The Chain Smokers´ Psycho Therapy
Transnational Powerpop Jetset for the advanced with over two packets of fags a day infectiously huffin´and puffin´ their way through the golden tarred Good Vibrations orbit by riding on the misty smoke wave of northern irish Teenage Heroes like PROTEX, STARJETS, UNDERTONES or RUDI additionally impregnated with a strong TESTORS vibe for 77 rounds of “Big Time” Up & Down including a maximum KNOTS action guarantee.
An ultimate formula for success exclusively exemplified to me by Ben Perrier, vocalist, consonantist and long haired guitarist for these seven wonders of the shake appeal world. For your very own private party time use accompanied by some belts of Asbach Spritzer I strongly recommend to not only achieve their actual full-length “All Over Now” but their whole discography as well. So tweeze your eyebrows, bop your head and get zooed out to the heartattack rhythm of LOS PEPES.
Let´s start our trip into the transnational mystical Powerpop world of LOS PEPES with some juicy insider-details concerning special connections to grandmas and their gal pals, skinhead hosts bringing you off to puke and easter Christmas trees in Hasselt/Belgium ?
There’s some detailed referencing going on there, I can tell you’ve been talking to someone on the inside. Someone riding shotgun on tour. Well a lot of “bollocks” get’s spoken in the van so now I’m scarred. Prime-suspect is Ben Bazooka – booking agent, Svengali and executive beer drinker on the road. Yep one of us does indeed have a family connection to the Geisha. A front of house kinda role though. Organizational. Yep, I can handle pretty much anything but if I smoke even a millimeter of a joint then I’m fucked, I got long hair but I’m no hippy that’s for sure. Got bullied into a millimeter of the green stuff by a nice skinhead guy in Bavaria and ended up puking all over the accommodation. Cool guy and the best punk 45 collection by the way. Not sure what the last reference is too, but I remember playing in Hasselt and the guy who ran the bar hated us and hated punk. Strange position for a guy hosting punk gigs. Our punishment was he insisted on being best buddies. This involved being forced to drink our own body weight in booze and listen to him talk about his woes.
Secluding such example stories completely fulfilling the Sex, Drugs & Rock´n´Roll cliché I guess you wouldn´t be alive anymore or at least need psychiatric treatment if all of your tours, five in two years so far, would be entirely made up of such adventures. So what´s the perfect percentage distribution between going nuts and staying calm for LOS PEPES on the road ?
I would hardly say the above places us as the new Mötley Crew. We’re not taking a dip in Chris Holmes’ private pool just yet, chicks and cocaine galore… Maybe when the unpopular niche rock and roll we play gets huge. Ha! But I guess to answer more honestly, none of us are the kind of people that take it easy. It’s not contrived though, we’re here to play music first and foremost. But music is supposed to be fun right so what are you gonna do ? Go to bed early ? No way. Might as well shave off those unwanted years at the end of your life and have a good time now. No psychiatric treatment needed, I see playing music and touring as psychiatric treatment. Being crazy can keep you sane I guess. Saying all that our drummer Kowalski has recently quit drinking. But believe me, he is by no means sane.
With those stories of ravage in mind, do you always enjoy such happenings or are there moments as well when it´s just bugging you to death ?
I can honestly say that I don’t get bugged anybody in this band. Los Pepes is a “cunt free zone”. Everyone and whatever they do is fine by me. I only get bugged by myself if I play badly. That’s the only time. Sometimes you feel tired and like shit when you wake up with a stinking hangover but who cares? Drink a coffee, smoke a cigarette and everything will start to be fine again. There’s wars etc going on in the world and someone somewhere is feeling worse so just get on with it.Regarding this what´s your view on that whole tough guy approach that some super bad boys are trying to represent as the image of their band and who are the one and only real bad boys in Rock´n´Roll history ?
