The Seldom Told Secret History Of Power Pop Greats Saints In Vain, Bang Bang Sattelite, A Streetcar Named Disaster, Ill-Starred, China Stars, and Gutter Saints!
“Hello Hooray Let the show begin
I’ve been ready
Hello Hooray Let the lights grow Dim
I’ve been ready
Ready as this audience that’s coming here to dream
Loving every second, every moment, every scream
I’ve been waiting so long to sing my song
And I’ve been waiting so long for this thing to come
Yeah I’ve been thinking so long I was the only one
Roll out Roll out with your American dream and its recruits
I’ve been ready
Roll out Roll out with your circus freaks and hula hoops
I’ve been ready…” (-Alice Cooper)
“On the road to rock ‘n’ roll
Everybody carries a good luck charm
Said to spook the highway wind
Blowing off old Parchman farm
On the road to rock ‘n’ roll
They’ll try to hook you by the eye
There’s a mirror in your soul
You should turn it to the sky
On the road to rock ‘n’ roll
The lonely sing a soulful song
Leave a little light in the wilderness
For somebody to come upon…” (-Joe Strummer)
“Libraries gave us power
Then work came and made us free
What price now for a shallow piece of dignity
I wish I had a bottle
Right here in my dirty face to wear the scars
To show from where I came
We don’t talk about love we only want to get drunk
And we are not allowed to spend
As we are told that this is the end” (-Manic Street Preachers)
“Max was my idol when I was a teenager and into my 20’s. I wanted to be like him, to think like him and most of all, write like him. He’ s only a couple of years older than me but there was a clear mentor thing going on from the first time I ever talked to him.
I’ve ripped off Max’s songs just as many times as those of Ian Hunter, Jonathan Daniel, Rick Springfield or anybody. Not because I wanted to steal from him, but because those songs he wrote were as integral to me learning how to write as any of my other influences. They just became part of the language I use when I write.
He probably doesn’t know it or care, but he’ll always be a big influence on whatever I do. When I met him I was a young, extremely sheltered and naive embryo. Max and Frank were so much more worldly wise (or better at faking it than I was), and I thought everything they did and said and drank and wore was just the coolest. It was a formative time for me and those jerks did the forming. All that was over 20 years ago (!), and I’m still out there chasing the next song. If it weren’t for Max I wouldn’t even know how to do that.”
WHATEVER HAPPENED TO FUN?
By now, anyone who ever loved the Beat, Flamin’ Groovies, the Plimsouls, Buzzcocks, the Shoes, or 20/20 is already bananas for America’s best current day power-pop sensations, Seattle’s own Cheap Cassettes, while all the black-haired, silken scarf draped, winklepicker clad, makeup wearing glam brats drink their whiskey to the soulful sounds of NYC’s sleazy young starlets, the Sweet Things, but today, I wanna take you back in time to the late eighties, and early nineties, before Dr. Boogie, or the Cute Lepers, the Star Spangles, the Soda Pop Kids, the Loyalties, Red Invasion, the Briefs, and Exploding Hearts, before American Heartbreak, even back past Charles Matthews (Cheap Cassettes) and Lorne Behrman’s (Sweet Things) own wildly influential, stylish glamour pop rebellion, DIMESTORE HALOES.
Today we’re gonna explore the history of STREETCAR NAMED DISASTER, Chaz Halo’s cool as fuck Manic Street Preachers influenced band, PRE Dimestore Haloes. That group made a really cool, D.I.Y. only, cassette release in the early nineties that was deeply appreciated by loads of old bubbleglam and power pop stompers who formed bands, started labels and magazines, and probably, directly or indirectly, influenced many of the best underground glitter gangs who rose outta the gutter over the course of these last twenty five years. Chaz Halo, Bill LaPlant, Frank and Max O’Donnal co-starred in BANG BANG SATTELITE who evolved into STREETCAR NAMED DISASTER. Because their album never saw an official release on an actual cd or record label, they never got the recognition they deserved beyond the greater Boston area, or the readership of a couple of old fanzines, so I decided to track down songwriter, Max O’Donnal to get the inside story about his colorful music history. I haven’t seen him in many years, but I always felt somehow related to that character, to all those old dudes, in spite of some sibling rivalries we may have had, over which one of us really loved CANDY the most, or whatever.
So allow me to reminisce for a moment, here. Max and Frank got me into Mott The Hoople. They wrote for my adolescent fanzines-sparkling pieces about Mott and Alice. They were twin towers of irreverent comic genius, self deprecating humor, catchy classic tunes, descriptive lyrics, Alfred E. Neuman ties, cool shoes, cold bottles of Thunderbird wine, and they were loyal, sincere, good humored, reliable pals. Diamond gents. Sometimes, I was closer to Max, sometimes I was closer with Frank, but I knew I could call them in any state of usually inebriated, tearful disrepair and always ended up guffawing with hysterical gusto about our common childhood dilemmas, as they could always effectively and efficiently pinpoint the rip-snorting comedy in all of our shared pains and frustrations, girl problems, band problems, employment problems, drinking problems, janitorial and telemarketing problems, and I always knew they would fix me, if they only could. Caring, generous, remarkable, empathetic, talented dudes.
Max was a heavenly songwriter like Tony James or Mick Jones. A punk rock Eric Carmen. Their Rodney Dangerfield one liners and effortlessly romantic Ian Hunter, Sharks Versus Jets, cinematic sensibility always made me smile and ya know I am not a big smiler. They seemed to excel at drive-in sized movie screen, panoramic magnificence on a budget. Their complete unknown suburban bands were always extraordinarily cool, with some tremendous songwriting and dashing style and insolent, sneering personality. We had plenty in common, me and those boys-we did not really know our dads, we were raised for a lot of our lives by small-town grandmothers, we were mocked and tortured by douchebag jocks and popular rich kids for being rocknroll weirdos at school, at least I was, and we took refuge in old magazines and movies and record albums and cassettes. They taught me a lot-particularly about seventies pop and skinny tied bubblegum anthems, which I desperately needed to know. I vaguely recall owning a rock trivia game in a pink box and Frank always winning, whenever they visited my old pad to plot and drink and listen to our Dave Kusworth and Nikki Sudden records underneath the big Waterboys poster. We endeavored to forge a band together inspired by our common love for Candy, Generation X, Hanoi Rocks, and the Stiv Bators “Disconnected” record, but I was in perpetual crisis back then, and we just were unable to make it happen. I was drinking a lot and won’t bore you with the gory details, believe it or not, this is the heavily redacted version, but they went on to form some of the coolest bands I ever heard, that not nearly enough people were ever that hip to. I first met them a long, long, long time ago, it’s all a bit hazy, now, but they were both really supercool and turned me on to so much fabulous music. I mean, I got “New Art Riot” the day it came out, but was not that into it. They were really responsible for nagging me into spending quality time with “Stay Beautiful” which totally found me drinking in an unguarded moment and spoke to me in the language of dandies and dissidents. My famous old friend the music journalist has joked that the Manic Street Preachers were the last new band I was really into, and he is not wrong.
