'll get back together. We'll hold auditions for a guitar player and we'll do it." And that's kind of how it happened. I kind of feel like I pestered you guys into it!
icki: What was the time period of that?
Vess: 1986? Something like that. They played a few shows in '84-'85 and it just wet everyone's whistle. I guess everyone always knew Terry (Hollywood) was kind of difficult, but there was always hope, you know?
icki: To take a step back from that, one of the most basic band interview questions, how did you get together? It's Indianapolis, late '70s...how did the Zero Boys form?
Tufty: Paul was playing in another band called 3PM. That's when he got out of high school.
Paul: I was in my high school band and Mark and Terry had formed a band already, or at least had been talking about it, and they came to a party that my band was playing. I was completely out of my mind on LSD and I couldn't even see my guitar - but they asked me to be in their band anyway...it went something like that.
Mark: Marvin (P. Goldstein) and Terry and I went over to where they were partying and practicing and Randy was singing the song, a Ramones song or a Clash song, then he went to take his pills or whatever and you guys started doing your own stuff and it was like "Wow!" And we had a little chat afterwords, and said, "Hey Paul, you wanna come and jam with us, we're try to make a punk band?" And he said yes.
icki: Mark, you and Terry were both from Indianapolis, right?
Mark: Terry was from Dayton, but Terry had just moved to Indianapolis and I had just met him.
Vess: Where did you meet Terry?
Mark: I'm unclear on that. But Marvin had something to do with it. It all just kind of happened. He was new to the scene. We met, started hangin' out and we started getting excited about maybe playing this music. A friend of mine, John Mitchell, a guy I went to high school with, was interested in the same thing. He played bass. He didn't last too long. We made an EP, trying to play some gigs. He couldn't really hang with that. He was big on the scene with the Latex Novelties and the rockabilly thing and then Toxic Reasons too, simultaneously. This is my take here – we asked him (Paul) and he said sure then we formed the band.
Paul: Its really the perfect combination really. I mean we had the older musicians – older, they were in their early twenties. But, not only were they a little bit older, but they were seasoned, Mark had been out to New York. Terry released his first record when he was 13. David (Tufty) had played in tons of bands. So musically they were all way above par for punk bands. I on the other hand, I was still young enough that it was all just magic to me. To them, they understood the math of music and how to play. To me...I was just still a kid with headphones listening to Sex Pistols records and Ramones records and Stooges records and daydreaming what rock 'n' roll was. So it was that combination of somebody who was just instinctively goin' for it, young enough to not know any better with guys who definitely knew what they were doing.
icki: After the "Livin' in the '80s" 7" came out, did you guys see that as you were just recording what you had you and you were going to try and make it, because that's what bands do?
Paul: Once we rehearsed and wrote a couple songs, played a couple gigs, obviously the next thing you would do is make record. It was just that. We made a record. Five Hundred seemed to be a good number.. We hand-stuffed them. Then went on to make an album. The interesting thing about the album is that it was commissioned by Bob Gulcher from Gulcher Records. He told me, "I'd love to put out a Zero Boys record!" And like the first night of recording, I got him on the phone and told him it was totally going great and he was like, "Yeah, I don't think I want to put out your record." So immediately we didn't have a label, so we had to put it out ourselves.
icki: Did that seem daunting? At the time bands were putting out their own 7"s, but not many bands were putting out their own albums.
Paul: We tried to get somebody else to put it out. We sent it around to Frontier and Alternative Tentacles and all the other labels, but nobody was interested. I think the most interest we got was from Bomp!. Most interested in that he showed enough interest to at least write us back (laughter): It's a good record, you guys are doin' something cool, good luck boys!
Tufty: Do you remember how we got the money for that? Some of us lived with this guy, Bill Levin who was like our manager. And he didn't have any heat in the house, so the pipes froze and burst. But he had all this crap out in the garage and he said, "Hey, drag all that stuff in and we'll tell the insurance it was in the house." We ended up with this insurance settlement and that's what paid for the Vicious Circle record!(laughter)
icki: I'm wondering about the Indianapolis scene, the larger Midwest punk scene and how you guys fit into it at the time?
