Derf Scratch was the hilarious original bass player for L.A. punk legends Fear. Renowned for such classic zingers as "Eat my fuck!" and "Why do girls have their little holes so close together?," Derf was unfortunately fired from the band after appearing on only one LP (The Record - one of the finest punk rock records ever!). When Derf emailed me saying that he'd read my Spit Stix interview and would be willing to give me a "long,definitive, answer all questions, spare no one, finally once and for all truths interview," I was so happy, I carried my wife like a six-pack of beer! Below enjoy his many fine words. My questions are in bold; his are in fine print.
Could I speak to Derf?
I can barely hear you.
Hold on a second.
How ya doin'?
Alright. Who is this?
This is Mark, the guy that's gonna interview you.
Oh, Mark! Yeah, Mark Prindle?
So how are you doing?
What's going on these days?
I've got a band and I'm playing music and I've got a little 16-track here at my house. So I sit around and play music and paint with my airbrush.
What kind of music do you play now?
Basically it's rock and roll, I guess. I don't know. Somebody recently said, "That's acid rock!" So I don't know. It's pretty eclectic actually. We go into a lot of different styles.
What's the name of the band?
I'm calling it right now "Derf Scratch & Friends."
Oh, okay. Are you recording anything for -
Yeah, I've got a CD that I'm gonna release real soon.
Oh, excellent! Very nice. Are you -
I'll send you one.
I'll send you one.
Oh, I appreciate that. Are you playing the bass or a lot of different things?
Yeah, I play the bass and I'm singing.
Were you in other bands throughout the '80s and '90s?
Yeah. I had a band called Scratch for a while in the '80s.
Did you release anything?
No, not really. We did over in Czechoslovakia. And before Fear, I was in a band called Marquis De Sade and another called Trashy Ted and the Dog Shit Canyon All-Stars. And the Sweet Jesus Fish & Mattress Company.
That's another good one too!
What was the '80s one called? Scratch what?
It was just called Scratch.
Oh, okay. I thought you said "Scratch House" or something. So what's the Fear story? You said you were gonna give me all the goods.
Yeah, you got a little while there?
Yeah, I do!
Because I wanna just say this once and not have to, you know - when people ask me about Fear, I can just give them this interview and they can read it.
Okay. Well, let me start at the beginning. Let's see... Lee Ving. His real name is Lee James Jude Capalero. He called me up one day; this was back when the Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" album was happening. The Sex Pistols had just toured in the USA, and Lee calls me up after he'd seen me at the Troubadour. He saw me playing with Trashy Ted and the Dog Shit Canyon All-Stars, and we had a mutual friend named Billy. And he inquired about my bass playing because Lee was friends with this guy named Bob Seidmann. Bob Seidmann was the guy who did the album cover for Blind Faith - you know, with the girl holding the hood ornament. And he also was a famous San Francisco photographer/artist. You know, Stanley Mouse and Rick Preston and all thsoe guys. And Bob Seidmann was hired by Rolling Stone magazine to photograph the Sex Pistols tour, so he went and did that, and after the tour he called Lee up and says, "Hey, if you wanna make some money in music, start a punk band, okay? And I've got the name for it; the name would be 'Fear.'" So first of all, the name was somebody else's idea. So Lee goes, "Okay." So he gets my number from Billy and he calls me up, and I went over to his house to talk to him one day. And I was a long-haired hippy type, and I'd gotten to the point in my life where I'd realized that usually everything that I ended up hating became a big hit. From the very beginning, I hated punk rock, you know? And Lee asks me if I want to start a punk band and I thought to myself, "Wow, I really hate this fuckin' music. Yeah, why not?" So I went over there and I talked to him, and then I got a phone call from him and he goes, "You know, I'm gonna go with some other people first." He wanted to try it with some other people, which I never found out who it was or whatever, but it didn't work out. About a month later, he called me back and he goes, "Listen, it didn't work out. Come on over and let's try this again." So I went over to his house and we started talking and became friends. And picture this -- he lived in the Valley, out in a house out in Van Nuys with a guest house out in the back that his mother-in-law stayed in. And he was married and had a kid and he had a pool. We became pretty close friends, I thought. And I did kinda wonder why he would never look me quite in the eye when it came to serious matters. He'd always be one of those guys who'd look away, you know? You know those guys who can never look you in the eye? And when he'd get nervous he'd always start singing or humming to himself.
So we started doing this Fear thing, and at that point in time I had just passed my real estate - you know, had just gotten my real estate license, and I realized that I wasn't really very good at it. Disco was really happening; places like that were really flourishing, and the album out then was "Rumours," you know, by Fleetwood Mac and it was selling - I think they got like half a million dollars up front. And all this kinda stuff. This'll all make sense later on in the story!
So then we had this drummer named Johnny Backbeat, and he I guess was the drummer who played with what's his name... Mitch Ryder? And the Detroit Wheels. He was one of their drummers for a while. Anyway he had these teeth that came out of his mouth - you know, full dentures that came out of his mouth. And mind you, Lee had been in a band back in - he was from Philadelphia, and he was in a band called Sweet Saving Chain, which was like a blues band.