I hate macho shit. I don’t have anything to prove, I’m comfortable in my own skin. If you’re posturing on stage talking about “bitches” and how “rock and roll” you are then I reckon you’re trying to hide something. Unless you’re GG Allin of course and then it’s fine. A real bad ass to me is someone like Roky Erickson. He survived the horrors of the US prison and mental health system only to come out making, in my opinion, his best music. Of course there’s a lot of great and questionable characters in the history of rock and roll all up to no good. The difference between those guys and todays try hards is they did it with at least a soupçon of intelligence and they had some great music to back it up. I love punk rock so of course I embrace bad behavior, but it’s got to be done right.
In contrary to synthetic images would you agree if I say that LOS PEPES are writing sarcastic odes to the love & hate twists of the real life with a nihilist dash of having the last laugh instead of plain “love songs” as narrowminded people would rate it to be the standard for a band within´ your genre ? Where´s the difference between “Orgasm Addict” and “Love Me Tender” that a band needs to be aware of ?
I like your summation and I guess it’s true. During your lifetime, one of the biggest things to cause you trouble is love and all that goes with it. Less “Love Me Tender” more “oh shit what the hell am I gonna do about this?”. You can be the most nihilistic, tough son of a bitch out there but at some point you’re gonna get in trouble with love. It’s nothing new, 90% of rock and roll music is about that or sex really. It’s a basic human thing to write a song about. I’m not into sitting around crying about that girl that got away so of course I’m gonna relate more “New Rose” rather than “Love Me Do”. It’s got more energy to it! It’s a crazy subject matter and punk rock tells it well. For the record, Dead Boys “All This And More” is probably the greatest love song ever written. Ha.
How would you describe your lyrical approach in a whole and what´s your opinion about explicitly political lyrics and how they should be used ?
My lyrical approach is I try to catch the first thing that comes into my head that doesn’t totally suck. Well kind of, but I do try to get things down quick and easy so it has a bit of energy and honesty about it. Explicitly political lyrics? Well, I stay away from that. I’m a very liberal guy and I’m very interested in politics but that and rock and roll are gonna stay separate. However, I do realize that making music, especially confrontational music such as punk rock is an inherently political thing. Music and art gives people a voice and a sense of freedom, some of the first things to get squashed under a dictatorship. I write a song, that’s me doing exactly what I want. If I put on “Faster Louder” by the Dictators at full volume, that moment’s mine and I suddenly have the energy to say “fuck off, you can’t tell me what to do”. I don’t mind if other people wanna be explicit about their views. I like throwing on a Minor Threat record but I’m far from straight edge. On the flip side, it’s a shame Ian Stewart turned into a full-blown shelf dusting neo-nazi because non-political Skrewdriver made “All Skrewed Up” and that was brilliant. One example of politics and music going wrong when mixed.
Compared to your own musical history with Winnebago Deal, recording with Jack Endino, Mondo Generator, U.S. Tours with Motörhead and playing to 50.000 people in Madrid back then, which are the main specifics making you really enjoy and love LOS PEPES in comparance, even when it comes to playing to 50 people only on a tuesday night in some provincial foreign town ?
Actually, it doesn’t matter to me at all. I read when I was a kid that Black Flag would always put a million percent in to every show regardless of the turn out because you can’t blame the people that turn up for those that don’t. It’s true. Plus, playing is a shit load of fun and I have to do it or I would get depressed. I’ve been in bands since forever as you’ve pointed out big shows, small shows, sold records, not sold records, money, no money I’m obviously stupid because I don’t care and I keep wanting to do it. I love Los Pepes because it feels right to be doing it. That simple. The focus on melody and trying to write the best songs you can is really important to me. Also the guys I’m playing with. They’re my good friends and great (if slightly dodgy) people, all reading from the same page as me.
Besides being in LOS PEPES you´re also working for the crew of Kitty, Daisy & Lewis as a sound-engineer, as well as producing records like for example the “Recent Affairs” LP of the RICKY C. QUARTET and giving lessons to prospective sound engineers.