Paul: We played around the Midwest the most and had some good friends in bands like Die Kreuzen, Articles Of Faith, Toxic Reasons. It was a small scene you know. You knew everybody from all the cities.
Tufty: There really wasn't a lot of show trading though. Like we didn't go to Chicago and play with the Effigies and Naked Raygun then come to Indianapolis. There wasn't a lot of that.
Mark: There was a little bit of that, but not much.
Paul: We did that more with Die Kreuzen, but not so much with Chicago bands. Chicago bands were a little bit cooler than we were. You know what I mean?
icki: Did the Indianapolis scene seem pretty healthy?
Paul: The scene in Indianapolis revolved around this club, Crazy Al's. It was an older crowd and as long as we were playing slower punk rock songs and covers, we'd play at Crazy Al's two nights in a row and come home with money in our pockets. As soon as we started playing really fast, a little more like thrash or hardcore, that audience all of a sudden didn't get it anymore. So we were kind of without an audience. We hadn't really connected with an all-ages audience yet. The under-age/all-age scene had just started.
icki: There's that video of you guys playing Cosmo's Pizza, where did that fit in? I remember being, like six, and my parents ordering from Cosmo's Pizza. Now I'm thinking my parents were ordering pizza from Cosmo's while it was ground zero for punk in Indianapolis!
Paul: Well, it was the only place you could put on a show. Someone would have to have the impetus to put on a show, figure something out, Cosmo's Pizza just happened to be one of those places.
Tufty: The cool thing about the Pizza place was you could have kids in and still serve beer.
Paul: Yeah, you could have some beer and the kids could watch the show. Somehow pizza was the loophole!
icki: After 'Vicious Circle', did you guys think "We need to tour?" How did you make it out to California?
Paul: I think we went to California before that?
Mark: That's when the pipes burst...
Paul: It was actually an East Coast tour when the pipes burst...the record came out after all the major touring that we did.
icki: How did you set those up? There wasn't really network to really tap into, right?
Paul: No, there was–the West Coast tour centered around that show in Torrance where we played with the Dead Kennedys. And that was just Jello, he liked the stuff and he told Tim (Yohannon) and they conspired. They thought we were funny. The couple times I talked to Tim Yohannon on the phone, he would laugh constantly. He just thought it was so weird that I was this fucking punk rock guy from Indiana (laughter). And Jello, I was probably on the phone with him and he was like, "You know, if you guys come out here you can play with us." So I asked, "When are you playing next? We'll be there." And we just set everything up around that show.
Tufty: We played a week in Calgary, Alberta.
Mark: We went through Chicago, then that night we drove all the way to Calgary, literally got there, set up and played that night! As soon as we got there.
Tufty: Alberta had a funny law that if you wanted to have go-go dancers, you had to have live bands. They figured out that the cheapest bands you could get were punk rock bands. So a lot of bands--DOA, Toxic Reason, Zero Boys, SNFU--would play Calgary for a week. We'd make enough money that it would get you one way or another, either coast, from playing there. But it was really weird playing there. You played a set and they had the strippers!
Vess: Terry musta been in heaven! (laughter)
Mark: He ended up with...I'm not gonna say...
Paul: Yeeeah, he hooked up with some girls and they flew him to...
Tufty: Vancouver! Yeah, we'd go to bed at night and Terry would be wondering around the hotel. I'd forgotten. He did he say, "I guess I'll meet you guys in Vancouver," and he flew off with them.
Paul: Those strippers flew him out and went to Vancouver with him.
Vess: That must have been a great flight!
Tufty: Luckily we weren't very successful or he would've died a lot earlier.
Mark: And who did we play in Vancouver with? The Subhumans, right? At the Smiling Buddah. And I have to say, we all took a dose of acid and played on stage.
Paul: Oh yeah, I remember that...
Mark: Kids were bangin' their heads and wanted him [Paul] to kick them in the head.
Paul: There's like eight people in the whole fuckin' bar and like four or five of them are crazy skinheads who were punching glass bottles with their hands. And one of them kept putting his head on my foot! I was like, "Why is he doing this?" And his buddies were like, "He wants you to kick him in the head!" (laughter) I'm this 17 year old guy from Indiana...I felt completely in over my head at that point.