What were they called?
A white singer with a bunch of, uhh... He was the only white singer; the rest of the guys were all black. And I guess they threw him out of the band because one day he said, "Ya'all" to them - like their lingo - in a way that they didn't take to, so they fired him or something. So he got here and we decided to start a punk band. And basically it was like, "Well, we've tried all these other bands." I was in a fusion band before that. I'd gotten a degree in music, and we all knew how to play our instruments, and we decided, "Well, hell. We could be the first punk band that can really play." So Johnny Backbeat was one of these guys who would go around and he'd tell people, "I don't play in no punk band. Fuck that punk shit. I don't play punk music." And then we'd call them on it - we'd go, "What, did you really say this?" And he'd go, "No! What I said was 'I didn't play punk music with anybody but YOU guys!'" So he'd turn it around like that. So he's the guy that's on the first single that we put out, which was an eight-track called "Must Have Been Something You Said" or "Now Your Dead" - that song and "I Love Livin' In The City." It was pretty much just an eight-track. And then after we cut that, we realized that we had to get rid of Johnny. So we get rid of Johnny Backbeat and then there was Lee and I, and I had to go to the real estate office in the morning. I shared a desk with both my parents, and I told them I was gonna go out and look at property when in actuality I went over to Lee's house and we'd brainstorm about the band. Jump in any time if you have any questions!
Ha! No, this is good. I didn't know any of this. This is all really good stuff.
Yeah. Okay, good! Yeah, I'm just gonna tell the whole fucking thing, so.... I'm tired of -- Now that I know the reason why Spit and Philo left the band, it'll make sense why I kept my mouth shut and everything for so long. So what happened was Lee this good friend of mine named Rick Fisk, who was this black drummer and singer. He was a really good singer, and he was getting into an acting career. And so we figured he'd be great for the drummer for us. And then Lee asked him this question; he goes, "Listen, now say we had a date and we were gonna play somewhere, and then you got a call for an acting gig. Which one would you take?" And Rick said, "I'd have to take the acting." So we went, "Ah okay, well, we can't use him because acting before music? Screw that." And at this time, me and Lee were really close and becoming like brothers, you know? And we'd sit around brainstorm about what kind of songs we'd have to write, and -
Here's a question I have: What was he actually like at that point? Was he like the character he portrayed on stage - the conservative gun-totin' war-lovin' American?
Not really. He got me a job later on - he was working at the Great American Food and Beverage Company as a singing waiter, and Susan, who was the manager of that place who later married Spit, got me a job there and I was a singing bus boy. It was the one in Westwood. And he was just a pot smokin', beer drinking person like all of us. A musician, you know? That's what I thought he was, you know. He wasn't about guns or anything.
Where were you at in the story before I interrupted?
Are you still there?
Where was I?
It cut off right after you said something about Lee.
Yeah, he was just some - you know, I looked at him like we were just talking. Ah yeah, what I was gonna say is that we should've all gotten credit for songwriting on that record. Before I didn't realize, but later on I realized that songs like "I Don't Care About You" that I thought he meant towards the masses was also directed at his band members too. You know? He was just, he's just - ugh. I'll keep going. So we had to find a drummer and a guitar player, so from working at this place called Phonodisc and through a friend of this guy Rick Fisk, there was this guy named Burt. And Burt was one of these guys who thought he was Keith Richards - he plays guitar, he was a rock and roller, but I guess he had inherited a lot of money from one of his parents passing or something like that. And he came to a rehearsal to try out for us, and he brought Spit along. I got Burt to come to rehearsal and he brought Spit along, so Johnny didn't show - Johnny Backbeat didn't show up that day, so Spit just kinda stayed. And there - we had him. And Philo we got through a friend of mine named Eric Dugdale. Philo lived down the street from Eric. And just his name intrigued us -- Philo is the Latin word for Love -- so we got ahold of him and he was just so warped and wonderful, he was perfect, you know? So there we had the four of us; we finally had the right group of guys. What's weird is we ended up rehearsing at this place called DAYMAX, which was a storage garage out in Van Nuys. And ten years before that, when I was in this band called The Marquis De Sade, we were the band that first declared this a rehearsal space and made it into a rehearsal space - it was a storage garage. And I hated it! It was hot in the summer, it was cold in the winter, and Goddammit if ten years later, I wasn't back in the same cubicle as I was in this other band.
It was really strange. And so there we were rehearsing, and we started rehearsing four days a week religiously. Basically we had to rehearse four days a week because - it wasn't so much remembering the songs as you had to keep your muscles in shape! Because everything we played on guitar and stuff was all downstrokes. There was no double-picking really going on. There's a different sound when you hit eighth-notes all downstroke, as opposed to double-picking. Like double-picking is "di-duh, di-duh, di-duh, di-duh" like - I don't know how you're gonna write that, but downstroking is all "duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh," like that. The Fear sound was basically eighth-notes on the - let's see, eighth-notes on the kickdrum and hitting every downbeat on the quarters on the snare. It was like "duh-duh-DAH-duh-DAH-DAH-DAH-DAH" on the snare, and the kick drum's going "buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh."