At some point in the blurred crusade, I luckily met these similarly cursed O’Donnal brothers from a small-town like forty five minutes from Boston, and we would spend hundreds and hundreds of long distance bill hours on the phone together, exchanging ideas, comparing notes about our favorite comic books and monster movies, cracking wise about all the seventies bands we read about in old Rockscenes and Creems, designing band logos for our stickers and t shirts, and planning our glammy next rock group. I was thankful I never had to spoon feed them, or send them home to study my MC5 and Deadboys and Lords Of the New Church records. They already knew all about punk rock and vintage power pop, even like, obscure stuff, like Silverhead and Hollwood Brats and Tygers of Pan Tang and Thin Lizzy and lotsa shit I was not that hip to, in spite of all my many years of wearying record store jobs. This was pre-internet, when we really had to dig for any of it. They were both extremely smart and funny. I thought I knew a lot about rocknroll, until I met these geezers. They dressed like the Dogs D’Amour, string ties and polka dots, they played bass and drums. I wanted to use my own homegrown guitarists in our new band, but they were, by now, sadly always marked absent-everybody got distracted by a big city bevy of bombshells at local divebars Manray, the Rat, or the Middle East, besides, the O’Donnals had a guitarist in the suburbs, already. I remember going to visit them, but absolutely could not stand being unable to drink or smoke at their grandma’s place, it sounds crazy now, but back then, I simply could not go even one, let alone, two or three days, without drinking and smoking. Birds fly. We continued talking on the phone for hundreds of hours about the imaginary rock group we were making together, shared such a lot of laughs and laughs. Sadly, that’s about as far as it got, for me, anyways, though I always kept on trying to form more cursed, poisoned, and condemned drunk rocker bands, and failing profoundly, again and again, but I always carried those cats in my heart and missed their humor, working class dignity, kindness, compassion, and camaraderie, we were kindred spirits.
They wrote fantastic songs of intimacy and inspiration about fireworks and backporches and milkshakes and railroad tracks. Always figured they’d find their own Kyle Vincent/Robin Zander guy and get rich and famous, but it was not to be. I think it was the Replacements and Dramarama who made some of us misguided record store laboring dreamers believe underage boozer custodians in dresses and cowboy boots could get signed to major label recording contracts based on our ramshackle and infrequent house shows with temporary drummers by writing heartfelt lyrics about teenage rebellion and the various femme fatales we loved. Some of us confused being pretty good songwriters with having any faint potential at someday, someway, eeking out an honest living with a sloppy, mad dash, glam gang. We saw bands like Birdland and Hello Disaster and the Love Reaction and the Beat Angels who were all, at least, almost, sort of doing it. The London Quireboys and Dogs D’Amour had done it. The Beasts Of Bourbon‘s “Low Road” played around the clock in my basement hideout. We all felt a lot of solidarity with Manic Street Preachers. The O’Donnals did end up making some really impeccable and magical and promising and memorable music, not with me, but with the very talented and cool looking, glitter punk/rockabilly heart throb, Chaz Halo, I’m always mildly embarrassed to remember being really unreasonably envious of that cat’s mysterious power to achieve all that eluded me so punishingly in my booze sodden twenties. Let the permanent record show that I had totally underestimated that dude’s sincerity and talent and wish we had hungout more, and salute him heartily for his songwriting, style, stamina, and longevity. I probably just hated him for having perfect Chris Isaak hair. I hated everybody, back then. Everytime you see his picture, you wanna get a cool Clash haircut and some Murray’s pomade, admit it, am I right? We were longtime pen-pals from way back, there was always a spark of recognition between us, but we kinda maybe competed a little bit in the early daze, perhaps primarily, for Frank and Max’s attentions. We were both scrappy Midwesterners, we both had fanzines, we were both writer/lyricist frontmen with many of the same influences, and while we both took turns conspiring to break into the record biz with Max and Frank, plotting world domination, as they say, there were some silly tensions, some misunderstandings, and outright slagging on my part, but I apologized profusely to him upon sobering up, ten or sixteen years ago, and like to think he understands, I think he gets me. We are alike in many ways. We gradually became distant friends bound by a common empathy, and I also corresponded quite a bit with his dearly departed drummer, Jimmy Reject-another sensitive, rebellious, like minded, much missed, fellow traveler, and I came to see what all the fuss was about, and remain a fan of his very smart and lyrical, glistening pop hits, very much in the same spirit as Candy, Beat Angels, Max and Frank, all the great bands from our long lost youth.
Check out his new band, Cheap Cassettes from Seattle. They are very good. https://www.facebook.com/cheapcassettes Like I already said, they are probably the best American contemporary pop-rock group, alongside my other contemporary faves, Dr. Boogie, and the Sweet Things, who also feature a very charming and likeable former Dimestore Halo, Lorne Behrman. One thing I always admired about those guys from A Streetcar Named Disaster is how they all kept on creating music with ridiculously limited resources and always sortof persevered and kept working and remained true to themselves, even when the world would not listen. I still have gratitude, warm memories, and sentimental attachment to all those creative and funny and similarly Clash obsessed characters from the long gone past, here in my convalescent, arthritic, elderly years, it was unforgettable fun when we were the scruffy alleycats going to shows and wearing all the things that nobody wears, in our bullet-proof twenties. I still listen to all their old music, our paths have not crossed in years, but I always smile when I remember. The very prolific and insightful and witty and brilliantly talented and clever O’Donnals went on to create even more high quality original music with some other bands, like Ill-Starred and Gutter Saints, later on, and I tried following their various groups progress from afar, via the internet, but I wanted to know more about them and I have every faith that you do, too, so we’re takin’ a demolition joyride through the memory gutter. I fondly remember seeing them play with Chaz at some suburban bowling alley when they were called A Streetcar Named Disaster, way before the ascent of Dimestore Haloes. Chaz was very commanding as a Stiv or Lux-like frontman and the O’Donnals looked every bit as dapper as the Heartbreakers Rath and Thunders and Nolan and Lure, and while rummaging through some old boxes I found in my mom’s attic, I remembered how important they all were to myself and our once tiny, tiny circle of outcast, wayward NY Dolls and Manic Street Preachers kids, a luckless lot of bubblegum chewing goths, death rock queens, damaged hick glamour brats, shamelessly aggressive metal-heads, cable access kingpins, doomed poets, needy temptresses, melancholy wallflowers, young Wayne Kramer lookalike guitarists on their way to med-school, chain smoking powerhouse intellectual writer/bassists with awesome detective hair, cowpunk sax players, and forlorn, fanzine makers. Max was always a songwriter’s songwriter. Frank was a suburban Jerry Nolan with a dark, scathing wit like Don Rickles. So I belabored Max with a bunch of questions about our wild wild youth….If you were there, this is my rocknroll love letter to you.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: Describe the early years, Saturday morning, the seventies, radio, toys, early passions, locale, family life, school, did you guys have a bunk bed, what cereals did you prefer, movies, music, when did you finally get cable, how were you impacted by MTV?