Tufty: We didn't play San Francisco on that tour. I don't know why.
Paul: We were going to. The place we were going to play got raided or something. It was a storefront place that was having shows that weren't legal and it got shut down the night before we were going to play.
icki: I was surprised that this is the first time you've played San Francisco, or the Bay Area.
Tufty: We're on that slow distribution. We're touring to support that first album. (laughter) We figure we only gotta do, like, one more and we'll be like 70!
icki: After 'Vicious Circle', how long did it take before you recorded the songs for 'History Of...'?
Paul: It was like '82, '83...pretty much right after.
Vess: And there was Mastertape, the compilation, that came out pretty much right after 'Vicious Circle'...within a year or so?
Paul: Yeah, probably nine months. Three songs on that and then a couple songs on the second Mastertape compilation. The problem was, 'Vicious Circle' was recorded but it took a year to come out. So just about the time 'Vicious Circle' was coming out, we were recording those songs.
icki: 'The Mastertape' is a really, awesome, critical documentation of the early, Midwest hardcore scene, which raises another question–there is a little bit of debate now among some people whether the Zero Boys are a punk band or a hardcore band? It seems more like a modern distinction than it was then, but...
Vess: Well, the answer is YES. (laughter) They were a rock 'n' roll band. They were a Ramones band. They were a punk band. And they were a thrash band. It was a whimsical thing! Something we enjoy in Indianapolis. We can like Minor Threat, we can be like Black Flag and we can enjoy Rush, when they come to Market Square Arena, you know? (laughter) We're just glad something showed up! So it was indicative – if I'm overspeaking please jump in – of what the vibe was.
Tufty: I don't think we listened to the Sex Pistols and Ramones and thought, "We need to write songs like that." We went further back into earlier rock and looked for other powerful music. Because the chord structure of rock 'n' roll has basically been the same. And there's nothing wrong with it. Don't mess with something's that's good. No need to reinvent the wheel.
icki: After 'History Of...', how and why did things start drifting apart with the band?
Paul: I think that we did those couple of tours and we...I didn't feel we were really getting a foot in. It didn't seem to be working and I think that started to kind of wear on us. When we'd come home from tour and the pipes are all frozen and it's raining inside the house and we go out to the West Coast and have a great show, but horrible shows the whole way back, the van makes it almost home and dies. I think there was some regrouping then. Tufty left to join Toxic Reasons and go to the West Coast and I think we played with another bass player for a little while and did some shows but during that time period we were tired. The universe wasn't giving us anything back. I felt we were just putting in and it wasn't coming back. There was just no reaction.
Vess: That happens to bands in Indianapolis. It's sort of a geographical thing too. You know you open for a little band called Black Flag in LA and the next thing you know you're in a legendary band. Just because you bothered. But in Indianapolis there's no scene, there's no radio station, there wasn't any closed circuit or cable stations...nothing. No reinforcement, your just bangin' your head against a wall.
icki: So, Vess bugged you guys into playing again?
Vess: I was one of many.
Paul: We got an offer to play with Toxic Reasons in Europe, so we hired Vess to play guitar, which he had to learn to play. He really didn't know how to play guitar. (laughter) But he looked great holding the guitar!
Vess: Thats true! I was pretty young. I was 18 when I joined. It was the thing again, where I was suddenly with three guys who knew where the body was buried and...I was cocky enough to do the job, but I wasn't there yet. But as a result I was able to go on my first tour!
icki: Was that right around when the Toxic Shock reissue came out?
Paul: It was actually after the Toxic Shock reissue came out in '85. And maybe '87 or '88 we first went to Europe. Tufty had already been over there with Toxic Reasons and they were kind of established. That helped us. Also there was a guy who ran a German label who was very interested in working with the band and conviced us to make a new record. Jürgen Goldschmidt? Bitzcore records!
icki: Bitzcore is still running.
Paul: Well, it's gotta be Jürgen, that was a one man job.
icki: He's put out a bunch of Turbonegro albums.
Tufty: Oh yeah? We were just talking about them.
