INTERVIEW: The Vandals
Are the Vandals A Punk Band?
By: Robert R. Yates
Are the Vandals a punk band? This question is often asked of the group that started out as a joke in the early days of Huntington Beach punk rock scene and has since grown to be perhaps the biggest un-signed band ever, and certainly one of the largest draws in L.A. today. These are not the achievements of a punk band. However, the stigma of being a punk band will probably stay with the Vandals for quite some time, no matter how much they prove themselves. The band has achieved airplay and record sales that provoke jealousy from bands on major labels. We caught up with the Vandals at one of their stops on the Vans Warped Tour 2001.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: So how is the tour going for you guys so far?
Vandals: The tour has been great, we have been going at it for a while though. We brought a canoe with us this time so when ever we see the water we just jump right in. It's funny you would think that we would be hanging out and watching all the bands but we would rather be in the canoe than watching the show.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: Has there been any trouble with the tour so far?
Vandals: There have been a few fights here and there, the guys from "Alien Ant Farm" got into a huge fight and broke up and left the tour, But they got back together and are with the tour again. It is kind of funny as they came back they got into a brawl with the guys from "H20". I came off the bus one day and "Henry Rollins" and the guys from "Rancid" almost came to blows but that got settled and they get along now. But the biggest fight of tour was between "D12" and "Esham", it was really bloody, both of those bands were removed from the tour. Everyone pretty much gets along but the tour is like 7 weeks and just like anywhere if you are with a person for too long something is bound to happen.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: What are your plans for after the tour?
Vandals: We get to go home for one day then we fly out to Europe for 10 days to do some shows with Less Than Jake and the Ataris.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: How long has the band been together?
VANDALS: This version of the band has been together since 1989. Before that there were many different members. We have made a lot changes throughout the years. Dave joined in 1985, Warren in 1987, Josh in 1989. The very first Vandals show was probably in 1981. We all hate each other but get along very well. It is one of those" Love to Hate" relationships.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: Where are your old band members now?
VANDALS: There were quite a few different members. Doug MacKinnon lives in Miami or South America or something. Jan lives in O.C. and works for a high profile law enforcement agency. Stevo lives on Maui and is a masseuse; he has no desire to sing again. Chalmer lives in Corona, California and is in construction and still has his Vandals tattoo. Steve (Human) is M.I.A. People like Steve Gonzales and Vince Mesa - we have no idea. We really do not keep in contact that much with the old members.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: I have noticed that you seem to have a lot of different drummers, who is the original Vandals drummer?
Vandals: Josh Freese. Unfortunately his day job is being a professional drummer. Often this prevents him from being able to tour with us much in the same that anyone's day job would hamper their punk band. Here is a list of our current rotation of substitutes:
1. Brooks Wackerman
2. Adrian Young
3. Derek Grant
4. Chris Lagerborg
5. Ty Smith
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: Is Josh Freese in Guns n' Roses?
Vandals: He was, but left to play with A Perfect Circle. He's also the current drummer for DEVO.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: Who put out your first record?
Vandals: We were the first band signed to Bad Religion's label, Epitaph Records. They released our first E.P., "Peace Thru Vandalism"; Thom Wilson produced it in 1982. In 1995, "Peace Thru Vandalism" and "When in Rome Do As The Vandals" were reissued through Time Bomb Recordings. They put both complete records on one CD. In 1997 we released "The Quickening" on the Offspring front man Dexter Holland's Nitro Records. We now have our own label Kung Fu records.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: Who is on your label?
Vandals: We have the "Ataris", "Useless Id", "Anti-freeze", "M.I.6.", "Ozma", "Audioparady", And of course our stuff.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: How did you get on the X-Files?
Vandals: Chris Carter, the creator of the X-Files is a long time punk fan and a friend of Joe Escalante's. He called Joe one day and said he had an idea for an episode about a kid who is a Vandals fan and he can harness lightning to cause bad things to happen. The episode came out perfect and we are very proud of it. It has turned a lot of people onto the Vandals and vice versa. The episode is called D.P.O.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: I heard that you are doing your own TV show?
Vandals: Yeah, it is called "FEAR OF A PUNK PLANET, The TV Series" It is about four punkers who run a non profit club. In the meantime we are planning to release the finished episodes on video cassette. You can find that tape at our online store or at a video retailer near you.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: Have you guys ever done any movies?
Vandals: We did our own movie "That Darn Punk" we did a Celine Dion cover of "My Heart Will Go On" for the soundtrack only. Joe and Warren are hard at work on their second film "Selwyn's Nuts", it is going to star Warren and directed and shot by Joe. We were also in the movies Suburbia and Dudes.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: How did you get involved in those movies?
Vandals: We were voted in by cast of Suburbia, and written into the script of Dudes by its writer, Randall Johnson.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: You guys are on a few soundtracks as well?
Vandals: We recently recorded a version of Foreigner's "Dirty White Boy" for the "Mr. Show Movie" featuring Saturday Night Live/HBO's Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, and Mandy Patankin. This is the second cover tune we did for a movie. We also did "Evil Woman" for the film Saving Silverman. And recorded the title song for the USA Network's "Beer Money" starring Zack from Saved by the Bell (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) and the entire movie is filled to the rim with other Kung Fu music.
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: Do one of your members have his own Law Firm?
Vandals: It is true that Joe Escalante is an attorney (California) and a has a small law firm, with partners Anita Rivas (California) and Keith Walner (California & Illinois), that specializes in Entertainment Law and related issues. (Everyone needs a day job!) If you need representation, contact Anita Rivas at [email protected].
IN MUSIC WE TRUST: I've heard rumors of a punk rock golf magazine, what is this all about?
Vandals: We are involved with a new magazine called Schwing! It is a golf mag for punkers and people who like golf but are intimidated by the country club world. Snowboard, skate, and surf mags were interviewing us. We were a little embarrassed that we don't snowboard and don't skate a lot. But We love to golf! We told them to start a golf magazine and they'd have a much better interview from us. They wouldn't so I did.
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