MAX O’DONNAL: I’ll likely use the word “we” a lot, as opposed to “I”, which refers to my brother Frank in most instances.
Saturday mornings usually consisted of Sid & Marty Krofft shows like H.R. Pufnstuf, Land Of The Lost, Far Out Space Nuts & my favorite, Sigmund & The Sea Monsters. That was in Massachusetts. We briefly moved to California, for around a year or so in 1st grade, & at that time, Shazam was the shit. Also, the Planet Of The Apes prime time tv show started, & that’s always been huge with us.No bunk beds, cereal was standard Frosted Flakes, Capn’ Crunch, etc. Quisp was around at the time & we loved that, & for some reason, Cheerios absolutely doused with massive amounts of sugar. My Grandmother raised us, & sugar was not a negative at all with her. She had some old school weird food combinations that she introduced us to & it usually included lots of sugar. Bananas or bread cut up, in milk with sugar added was something we had quite a bit. Always a bowl of sugar on the table. No wonder I’ve been hopelessly addicted to Mountain Dew since I was like 15.
TV before school was mostly Danger Mouse, Mighty Mouse, & a fantastic cartoon called The Mighty Heroes, which featured Diaper Man, a baby that shot formula at villains from his bottle. Also, in Massachusetts, we had The Willy Whistle show, which was a clown named Willy Whistle that didn’t talk, just used facial expressions & a whistle to communicate between cartoons. Re-runs of The Beatles cartoons were part of that show too. Afternoons after school would be the Hanna Barbara stuff like Banana Splits, The Three Musketeers & Gulliver’s Travels. Then like Magilla Gorilla, Grape Ape, SnagglePuss, etc. Later on, the Luke & Laura/Cassadine era General Hospital was a big thing.
Prime Time stuff was Starsky & Hutch, Star Trek, Space 1999, Happy Days, Barney Miller, Welcome Back Kotter, Laverne & Shirley, Emergency, etc.
We had all the toys, action figures, Kirk, Spock, Johnny Gage, Roy DeSoto, Fonzie with the poseable thumb, Emergency Fire Helmets, Engine 51!
I remember getting these cheap knock off Star Trek wannabes called Beam Guns. Just a step above water pistols, but the fact they said Beam on them, I thought they could really Beam us somewhere. We got home & I went upstairs to my room, ripped it out of the package, held it over my head & pulled the trigger thinking it’d beam me somewhere else like on the show. My disappointment was great.
The first music we got into, before radio or anything, was actually The Beatles. Saturday afternoons were reserved for Creature Double Feature on Channel 56. Godzilla, Creature From The Black Lagoon, Rodan, I Was A Teenage Werewolf, etc. Horror movies have been an obsession all our lives. I remember getting & reading Famous Monsters from the drug store while waiting for my Grandmother getting her hair done.
Our Grandmother would visit her sister & we’d have to go, but there was nothing for us to do, so we’d go up to our cousins’ room & root through her records. Mostly 45’s of the day, like Billy Joel‘s It’s Still Rock N Roll To Me, or Juice Newton & shit, but she DID have Meet The Beatles.
We just decided after awhile we wanted to hear more Beatles stuff. We were around 13, & for pretty much the next year & a half, all we did was buy & listen to Beatles records. The only other record we had was a compilation album called Fonzie’s Favorites, which was amazing. Great Balls Of Fire, Tears On My Pillow, Splish Splash, Silhouettes,etc. & of course, Rock Around The Clock. That record & That steady year or so of The Beatles soaked in & our young minds were locked on that, probably our now old minds still are. We never had much time for anything without big hooks.
Going to the movies, the first one I remember was going to seethe Star Trek movie, Star Wars, then like E.T. with my 7th grade class. Then stuff like Friday The 13th 3 in 3D, Jaws 3 in 3D, Grease,& for some reason, 1941 with John Belushi. We saw that one at least 3 times. These weren’t appropriate movies for our age, but our grandmother didn’t seem to care, she knew the guy that ran one of the theatres in town, & it was in walking distance from our house, so she’d just call him up & let him know we were coming. I guess she settled up with him later. Small town, everyone knew everyone or more likely, was related somehow. Dana Gould was from the town next door, & worked at this theatre.
MTV changed everything. We had a friend that had a girlfriend whose family had cable. None of us did, so we’d tag along with him to her house everyday while her parents were at work to watch MTV while they fooled around upstairs. You couldn’t explain the impact it had correctly to someone that wasn’t there. MTV, I mean.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: What made you first start playing instruments? Did you go to roller-skating rinks? I ask, because I remember you liking Queen and that’s what they played at the roller-skating rink where I came from. I got beat up there by some guy named Paul, fists of fury, they just kept pummeling me, right right left left, left right left, ha. I remember you lads liking heavy metal, new wave, rockabilly, goth, bubblegum, seventies arena rock, old glam, how did you access music and information about your fave bands back then, where you lived? What were your earliest bands called, who was in them, and where are they now? How did you first get hipped to London based bands like Hanoi Rocks and Lords Of The New Church?
MAX O’DONNAL: I suppose we were around 15 when we started playing. I started on bass because of Nikki Sixx. Too Fast For Love was just out, & there were ads for it in Hit Parader that said it included the hits Live Wire, Piece Of Your Action & Take Me To The Top. They looked great, & we wanted to hear them, but that record wasn’t in any stores in Milford, Mass. So Frank called one of local stations, WBCN or WAAF, & requested Live Wire. Just to hear what they sounded like. There was also a blurb in Circus magazine with a little picture, the one on the inside of TFFL, that said they looked like KISS & sounded like Van Halen. So we sat there & listened with the tape deck ready to record. The song came on eventually, & we were pretty sure it was them when the riff started, so we pressed record, but had to wait until we actually heard the words Live Wire to be sure.
Not long after, Hit Parader used to have a one page spread called Roots, which gave the back story to member of whatever band.