Paul: They're big fans as it turns out. The guy I met, Happy Tom, he met Vess at a bar last year in Oslo.
Vess: He kissed my hand and knelt before me very melodramatically (laughter). Very nice guy, you're a great guy Tom!
icki: To jump ahead, the reunion on the New Years of 2000, you did a few shows in the early '90's, then were pretty quiet...
Paul: Probably from 1993 to at least 2000 we didn't do anything.
icki: Terry played that show in 2000. Was that the first show he'd played with you since the early '80's?
Paul: Since 1985, at the Hoosier Ball room, I think.
Tufty: He came up from Florida (for the 2000 show), and when we'd wondered what it'd be like with like two guitarists playing. Because on all the Zero Boys records Terry would play the rhythm then overdub and do the leads, so with both of them it'd be similar to that...so we had a go at it, you were there...
icki: Yeah, I flew back to Indiana from San Francisco. It was great, an amazing show.
Tufty: A buddy of ours has got a great recording of that night, it was the only time we ever played with two guitarists.
Vess: The night before, we rehearsed. It was very telling for me. I had never played with Terry and when we'd start playing…the first run through was amazing! Because I'd look over at him and be like, "Do you want me to do the solo??" He was like, "Do it! If you know how to do it!" He'd do the next solo. It just sounded like the record. We knew the parts really well and we just knew what to do. Then we took a little break.
Tufty: Terry went out to the car…(nervous laughter)
Vess: Yeah, Terry went into the bathroom or whatever and suddenly we weren't so hot anymore. I remember Paul being very diplomatic and looking mean saying, "What did you guys do during that break? Mark? Vess?" Then the next night was similar. Earlier it was better then the show was kinda iffy. But it was great playing with him. He was a real comrade. You could tell he wanted to be great, he wanted it to be awesome.
icki: It seemed like he had a great time at the show.
Vess: Oh, yeah.
Tufty: I'm glad we got to do that.
Vess: I loved it. That first rehearsal is what I wish every true Zero Boys fan could've been at that. It was awesome. We knew those parts so well, it was a very aware moment.
icki: Since that show in 2000, the band seemed to pick up steam again. More people started to ask you to play, the Lookout! records reissue came out…
Paul: Certainly, more opportunities came up after that.
Tufty: It almost seems that people are looking for something real in music. I'm not saying we're the answer to that, but just playing and having a good time without these lofty goals. I have a nightclub and have a lot of bands come through with what are almost like business plans.
Paul: That just takes the fun out of it.
Tufty: Something like that. It must show through a little bit.
icki: It totally does come through, especially at your guys' age, playing punk music and putting more energy into it than most 20 year olds do. That comes through. That's what people see. You're not half-assing it, you're not just going through the motions. You put everything into it.
Tufty: We're older, but it's not like, "Oh look, we can go play…" We all play every week and do stuff.
icki: So you all still play music regularly?
Mark: We've never stopped really.
Tufty: There is probably a certain point where it all catches up with you, but I don't feel it's caught me yet. I think it's good for younger kids to see a older guys play and have some fun. You know, it's hard to remember back when we were 16 and 17 and we were watching bands. They were probably...
Mark: Old guys!
Tufty: Well, old guys to us, but they were probably like 30, they weren't as old as us now.
icki: In the late '80s, when I first started going to punk shows, punk was only 10 years old then, and we were just twenty or so years on from the 60's. Now here we are, about 30 years from the beginning of the Zero Boys…
Paul: It's interesting, when we first started doing this, I had some thoughts about that. I was thinking about the the songs I wrote when I was younger, and being too old to be a punk rocker. But those are almost like cultural restraints. It's bullshit. That's like this hypnotizing experience of what my whole life as a person in this society. It's fitting that in punk we realize that that doesn't really matter. You don't have to pretty. You don't have to be young.
icki: Well, like the medley of Nuggets songs you guys do and did back in the early '80's still holds up today! Kids started flipping out last night when you started playing that stuff!
Tufty: And they were all so young! (laughter) I mean, how lucky are we to be doing this? We're the luckiest fuckers going. The 400 or 600 people or so last night, they see how ugly you are, they're not too far back, it's powerful, it's not so many people that it's too crazy and you don't have to have all kinds of rules–that's a great spot to be as a band. And we're luck to be here still.