Cut short, your whole life is made up of music. Would you say that´s a dream come true for you or don´t you sometimes get sick of it as well and just wanna hang out and watch the latest X-Files Episode ?
Haha, yeah I guess I’ve been around. I wouldn’t say it’s a dream come true because I don’t really dream I, just get on with shit. I’ve somehow made a living out of either, playing, writing, recording or mixing music for 14 years now. All be it a modest living. I haven’t done anything else. I know I’m pretty lucky but I honestly never intended it to turn out like this. I just fucked off going to university and jumped in a van to play rock and roll. A stupid leap of faith that kinda worked out. I’m fucking busy as hell all the time and it takes a lot of energy and hours but it sure beats 9-5. It’s nice to relax sometimes but honestly I can’t sit still for long. If I had a shit load of money I would still be messing around with something, that’s the way it is. I actually wanted to make films when I was younger but it seemed like far too much of a logistical ball ache.
Living in London is it possible to make up a living out of your work with the insane exploding rental prices and living expenses there or do you meanwhile live on a houseboat, which seems to be the latest trend as I´ve heard ?
Yeah, it’s fucked here. Massive housing crisis, really expensive rent and all of that. Everybody I know is just scraping by, but they do it somehow. Some people do indeed live on houseboats but I ain’t into that kind of thing. Sounds cold and I’m a lousy swimmer. London is a great city but it’s a tough one too. I like a challenge.
I´ve already mentioned your transnational line-up in the first question, where does the LOS PEPES soft spot concerning that come from and how the hell did you meet by coming from England, Brasil, Japan and Poland ?
London is the reason. We are all or have been residents of London. Most multicultural place on earth, one of the reasons I like it here. They’re just my mates and they like and play the same music I do. It has its drawbacks such as visa head aches with Seisuke but we somehow made it work. If they kicked out all the foreigners I wouldn’t have many friends left. When people go on about immigration and leaving the EU over here I honestly want to punch them in the face. The UK would be a pretty shit place without the diverse mix of people.
Rumours are that the Powerpop degree of LOS PEPES grew with the influence of your wife Betty, working as a DJane in London as well, and Seisuke, your lunatic japanese chain smoking pope of pop ?
Looking at your demo recordings having a harder TESTORS edge infused sound there´s also a proof to be found for that theory in your early discography.
Yeah definitely, Betty and Seisuke have lead the way in terms of steering it towards powerpop. But myself and the other guys are all fully into that stuff anyway. I’ve been moving into this super melodic territory for a while now, I’ve always wanted too. I guess I remember being at Seisukes old place in London drinking cans of Becks, listening to Rudi, Protex, Starjets etc and suddenly we were saying “let’s do it like this”. I don’t quite know why.
Reverting to another popular cliché Seisuke accordingly needs to have the biggest record collection of you all including secret XDREAMYSTS and PROTEX demo test pressings ?
He definitely has more records than me. He loves records and he’s always had great stuff but I don’t know what he’s got in Kyoto, you’ll have to ask him. I don’t know if he’s got a Protex demo test pressing but maybe. I hope he does. I know Gui has more Ramones records, he’s got all of them on. Apart from Acid Eaters for some reason. I’ve got fuck all compared to those guys.
Talking about records, which are the ones having influenced both the Power- and the –Pop part of LOS PEPES the most ?
Man, this changes all the time so I’ll tell you what I’m taking in right now. Right now the pop is coming from the SUNNYBOYS self titled first record. I’ve listened to it more or less every day past few weeks. It’s just great songs perfectly executed, poignant too. The power this week has been coming from SLAUGHTER AND THE DOGS “Bite Back”. I love it, they’re trying to play hard rock I guess but it comes out fucked of course. The first riff on the LP is pure “Over The Top” MOTÖRHEAD, excellent.
As I´ve read another big influence for the Power- part on a personal basis for you is BLACK FLAG.
When did they reach their apex point and when did their downfall start as you see it ?
Also what´s your view on all of that re-union bickering concerning them which is totally ruining the band´s reputation as I see it ?