They did one on Nikki Sixx, & besides liking the music, I connected with the fact he was raised by his Grandmother, his father didn’t give a shit about him, & while he wasn’t born in California, he lived there. I had too, & was actually born there. I picked bass & wanted to be that guy instead of the picked on loser I was to everyone else. If he could, I might be able to. Any band he mentioned as an influence, I went & got their records. And actually wound up loving most of them more than Motley, like Sweet & The Dolls. Of course, in those days, we lived & died by Circus & Hit Parader. Creem to a lesser degree because the snarkiness got a bit old when it came to bands we liked. You could get those at Store 24, Cumberland Farms,(Cumbies to the locals), K Mart, & the local paraphernalia/rock poster/knock off Zeppelin & Ozzy concert baseball jerseys store in Milford called Joke & Smoke. They sold some dime store joke stuff, but leaned WAY more towards the smoke stuff.
Kerrang came later, & that was pretty much the ONLY access we had to music/bands. Kerrang was definitely the first place we saw Hanoi & The Lords featured. We got a subscription for that mag.
Yeah, we were in walking distance of the Skate Palace in Milford, where of course, every kid hung out to try to get boyfriends or girlfriends.
I’m not gonna say shit like hook up or try to get laid because it was just a little more old fashioned & innocent, for me anyway. I suppose that was the Happy Days influence. Pizza, Milkshakes& Holding Hands were part of it.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: I recall you cats penning really fabulous fanzine tributes to Alice Cooper and the Stray Cats. Do you still write music reviews online or anything?
MAX O’DONNAL: Neither of us write that kind of stuff anymore. It was fun to do with likeminded, good people like you. It was more a communal thing for me I think.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: How were you influenced by SNL, SCTV, Mad magazine, Kids In The Hall and other pop trash? What are some of your guilty pleasures? Do you remember Cracked? Foom?
MAX O’DONNAL: We did like Cracked & Mad when we were kids, not in like teenage years. Music & girls were pretty much it for quite awhile there.
TV humore was MUCH bigger with us, SNL & especially Kids In The Hall. Those are still shows we quote from all the time. especially obscure stuff that most would never remember. Even my kids have heard me say stuff over the years, & if I can find it online, I’ll show them where it came from.
Favorite obscure SNL character: George Clooney as Cameron Hormel in the skit Tales Of Malfeasance In Railroad Hiring Practices. https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/tales-of-fraud/2870381
Favorite Kids In The Hall Skit: Girl Drink Drunk
DARKSTAR GENERAL: How did you first meet Chaz? Wasn’t he in Creem magazine? He lived in your grandma’s basement? Being Ma based, did you feel any connection at all to the Boston punk scene? Ever have a ska phase? Saints In Vain, I remember featured a good guitarist named Bill, what happened to him, did Chaz play much guitar back then?
MAX O’DONNAL: He was in Creem, he’s from Michigan, & Creem was a Michigan based magazine, & I believe his band at the time knew where a writer lived & dropped a demo in his mailbox? Something like that. They were teenagers at the time, & they got their picture & a review. This would’ve been 1988? The writer mentioned The Raspberries in the review, & that caught my attention. I was in Massachusetts, yeah,& I can’t remember if I got in touch with hime directly or if my friend Glenn did. Glenn loves the same stuff as us & he became good friends with him too. I knew I wanted to be in a band with him, but we just talked on the phone & wrote letter & such, just kind of supporting each others bands. Kindred spirits & all. Over the course of a couple years, he did wind up moving to Massachusetts & living in my Grandmothers basement. Frank & I lived there, too, & there were 2 apartments upstairs she rented out, & our eventual guitar player, Norman Kee, lived in one of them. We rehearsed in the basement, too, so it was pretty self contained for awhile there. That would have been Transylvania Saints. Norman was ridiculously cool. He looked like a cross between Billy Duffy& Robin Zander, dressed like one of the English Stones wannabes we saw in Kerrang at the time, & had a pink SG. He taught us a lot about rock n roll.
No, I didn’t pay attention to the punk bands in Boston. At that time, I viewed Boston as collegy, artsy, namby pamby. I was more into Dogs D’Amour, Faster Pussycat. No Ska at all, I can’t relate.Transylvania Saints became Saints In Vain, then Chaz left to go back to Michigan, & we went to a more Throbs/Lords Of The New Church thing with that lineup. We were more like the Dogs D’Amour with Chaz. Bill LaPlant was the guitarist in Saints In Vain, & he was sloppy but great. Fit perfectly, & really went for the Brian James Lords era sound. He teaches now & goes by the name Billy Lightning when he plays now. He’s in a few projects last I knew. Chaz only played guitar at 2 shows from what I remember. At one of those shows, at Narcissus in Boston, we’d borrowed a black beauty Les Paul from a guy that played guitar with us briefly so Chaz could play some, & we wound up forgetting all about it & leaving it behind at the club. Somebody hit the jackpot that night with that freebie.
He, Frank & I did a thing a few years ago called The China Stars. I had some songs I liked, some old some newer, & Frank & I recorded our stuff here in South Carolina, & he added guitars & his vocals in Seattle. The studio here in SC sucked, & I hate my voice on it, but he sounds great.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: I know you were mentored and encouraged a bit by Johnathan Daniel way back when, for your formidable songwriting ability-how did you first get in contact with him pre-internet? Didn’t he give you some advice about hairspray? What was your local record store? When did you first discover Candy? Were you already into the Babys? Raspberries? Tell me how Candy affected you as a kid.
MAX O’DONNAL: Our local record chain was Strawberries. In Milford, we just had K Mart, Two Guys, that kind of store with a record section. A used record shop/Comic Store opened later which was cool, but Strawberries in Framingham was the big deal. Saw KISS on the Creatures Of The Night tour do an in store there. Everybody asking who Vinny Vincent was because nobody knew Ace was out. Weirdly, Strawberries wound up moving their warehouse operations from somewhere in NY to Milford, of all places. We all wound up getting jobs there, & in fact, that’s where we met Norman. I was in the Returns department,& he had moved from NY with the company to run one of the departments upstairs. 2 bizarre moments from those days. Morris Levy owned the Strawberries chain, & as most know, was a mobster. He sued John Lennon for using a line in a Chuck Berry song he owned the publishing on, & settled with him to record 3 songs he owned on Rock & Roll. He was in the process of selling the chain, & was in Milford at the warehouse looking at diferent areas as they unpacked, & was in Normans section. Now, Norman didn’t know who Levy was, so he came over & started yeslling at him to not touch anything & get the hell out of his department, thinking it was just some guy poking around. Now who did Levy sell the company to? A wealthy RCA executive in Southern California who flew in to Milford to speak directly after taking charge. His name was Jose Menendez. You’ll recall his name as he & his wife were murdered by their sons Erik & Lyle to inherit the family fortune.