Vess: Plus, a lot of bands you see on a reunion, their career was like here (holds hand high off the table) and now that they're doing a reunion it's like here (holds hand low to the table). That's disappointing. And the fact that they are playing in front of 300 people instead of 2,000 like they were in '85, right?
Tufty: We're the most popular we've every been! We're on our way to the top!
Paul: We'll be like U2 by the time we're in diapers again!
Tufty: We'll stop selling t-shirts and start selling Depends! (laughter)
Mark: Zero Boys Depends!
Paul: So you don't have to leave the pit and pee. (heavy laughter) Really though, we're connecting to something that's as old as humanity. It's fucking beating two rocks together, beating on drums, screaming at the top of your lungs. The illusion that this energy we're tapping into is only as old as the Stooges or any band really, is crazy. That's not what it is, it's timeless and it's great to be able to get up on stage and plug into that...at any age.
icki: Do you guys have a favorite Zero Boys song?
Vess: Well, as of yesterday…
Mark: We're all going to agree on the same one!
Vess: Yesterday we all sang "Stick to Your Guns" all day long.
Mark: Nonono! "Stoned to Death!" "Stoned to Death" all day long!
Tufty: We haven't done any songs off that EP. (Livin' In the '80s)
icki: Which is a big complaint I've heard before, that you don't play the songs from the EP enough.
Paul: We're responding to that complaint.
Vess: We've gotten your letters over the last 20 years, and decided...
Tufty: Let me say, the EP songs are really good, and it was great playing them last night.
Mark: It was, it kinda slowed things down just the appropriate amount.
Vess: It was very punk, the energy's the same but the speeds different.
Paul: I think my favorite Zero Boys song was "Civilizations Dying." From my perspective, I don't really know because I'm too close, but that seems to be the one everyone else likes so I'm just going to go with that. Go with the popular vote.
Vess: I caught my mom singing it once. It must be good! (laughter)
icki: With the 'Vicious Circle' reissue you included "Slam and Worm" and "She Said Goodbye". And on the 'History Of...', you included the EP. Of those, why wasn't "Toys in The Attic" included on either?
Paul: Because it's not a Zero Boys song. The original band did do a recording of that but, I don't know, it just didn't fit.
Mark: Terry just personally liked Aerosmith and wanted to pick out of the air and do an Aerosmith song. And that's all well and good, we just jazzed it up Zero Boys style.
Vess: Maybe that was the one recording from the past that might seem pigeon-holed to its day, if there is any. Doesn't suck, but maybe.
Mark: We used to play it. One time we picked "25:25" and messed with that, and one time we did Alice Cooper.
Tufty: "Muscle of Love".
Mark: (singing) We still got a long way to go! We never recorded it, but we'd play it. It was fun.
Tufty: We did a great version of that. Sometimes it's good to do a cover. There are lots of great songs out there and to think you, as a band, wrote all the good ones is kind of weird.
Vess: Forty years ago nobody sang their own songs. It was really that one band from Liverpool that changed all that. But it's not necessarily fair to think that every three guys who form a band on the corner can write great songs. Why not play the 13th Floor Elevators? What's more punk than the 13th Floor Elevators? They went out to the edge more than anybody, ya know?
icki: I remember the first time I saw that Cosmo's Pizza video and there's that long medley of Nuggets songs, and I thought "Oh my god!" It made sense and it clicked. It sounded awesome too! Then the first time I saw you play it, the crowd completely responded to it.
Vess: The last show you guys played with Terry, they opened with "Arnold Layne," the first Pink Floyd single and everyone's like, "Weird!" It was really a weird way to start.
Tufty: In fact in the liner notes of 'History Of...', it talks about how we did this benefit for this guy who died, it was overheard at the show between two kids, "Hey, what's that one they're playing?" "I don't know, must be a new one," while we were playing the "Arnold Layne" song. (laughter) A good song is a good song, doesn't matter who writes it.
icki: Zero Boys are one of the best bands to come out of Indianapolis, and you never got out from there. And even though it has taken a while to gain recognition outside of Indy, here we are 20 years later, still talking about the Zero Boys, even though you didn't move to New York or Los Angeles.