Yeah well, I’m a true Black Flag fan. I like it all the way to the end but “Damaged” will always be my favorite so I guess the apex. I got into the ‘Flag at a very young age and it changed my life, such a unique band with insane amounts of power. The re-union thing? Well it was bound to happen. I guess to be honest maybe they should have left it alone, it really isn’t the same thing anymore. I want to see it though. All the bickering is pretty stupid too, I guess they were always a difficult band. Funnily enough my old band Winnebago Deal got asked to re-form and play the Flag show in London in August so I’ll see.
With a big part of your influences coming from the Good Vibrations back catalogue, how did you like the movie about Terri Hooley, his label and the times of Punkrock in Northern Ireland that came out some time ago ?
You know what, I haven’t seen it yet! I need to watch it actually so thanks for reminding me. I’ve heard it’s pretty shit but I still want to see it. I met Terri Hooley about four years ago in Belfast actually. He was really pissed and proclaiming his love for some fairly awful bands nowadays. Still it was cool to meet him.
What´s special to Punk in Northern Ireland from your point of view compared to the U.S. or U.K. at the same time ?
Well there was a massive concentration of amazing punk rock bands from Northern Ireland second half of the 70s. A lot of punk rock per capita. All very honest and raw sounding, definitely all very special. The obvious answer as to why, would be the “Troubles”. It was a rough time back then, a full on war zone with the IRA etc. Everyone would have been affected by the violence and economically the place was seriously depressed. Sounds like a fertile landscape for great punk rock to happen. Unlike the UK or the USA playing a show at that time in NI carried the risk of getting blown up. I can’t imagine what that would be like. Obviously Stiff Little Fingers overtly sang about this stuff and that’s great, but many of the other bands from that time chose not too. I know the Undertones where dead against political lyrics and wrote love songs instead perhaps as an escape. Whatever the approach, great music often is often born out of tough times and late 70s Northern Ireland is a perfect example.
Getting back to the future LOS PEPES road please tell us something about your actual record and the rumours of Joey Pinter of KNOTS fame someday joining you on stage for a full throttle “Action” blast ?
Yeah so we got a new record coming out called “All Over Now” and people should go and check it out and hopefully some will like it! It’s rawer and noisier than the last one, more true to what we are live and in my opinion better. Of course we got a shit load of tour dates coming up so come and check it out! Yeah, have been talking to Joey Pinter. There was talk of touring with him but financially it didn’t work out this time. Maybe someday in the future…
You once said in another interview, that LOS PEPES will never stop. Have you already thought about some dope ideas of how to rock the retirement home in thirty years being and how about groupies then ?
No matter how long Los Pepes goes for I’m pretty certain there will never be any money so no retirement anytime soon. All the more reason to keep going. Saying that, Mexico is nice this time of year.
Finally, as LOS PEPES has also been the name of paramilitary group having taken on Pablo Escobar, in how far could your band also be described as a special weapons unit and which fighting tactics would describe the characteristics of the different (band-)members the best ?
Well, of course I’m gonna be the general because I’m the biggest cunt and I tell everyone what to do. Seisuke definitely covert specialist operations cuz he’s Japanese so obviously smart, specializing in the two fingered “bass solo”. Just throw Gui at the enemy. Put him on the front line, right out in the open in no mans land any I’m sure any foe would run away from that guy. Kowalski would be taking care of the mess hall, he’s a food guy, makes a good burger I hear. And if you need re-enforcements, just call up Smithy and he’s be there armed and ready to go.
(Featured in OX Fanzine #126 in a shortened print version)
The LOS PEPES list of past and present Rot´N´Roll Embassy Employees:
Ben Perrier: Vocals/Guitar
Guilherme Rujao: Guitar/Bass/Vocals
Seisuke Nakagawa: Bass/Vocals
Kris Hood: Drums
Adam James Smith: Bass
Shaun Clark: Drums
Jay Atkinson: Drums