I loved “Whatever Happened To Fun” , such a great record, & they really should have been a huge band, probably only long enough to get kids to spend millions on lunch boxes, poster sets & bubble gum cards, but that really was the point anyway. The songs weren’t simply disposable fun for teenagers of the day, they were perfect pop songs with lyrics, for a guy that young to write, that are still & will always be relevant. Innocent to a fault maybe, but at least I could completely relate to every word. Jonathan always talked about getting rich, that was the goal, & eventually he did it as a mogul. But he meant what he wrote. He put up a front like all of us in bands do to a degree, maybe even a very large degree, but he loved music & bands & all the peripheral rock star stuff that starts pure & innocent when we’re kids. We all learn with age how the machine really works, at least enough to realize we’re never going to be what we wanted. Not even close. He was just smart enough to get on the other side of it & not let it leave a permanent boot mark on his face, which is what happens to most of the rest of us.
Yes, we already like the Babys & The Raspberries. The Jimmy Ienner/Wally Bryson inclusion on Whatever Happened To Fun was one of the things we loved about it. We got it at that used record shop that opened in Milford I mentioned earlier. 2 copies were there. The one we bought skipped, so we went back to get the other ones as well, & of course, it skipped to. I did some tape trading back in those days with a kid form Connecticut I met at a KISS convention. They used to put them on in hotels in Massachusetts & Rhode Island all the time in the mid to late 80’s. Bootleg concert tapes videos, demos, used records, of all bands from that era, not just KISS, were readily available. He had a little cassette tape set up, mostly KISS & Poison, but he also had a Candy show from Madame Wongs in LA. I got the idea to call that club & ask if there was anyone there who knew how I could get in touch with Jonathan Daniel from Candy. As it happens, he booked bands for them, & I got him that way. We talked a bunch of times on the phone & sent letters sometimes. The hairspray thing you mentioned was something he closed a letter with once. “Remember, the bigger the hair, the bigger the paycheck”. A couple other endings I remember were “Stay Forever Young”, which was a lyric from Electric Nights, & “Runnin’ With The Boss Sound”. we were both big Gen. X guys.
I sent him demos of the bands I had at the time. He was very tolerant, the quality was for shit, & we weren’t the best players or singers, but he could surely see what a big influence he was on my songwriting, so he always shot straight & made suggestions. He told me if we could rent studio time in NY he’d produce us. This was Bang Bang Satellite, which Chaz moved back to Massachusetts to be in. But we, as my grandmother used to say, didn’t have a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of. I wanted my stuff to be as catchy as his & the lyrics to not be typical or obvious, also like his. Of course, we also loved a lot of the same writers, Ian Hunter being a MAJOR one.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: What were some of the most memorable live rock shows you ever saw?
MAX O’DONNAL: First show we went to as 15 year olds was Judas Priest with Iron Maiden opening. During the song Iron Maiden, of course, they have the giant zombie mascot lumber out on the stage while they play, dry ice, smoke bombs….it ruined us for life. You don’t ever really get over it after your first big rock show. KISS on the Creatures Of The Night was next, they were still in make up with a tank as a stage set with the drum riser on the moving tank turret that shot smoke at the crowd as it spun from side to side. Gene did the blood thing….again, ruined us forever. We also saw Cheap Trick & Twisted Sister in New Hamphire, Aerosmith at their first shows back together with Joe Perry. They actually rehearsed at that time 20 minutes from our house, at the same place my wedding reception was years later. Glen Ellen Country Club. Perry is from our area, same town my wife is from, Hopedale. My mother in law baby sat him before. I did get to see Hanoi Rocks at the Paradise in Boston a few weeks before Razzle got killed. We saw the Dogs D’Amour at the Channel, Ian Hunter & Mick Ronson, too. I saw Del Amitri at some little club in Rhode Island I cant remember the name of. Oh yeah, 2 that prove what a couple of gaybos Fran & I are.
When Dirty Dancing was a hit movie, Eric Carmen had a hit song on the soundtrack album, Hungry Eyes. Awful song, he didn’t write it, & I have no idea why he was picked to sing someone elses song, since he had legitimate hits of his ow, but it wound up working out great for us.
The powers that be put together a money grab concert tour featuring some of the artists on the album, & he was included. We were the only 2 males I saw the whole night…all moms & daughters looking at us sideways. And rightfully so. He came out with the opening riff to The Raspberries Go All The Way, & at that point, Frank & I were easily the biggest girls in the arena. He also played Tonight, Ecstacy, & of course, his solo hit All By Myself.
Probably around 91, Rick Springfield started touring around for no particular reason, he didn’t have a deal or a new record or anything, but he had a show at Lupos is Providence. Frank & I drove in around lunch time to see poke around outside the club & see if we could see or hear anything. We stood at the front door in time enough to hear him sound check Kristina off Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet. We were giddy.
When it was obvious the sound check was over, we decided to go find a bar or something to hang out in until show time, so we walked around the side of the club, & a door was wide open, & we looked in & there he was, just sitting there at the bar looking out at us.
We signaled to him, & he came out & shot the shit with us a few minutes. I don’t remember a word, I’m sure I asked about songs in the set or something, but he was super nice.
He went back inside, & again, 2 gaybos floating on air down the streets of Providence.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: As a prolific writer of vivid and memorable pop tunes, who are some of your biggest musical influences? I recall us bonding early on over our mutual appreciation for quality pop compositions that weren’t always considered hip or cool, stuff like Rick Springfield, Def Leppard, 38 Special. Was high school absolute hell where you lived, or were you able to fit in somewhat? Any baseball stories? Did you ever go to summer camp? Did you ever go to college?
MAX O’DONNAL: I loved Def Leppard, High & Dry & Pyromania are great fucking records. 38 Special too. They had the best singles & videos. Jeff Carlisi is still one of the best guitarists I ever heard. GREAT melodic solos, as memorable as the songs themselves, which is not easy to do once, nore or less always. Gary Richrath from REO was the same way, just great. Love them, too. Fran adores the Bay City Rollers, as did Jonathan, coincidentally. Cheap Trick is probably my all time favorite band, there’s just nothing they can’t do, & better than anyone else, including selling out. I suppose the most obscure band I really likes was called the Elvis Brothers. They had 2 recors on Potrait in the 80’s, the first one, Moving Up, has a few really great pop songs, but is pretty average overall, but the second was called Adventure Time, & I love that one to death, top to bottom.
I didn’t go to college myself, but my now wife was a freshman when we started dating, & I hung out there a lot with her, including some classes. Close enough I guess. We did Summer Camp a couple times in Boy Scouts, but we were only in there because our grandmother made us. I remember one night one of the counsellors told a goofy ghost story that scared the shit out of me, & I woke up later screaming & running around outside in the middle of the tent area. Woke everyone up, they had to take me & Frank to the counsellors cabin to calm down…like something out of some fucking Nickelodean show.