Mark: Yeah. We've had to wait 28 years…
Vess: I'll say this, on the flip side of that coin this band has something a lot of bands don't have: dignity. We never sold out, we never lost it, we never did a commercial, we never put our name on anything. And not because we're so damn dignified...
Paul: We were never offered! (laughter)
Vess: But in the end, the principals are still in tact, accidentally or not. Secondly, this band was the way we got to Europe, the way we are in San Francisco today and it did get us around the world. Although we didn't go to San Francisco and become as big as Black Flag, today it actually paid off to be in this band. We've had some great adventures together. We wouldn't be at this point without that traveling and not traveling aspect. We got to see the world instead of just Indianapolis. Our failure is only relative.
Paul: We were trying to live the opposite of the 15 minutes of fame model. More like 50 years of very mild fame! (laughter)
icki: You're cult heroes. We've all got 'em. Right?
Tufty: It's a good spot to be in, where we are, because if people pay their $10 to see us in Berkeley they'll get their $10 worth. I feel good about it. We're not ripping anybody off.
Paul: A couple things come up when you ask that about bands from Indiana, I don't know much about who's great right now, but I do know that there are other bands from our generation--most notably Dow Jones and the Industrials...one of the best rock bands EVER, hands down.
icki: Absolutely, and Secretly Canadian/Family Vineyard is reissuing their stuff, which is severely overdue!
Paul: Eric (Weddle) is doing that on Family Vineyard. We've been digitizing all the old masters. It's going to be fucking amazing. But they're another band that has great recorded output that really needs to be heard by people. And the other thing is, when I was a kid seeing them [Dow Jones] and other bands like the Latex Novelties in a little club with like 30 other people there the week after seeing Aerosmith at Market Square Arena and realizing and saying, "Wait a minute!" This light bulb goes off that great rock 'n' roll does not have to be 200 yards away, in a giant stadium with big lights. It's in this fucking club that's falling apart! My whole world was blown open, and it just seems fitting for me to be in a band that play to a group of people, like we did last night, who know all the words and it's the same thing! There is nothing unreachable about it. It's doable by anyone.
Livin’ In the ‘80s 7" (Z-Disc, 1980; 500 pressed)
Vicious Circle LP (Nimrod, 1982; 2,000 pressed)
History Of… cassette (Affirmation, 1984)
Split 7" w/ Toxic Reasons (Selfless, 1991)
Make It Stop LP/CD (Bitzcore 1992)
Heimlich Maneuver CD (Skyclad, 1993)
Red Snerts LP (Gulcher, 1981) “New Generation”
The Master Tape I LP (Affirmation, 1982) "High Places," "Human Body," "Mom's Wallet"
The Master Tape 2 LP (Affirmation, 1983) "Black Network News," "I Need Inergy"
Faster and Louder Hardcore Punk, Vol. 2 CD (Rhino, 1993) “Civilization’s Dying”
So You Wanna Be A Rock'n'Roll Compilation? CD (Bitzcore, 1995) “Down the Drain,” “Civilization’s Dying,” “Outta Style”
Dangerously Unstable CD (Suburban Voice, 1999) “Slam and Worm”
Vicious Circle LP/CD (Toxic Shock/Fundamental, 1988 – includes six extra tracks)
Red Snerts LP/CD (Vulcher/Gulcher, 2001)
Vicious Circle LP/CD (Panic Button, 2000 - includes “Slam and Worm” and “She Said Goodbye,” from original session)
Vicious Circle LP/CD (Secretly Canadian, 2009 - same version as Panic Button release)
Blood Is Good 7" (World Greatest, 1991)
Killed By Death #4 LP/CD (Redrum, 1989/1996)
Livin’ In the ‘80s 7" (1999)
Slam and Worm/She Said Goodbye 7" (Cosmo’s Pizza, 2000) tracks from ‘82
Live at Cosmo’s 1984 (Rifleman, 2006)
Live at Pizza Castle 1981 (Gnome Park, 2009)
Zero Boys on the web here and here.
To read other interviews, go here.
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