I’ve been madly wishing that I could attend this year’s ATP since I heard that Mudhoney are curating part of it. One of my favorite announcements about it was their urging of the reformation of the old line-up of Flesh Eaters, whose record “A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die” seems to be the starting point of so much of what I listen to, both old and new.
Now, I’m madly jealous, because the folks of San Francisco (and a few other places) are getting a sneak preview as the band warms up for ATP. the SF Chronicle ran a good article today about the whole cool thing…check it out:
Back in the Flesh
Sunday, March 26, 2006<!–
now part of stylesheet
Chris D., the founder and front man of renowned Los Angeles punk band the Flesh Eaters, has always had a thing for folks who come back from the grave. The last time he was in San Francisco, in fact, was for the 2004 Another Hole in the Head horror film festival, where he was premiering a movie he wrote, “I Pass for Human,” about dead junkies hitting up old druggie friends for a posthumous fix.
D. (who never uses his full name, Desjardins) has another visit coming up — April 5 at Slim’s — and it again involves a resurrection. He’s planning to perform the Flesh Eaters’ famed 1981 album “A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die” with the lineup that recorded it and which hasn’t played together in 25 years: Dave Alvin, Bill Bateman, John Doe, DJ Bonebrake, Steve Berlin. Each of them has a thriving solo and/or band career (Blasters, X, Knitters, Los Lobos) making it a veritable L.A. punk supergroup. Their individual commitments are one reason Slim’s is one of just four shows they’ll be playing, three in California and one in England, before breaking up again.
The person behind the current revivification is Mark Arm of Mudhoney. The Seattle band was given the job of co-curating All Tomorrow’s Parties, Britain’s hippest rock festival. Arm, a big Flesh Eaters fan (Mark Lanegan of Screaming Trees is another) set about persuading Chris D to reform that particular classic lineup, as opposed to the dozen or so other Flesh Eaters rosters that have included the likes of Stan Ridgway of Wall of Voodoo, Annette Zilinskas of Blood on the Saddle and the Bangles, Jill Jordan of Castration Squad and Tito Larriva of the Plugz.
The Flesh Eaters, like their better-known counterpart, X, first formed in 1977, playing their first gig that same year at L.A. club the Masque. The music was hard and dark, with lyrics that were equal parts American junk culture and dark-night-of-the-soul blues sung in a torn-throat voice. Like a lot of the better L.A. punk bands, their sound was informed by intellect as much as primal energy.
D. is a film school graduate and was an English teacher and a regular writer for the respected punk fanzine, Slash. When Slash formed a label, he became its house producer, recording groups that included Dream Syndicate and the Gun Club, plus his own band when he wasn’t busy breaking it up. In 1984, it looked as if he’d put the Flesh Eaters to rest for good after forming a band, Divine Horsemen, with his wife, Julie Christensen.
“With the Flesh Eaters, there was always a part of me where I didn’t want to do it anymore,” he says, “because there was always too much anxiety associated with it — not about being onstage, but all the organization, making sure that everybody turns up to rehearsals and sound check — and there were always too many other things I wanted to do with my life. With Divine Horsemen, I was willing to do it 100 percent because we were really trying to do something that was accessible and yet not compromise.”
Then in 1988, when the marriage broke up, the band did, too. D. made a solo album and one with a group he called Stone by Stone, but it sounded so much like his old band that he renamed it the Flesh Eaters. Since then there have been intermittent albums and even more intermittent shows.
In 1997, after starting work on a new Flesh Eaters album, he quit to go to Tokyo on a grant from the Japan Foundation. D., who had taken a job at the American Cinematheque as a film programmer, was working on an encyclopedia of Japanese extreme cinema — a huge opus still in the making. Meanwhile, a shorter book, “Outlaw Masters of Japanese Film,” containing interviews with Japanese directors and actors, was published last year.
D. also was writing horror films, including his directorial debut, “I Pass for Human.” It was produced by his then-girlfriend Lynne Margulies, who made the 1999 documentary “Andy Kaufman’s Really Big Show.” The “Human” soundtrack includes songs that appeared on the last Flesh Eaters album, 2004’s “Miss Muerte,” plus music by Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, Lydia Lunch and others. Once D. gets clearance from all the musicians involved, he’s planning to release the movie on DVD.
As for the latest Flesh Eaters reunion, D. says there hasn’t been much time for rehearsals. But he’s not worried. “Everybody is such a pro — they always were, even 25 years ago — and everything was so easy. I know these guys are going to come in there and it’ll fall into place really quickly.”
As for the guy who might be punk’s most reluctant front man: “I haven’t been singing live lately,” D. says, “so I’ve really been singing a lot in the car to all the songs we’re going to do.”
So if you happened to be stuck on Hollywood Boulevard and find yourself next to a car in which a dark-haired, solemn-faced 50-ish guy is roaring “See You in the Boneyard” at the top of his lungs, you’ll know who it is.
THE FLESH EATERS: 9 p.m. April 5 at Slim’s, 333 11th St., San Francisco. Tickets $15. (415) 255-0333, www.slims-sf.com.