High School was hell, we we NOT popular & didn’t fit in ANYWHERE. We didn’t smoke or do drugs, but we had the denim jackets & nanny goat wannabe longish hair, so the jocks hated us, & the stoners didn’t accept us either. For some reason, any kid that moved to Milford from out of state gravitated to us, which did NOT help at all, as they were immediately disliked by the school for being outsiders, whereas they had many years to come up with reasons to hate us. I remember a new kid from Minnesota sitting next to me on the bus one day & immediately, cigarette butts start flying our way, & I didn’t have that particular issue before. You adapt & I guess the good thing about being on the shit end of the stick is knowing you’re not the asshole because you get such a clear picture of how assholes behave every day. Of course, I did in fact turn out to be an asshole in many other ways. I’ve been told as much over the years by enough people. No offense taken, of course. We don’t decide that, you gotta accept the popular vote.
I love baseball, since I was a little kid. Sucked at it, though. There were no men in our lives to actually, physically teach us how to play, so we just hit wiffle balls & played catch in the back yard, then got signed up to play on teams. That was a disaster. I remember a coach told me I was going to play at third base, & I freaked out, because they usually stuck us in the outfield because the ball was rarely hit there. I begged him not to, but he was actually understanding & said he’d go with me. He stood right behind me with his hands on my shoulders pep talking the whole tim. First kid up hits s line drive right at me. I never even moved my glove. Got me right in the mouth. I had to go to the hospital& get stitches. My grandmother was great taking us to games, though. We’d drive to Franklin & take the T into Fenway. Saw great Red sox teams. Even saw Ted Williams make a shoestring catch in the outfield during an old timers game. This is me in my Red Sox get up in the backyard, 79.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: We all moaned about how plastic and manufactured and assembly lined things were back in the Material Girl/Greed Is Good/Reagan/Thatcher eighties, but doesn’t it seem like Duran Duran and Nik Kershaw and Adam Ant had way more soul than anything on the radio, now? Are you like me, I miss Culture Club, Dexy’s, the Replacements, all that stuff, now. What do you miss about our wasted youth and if you were able to connect to any music post early 90’s Brit Pop, what was it? I did not get grunge, at all. Did you like any of the grungers?
MAX O’DONNAL: I realize now that music is an industry & always has been. It took a long time to get that for me, so I was doomed from the start. I’m not a salesman, or an entrepreneur, or a small business person. I fucking hate all that with every fiber of my being. I don’t know that Marc Bolan was forming a business plan, I don’t believe Paul Westerberg was forming a business model. I think Adam & The Ants or Culture Club were simply doing what they wanted to do & it worked. Sometimes creativity plus good music equals success. Right place, right time to some degree. Most times, though, no chance. The road is fucking littered with the bodies of guys 10 times more talented than the shit people eat up & are brainwashed to like. Advertisement & push equals success. Sex appeal was always an advantage for bands in my youth, but it’s absolutely necessary now, & that will always drastically weaken music because the delivery system is more important than the song. Which is usually written/manufactured to appeal to a studied, money spending public not caring that the writer is not the artist, because the artist is there to look good, dance & lip synch, they have no real musical or writing ability to speak of. I miss the innocence, just doing it because you love it & want to do it more than anything. The hot smell of the amps, the hum, the smell of guitar strings on your hands after playing a set, the skipping beat of your heart when the lights are out between songs, the anticipation in general.
I hated grunge, still do. I don’t get it, but I was aged out of popular music at that point. Even though a lot of people my age liked stuff like Nirvana, Soundgarden, etc, I already had “my music”, I wasn’t open for business for new musical trends.
Even though those bands obviously listened to Zeppelin, Sabbath, etc, it appealed to me as much as rap. Meaning not at all.
I don’t even listen to newer bands. I just listen to what I love. I just hear, no matter how good they may be, retreads of bands I already love.
Why waste time listening to someone that was influenced by Ray Davies when I can just listen to the Kinks?
DARKSTAR GENERAL: How were you inspired by Dogs D’Amour? Were you into the Crybabys? Ian Hunter’s Dirty Laundry?
MAX O’DONNAL: The Dogs were huge for us. We copied them blatantly in Transylvania Saints. We even played I Don’t Want You To Go.
We had all the ep’s, unreleased songs & b-sides, all of it. Tyla was just so great on both sides of a song, catchy music & great lyrics.
At the time, for that kind of Stones/Faces/Dolls kind of thing, he was the best, they were the best at it.
A lot of bands went on that bandwagon, I suppose G N R, LA Guns & Faster Pussycat having the range of success they did from GNR headining arenas to LA Guns & Faster Pussycat opening up for like, AC/DC & KISS, in them made that type of thing more visible than it had been for awhile.
But Tyla was miles better than those bands, so of course, the USA never got it, even to the degree of minor success the LA bands got.
He had the same influence on me that Ian Hunter had with lyrics like Ballad Of Mott or Saturday Gigs., the loveable loser thing, stumbling through it all with no regard for anything in particular.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: How were you affected by Manic Street Preachers and where is Richie now?
MAX O’DONNAL: They were as big an influence as the Dogs years earlier. After Chaz went back to Michigan, we did Saints In Vain for a few years with a different singer, doing a more Throbs/Lords Of The New Church thing. After awhile, including a brief stint with you in Murder Stars, we just got tired of what we were doing, which wasn’t working anyway, & this was also around the time we went to NY to see Jonathan’s new band, The Loveless.
They had short hair, poppier punkier songs & suits. It was a culture shock after Electric Angels, who we also hugely influenced by.
I remember going back to Massachusetts & writing new songs that were way more like that, & one day I just went upstairs & cut my hair off.
Frank came home one day with the Stay Beautiful ep, & me, him & Bill just fell in love.
We saw them at either the Middle East at TT’s in Boston. Again, being the gaybos we were/are, we got there early, & there were some booths near the bar where they were sitting there eating. We just watched them from across the room like goofy ass copy cat stalkers. I don’t know if they did this on all dates, I don’t think they did a lot in the US at that time, the 1st record was just out, but in the mens room, they had Manic Street Preachers logo urinal mats IN the urinals. Bill had no shame & took one. We hung it up in the rehearsal room. I came up with the name Bang Bang Satellite, just changing up the song title from Sigue Sigue Sputnik‘s Boom Boom Satellite.
Candy was also called Bang Bang before they switched to Candy, too. The Jonathan influence rears it’s head some more.
We had a singer named John Magri for a few months & did some shows, & I’d kept in touch with Chaz & we played our newer stuff for each other.
I really don’t remember how we got to it, but I always wanted him to come back, & he knew I’d throw out whatever singer I had at any given time if he wanted the gig. And he wound up moving back, & Bang Bang Satellite proper began.
I suspect Richie is dead, if not initially, than surely now.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: I feel like I’ve just known you all my life-refresh my memory, how did we first meet? You might know I used to drink some, my memory aint what..was I talking about?
MAX O’DONNAL: There was some girl from what I remember that knew or knew of both of us somehow & we got your number. I called you up & we arranged for us to come over to Cambridge to meet up at your place. You were living with a couple girls, & we were all done up with our wannabe Hanoi Rocks outfits, & were just out of the car when you came running out in what I recall as purple leather pants, flowing blouse & matching flowing jet black hair. You threw your arms up &, while I don’t remember exactly what you said, it had to do with how we and you looked.
We all enjoyed the occasional cocktail in them days, so I don’t remember details, just looking at lyrics we’d both had & listening to records.
I know at some point we walked to a store, like a corner store or something, probably so you could get cigarettes? I just remember you said it wasn’t too far, but, it kinda was. For me anyway. Those fucking boots were ok to wear in pictures & onstage, but walking around Boston in them was a different story. We decided to play together, you came up with Murder Stars, & we got you to Milford for exactly 1 rehearsal. We had learned M-Style, & played it ok, but you really didn’t want to be doing that. I don’t think we knew what to do with each other. We were used to me writing songs, learning them, rehearsing them, playing them out, & at some point making shitty quality 4 track demos of some of them. That was the cycle we got into for a few years, & we figured to plug you in to that. You had a different idea of being creative & writing that was foreign to us, & it just petered out after that rehearsal.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: Describe the obstacles and challenges you faced as a working class kid from a smalltown recording and booking shows and scouting out likeminded collaborators? Do you still face any of those same problems in our old age?
MAX O’DONNAL: I suppose I was lucky, because I never had to go into Boston looking, I had guys locally I got to be in bands, & Bill was great, & I got lucky again with Chaz moving out from Michigan twice. Turn over wasn’t that big a deal in those bands. It helps that my brother plays drums with me, always has, & just to say, he’s a GREAT fucking drummer. Better than a metronome, & trust me, there’s TONS of drummers that can’t keep fucking time. He always played for the song, not throwing is extraneous shit to fulfill some asswipey musiciany need for individual attention. Anyone that played with us has always sung his praises, to a man. Rightfully so.
I wasn’t really looking for collaborators, I wanted to be the songwriter, & I thought I was pretty good at it, & the guys who were good with that lasted with me the longest. The only collaborator I had was Chaz, & eventually that’s why we couldn’t co-exist in a band together. We were both guys that put bands together, not join bands, & those types can only exist together for a short time. Shows weren’t that tough on the very local scene, outside Boston proper. There were places in Worcester or even in Milford & Mendon that were a stones throw from us that once you played there, you knew the guys that ran the place & got booked whenever you wanted. I viewed it as experience needed so when we got to Boston, we knew what we were doing. Yeah, it was easy & lazy too, to a degree, but I knew Boston gigs would not be easy to come by, & I wanted to not just be a 1 gig & out band, not impressing on the gig & looking like a bunch of suburban posers. Which we actually were. But we didn’t want to come off like that. But we did.
We did The Rat & TT’s once each, & I thought they went well enough, but we weren’t together too long after that anyway.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: Please talk in detail about forming underground sensations Bang Bang Sattellite, releasing your Xeroxed demo cassettes, do you still have any copies? I remember you were starting to really come into your stride around that time, what was your creative collaborative process with Chaz like? Did you guys gig out much?
MAX O’DONNAL: All that’s pretty much in the previous answer, & no, I don’t have anything from those days except a flyer we used to mail out if someone left their information on a fan sign up list we used to have at shows. I think we only wrote one song together, called Yesterday’s Cards, where he wrote the majority of the song & I wrote one of the verses. It was pretty much one of mine or one of his. The set was actually pretty even, he may have had like, 1 more song than me at a given time, but I recall it as pretty much half & half.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: What was the difference between Bang Bang Satellite and Streetcar Named Disaster? Did Streetcar play different songs, was it a different concept entirely, or just a name change? I was so jealous of that band name! What were some highlights of those projects and that whole era in time? Chaz went on to form the critically acclaimed Dimestore Haloes, did you ever see that band live and what are some of your favorite Chaz songs?
MAX O’DONNAL: For me, it was probably more poppy/rock n rolly to me. Less straight up wannabe punk. We had a girl named Andrea that played sax with us on a few songs, & I was thinking more kinda’ Mott than The Damned. We had a song with sax called Too Fast To Live, Too Young To Die, ‘Aint What It Used To Be where we ended the song by going into that fast bit at the end of Paradise City that she just let loose on. She played on 2 or 3 on stage, nothing overwhelming, but I loved it & I don’t remember Chaz being happy with it. We were heading in different directions. The next bands we did show that pretty obviously. When he left he did his band & I did illstarred. I’m not that familiar with the Haloes, but his new band The Cheap Cassettes are fantastic. He’s doing his best stuff ever.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: Please talk to me about Ill-Starred- I thought that was another really promising, quintessential American pop band ala Gin Blossoms and Beat Angels. I still have my HEXED cassette. It’s blue, what are some of the reasons why you never got discovered? What happened with that band? Me and Chaz both agree you were composing some whizbang perfect pop!
MAX O’DONNAL: I put up an ad in a local music store, remember that! I don’t remember what bands I put down except the Replacements. John Walenski answered it because of that, although he prefers the earlier punkier stuff & I prefer Don’t Tell A Soul & All Shook Down. He sings & plays like an angel, & he liked the songs I was coming up with & didn’t really write, so it was perfect. He’s a good lookin’ fell’ too, & the girls loved him, so that was a plus too. I thought I was writing my best stuff, & I found the guy that could really pull it off. I could write even poppier stuff because he was SO good. Gin Blossoms were big at the time, & we did have that kind of thing going. John could play straight up chords like anyone else I’d played with previously, but he could do the jangley stuff too, which opened things up for me as a writer. I could never have had songs like Wonder Drug, ‘Aint Enough To Last A Lifetime & Hexed in any other band I’d been in. Doug Hopkins was the main writer in Gin Blossoms, he was the guitarist, * he got the boot before the record came out for generally being an unstable drunk, & lo & behold, 2 of the 3 singles off the record were his, & went to 25 on the Billboard charts. The record company made him sign over most of his royalties before the band hit for a lump sum of 15K, & he enede up blowing his brains out in a motel room. We ended all our shows with a song he wrote off their Up & Crumbling ep called Keli Richards. Even as just a 3 piece, we sounded good doing that.
kind of stuff.
We did look for another guitarist a few times. We had one named Tim Kane for awhile, & he wrote good stuff, too. He was from Vermont & had recorded with his band The Vacancies up there, & we did a few of his songs, but eventually, I decided he was too rough sounding. He played a hollow body, & those things are hard to control. His songs benefitted from the slop/feedback of that kind of guitar, but my stuff was problematic. Too much unnecessary noise bleeding into songs. He turned out to be able to play his songs fine, but had trouble with the rest, so I wanted to move on. John wanted to keep him, so we disagreed there, but eventually, we went to record a demo, & when Tim did his parts, it was very obvious it wasn’t working. John agreed with letting him go after we listened to the mix with him in it. We ended up just taking his parts off, & the stuff sounded great.
We did a few years of shows, nothing in Boston, just real local stuff, & recorded. We had a good set, we did a couple recordings. Amnesia was a different session, & Hexed was a different session, & the rest was from our first session. There was a band called Huck that did really well in Boston, & the main guy was Scott Ruscitti, who’d been in Childhood when they won the BCN Rock N Rumble, & John was a big fan of theirs. They liked us, we’d opened for them a couple times, & they got friendly. They had a couple girls that handled their bookings & all that, & they were taking us on, too. We sat with them & they had a plan all mapped out on getting into Boston proper. However, Huck lost their bass player, & John decided he’d rather play bass in that band, so he left. That pretty much killed me, as we had just actually found a rhythm guitarist who fit perfectly, Glenn Jackson from a band called Blue Veronica.
He was backstage hanging out at a show we were on in Worcester, he was friends with one of the other bands, & he came up to me & started shooting the shit, said he really liked us. There were like a hundred band names written on the wall, & we started talking about that, & Id noticed Blue Veronica among them, & Id seen them & really liked them, especially the guitarist. I told him that & he just looked at me like I was joking with him, & said he played guitar in Blue Veronica, but they were no more. He rehearsed with us once, & I had no clue John was leaving.
He quit like a week later. We had a show booked for a Veterans Benefit, just a short set with a lot of different bands. We played that show with Glenn on guitar & me “vocalizing”. Glenn said to call him if we found another singer, but soon after, we had to give up our rehearsal space because we couldn’t pay for it anymore. That was that.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: Were there any other bands you guys were in while I was in the wilderness, I’m unaware of? I kept trying to form new bands or at least throw people together in the recording studio, but it always crashed and burned. I had ex girlfriends advising me to sell my songs to better looking guys: Build me up, buttercup! Right?! Who says that? For me, it seemed like you really did have to live in NYC and be related to rich people in showbiz. Or have a lot of money. What were your experiences with having bands, dedicating years to writing songs, being shunned by the music business? Do you ever get over it? My kid broke my switchblade comb the other day-I thought it was some kind of exquisitely saddening kozmic metaphor.
MAX O’DONNAL: Nothing worth speaking of, really. The China Stars thing was the last thing I did that I’d care to talk about. It’s like an addiction, the band thing.
I’ve done it a few times in the last say, 15 years, just to do it, because it’s the devil I know. It’s only fun for a very short time, & soon enough I’m thinking why the fuck am I doing this, nothing will come out of it, & the time it takes to just drag equipment around, find rehearsal spaces, the time all the peripheral stuff takes is just fucking interminable. I still get songs in my head all the time, & I think they should come out, but the process is too long & time consuming, & the end result is time & money spent for nothing in particular. I have a job, wife, 3 kids, there’s just a time to stop & now is it. I’m 50, & no, I’ll never get over it.
I feel like a ghost. I don’t really know who I am, I know I won’t ever get that figured out, either. I love my family, I enjoy the little things in life, but there’s always gonna’ be a big fuckin’ hole, & you don’t get over it, you just learn how to stay on top of it as much as you can, because you’re gonna’ have days when it kicks the shit out of you. There’s a Dennis Lehane book called Shutter Island. they nade a movie out of it too. I feel like the main character in that story. No spoilers, but if you watch it or read it, you’ll understand. Anybody that’s ultimately failed in bands would.
DARKSTAR GENERAL: Tell me all about Gutter Saints, the secret origins, who was in that group, where was it based, what are you doing with music currently, where you perform nowadays, and where can sleazy punks of all ages find your music? Was there ever a full length? What is Frank up to nowadays and why haven’t you guys published any books?
MAX O’DONNAL: Gutter Saints was a 3 piece, me, Frank & a guy down here in South Carolina named Rusty Herbert. He went by the stage name, Reverend J J Dirt, I went by Mad Max, & Frank was Brother Frank. Rusty’s from Philadelphia, so we’re all North Eastern douche bags that wound up in the south. He was a guitar player in some metal band in the late 80’s into the 90’s that opened for bands like Overkill & Type O Negative at clubs like L’ Amours & The Trocodero. He quit playing like 20 years ago & moved down here, like us, because his In-Laws moved here first & for various family reasons, relocated. He was friends with a local 80’s hairband cover group that needed a singer quick for booked shows, so he asked to do it, never having sung before, & they let him. He was in for a bit, then they got their old singer back & he got the boot. He sounded like Kevin Dubrow with a little Alice Cooper & Ted Nugent thrown in, & had a mutual love of Too Fast For Love & Twisted Sister, so we became fast friends. I also loved that he mentioned CC DeVille when ever we were in the studio talking to the engineers about guitar sound. I don’t care what anyone says, I rate Look What The Cat Dragged In in the same musical canon as Never Mind The Bollocks. Great fucking record.
We did a whole Alice Cooper/Twisted Sister/WASP/Motley stage deal with chain link fences with zombie dummies that spit dry ice chained to them, a giant skull with lighted up eyes covering the bass drum, logo back drop, even a couple costumed mascots. We did a song called Samurai Frankenstein, & we had a great guy, Steven Jones, come out in a karate uniform & Frankenstein mask to cut Rusty’s throat with a fake knife/blood. We ended our sets with a song called Nuclear Meltdown, with spinning flashing police lights, dry ice, & Steven came out on stage at the end in a Hazmat suit.
We rehearsed & did a couple dinky demos for over a year before we did any shows. We didn’t want to half ass the show.
The bands down here are boring, & we wanted to do right by the bands we grew up on.
Rysty’s wife also manages a place that does a yearly Halloween Hayride, outdorr thing, & had access to a ton of great props, & this is all, of course, weekend stuff as we work regular jobs, so it took awhile to get up & running.
We did like 6 shows or so between 2016 & 2017, & recorded an album from start to finish in a weekend. It’s available on Bandcamp.
It was ultimately too much for me to keep doing.
I’m 50, & hadn’t done shows in around 15 years? It knocked the shit out of me.
And we needed more hands to do the show right, there was always something going wrong with intro tapes, dry ice malfunctions, too much set up time, we bit off more than we could chew at this late date in our lives.
We never drew much, only ever played to a handful of guys in other bands that liked us & their girlfriends, & whoever was in the bar.
I’m not doing anything, or planning anything.
The time & money needed to do a band isn’t worth the nothing that results from it.
I don’t have the time or inclination to write like as an author.
My attention span is song length, not chapter length. I kind of wish it was, but the same challenges are there for authors as musicians getting attention for their stuff. It’s be a lateral move in futility.