Yeah! It was a pretty different sound for punk, wasn't it? Definitely.
Yeah, yeah. With the bass following it, it really made it a hard - that was basically our sound. So that's what we really rehearsed at, with songs like "Disconnected." We tried to figure out what was the time signature on, you know, "We Destroy The Family" and "Camarillo" and.... It didn't matter how - you know, you could count them any way you want to. As long as we started in one place and ended on the same spot, that's the way we did it. It wasn't like we counted it out and did the music that way. We just went, "Okay well, I might be playing in 7 and he might be playing in 13, but somehow it works and it comes together in the right way and it sounds weird. Let's go with it." Philo and I came up with the arrangement for "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," because he's playing in G and I'm playing in F-sharp. And there's only like two places where we come into key, and that's between the verses where he hit an E and an F together and it goes "bwom-bwom! We gotta get out of this place" or - yeah. And there's one place where we come together and we hit the same tonic note - he plays the tonic chord and I play the same bass note. And we were trying to "Let's fuck this song up as much as we can," so we're doing it and Lee hadn't shown up for rehearsal, and he pulls up and he hears it and goes, "Ah yeah, let's do it!" So we ended up keeping that arrangement. Years later, I ended up spending a weekend with Eric Burdon, and he told me that was his favorite rendition of it that he'd ever heard other than his.
Yeah, that was pretty trippy.
What were you doing with Eric Burdon?
Well, Bob Seidmann - back to him - he had a few parties, and like Big Brother And The Holding Company, he knew all those people, and a lot of artsy people and stuff like that. And there was one artist named Ming, this woman named Ming who lives out in Palm Springs. And I'd go out there and I'd visit James Gurley, who was the lead guitar player for Big Brother. And when I was out there, I don't know how it came about, but I went over to see Ming and I was looking for James I think, and I went over to see Ming and Eric was there. And me and Eric, we just started chatting it up and before I knew it, the weekend had passed. And that was that. He's a great guy.
Yeah! And so where am I now? Anyway, so what happened basically was that for the first four years, that was the band. Basically I'd found Philo and Spit, and formed the band with Lee and basically put up with a lot of his horseshit. He'd burn bridges for no reason; I never could understand that. When we'd go on the road, he'd make sure he carried with him religiously like the autobiography or the biography of Adolf Hitler.
One of the last gigs I did in San Diego, we were driving back from San Diego and he goes, "Derf, I see armies of skinheads," and I go, "Lee, we're a fucking band. We're not a political movement, okay? We're entertainment." And this was right before I left. If he hadn't fired me, I might have quit. Because we were a shock band. People would come to see us who got the jokes which we were playing on people - you know, insulting everybody. And there was the mosh pit that was happening, and people were watching all the punks that were really trying to scare people. Then there was the crowd that would come see us and sit back and watch the newcomers who were really scared and laugh at them with the inside joke we were having with the crowd. And then there was the real hardcore punkers who were really slamming and having a good time, and it was like the whole show, the crowd itself was part of the show. We'd get our applause before we'd come on, because afterwards there wouldn't be any applause because people would be throwing shit at us. One time Philo and I decided we would pack our cigarettes full of those exploding things, and we stopped in the middle of the set and said, "Hey, I think it's time for a cigarette break. What do you think?" "Yeah, me too!" We'd pass out these cigarettes - this was at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go - and like thirty seconds later, people started throwing all kinds of shit at us, and they started exploding in their mouths as they lit them. Hey, can you hold on for a second? I've got a call coming in.
Okay. So we had a good time, me and Philo. Anyway, through the course of everything, there's that part in Spit's interview where he says I wasn't holding my end up. Well, what had happened was that I had caught Lee - remember in his interview he goes they had caught him taking money because he was paying them less than what he was getting?
Well, I found out he was doing that before they ever did. And what I would do - I was like PR guy for Fear. I would go out, and there would be Lee married up with his wife and kid, and Philo got married and Spit was with Susan, and I was the only guy who was single and I had gotten a place that was right - at first, I was living in Philo's garage. So this stuff about me having lots of money and all that shit was a lot of horseshit too. I didn't have any money. I was living in Philo's garage during this whole period.
Why did that rumor go around?
I have no idea. I heard a lot of strange rumors. I think there was some slander going on by Mr. Ving. And so what happened was that there was this movie called "Get Crazy." Oh, we played this gig at the Vet's Hall where we were supposed to get $800 for the set and Joey Vex paid us only $500, and he said, "You don't want me to go look for the other $300, do ya?" You know, talk to the bouncers. And out of character, Lee didn't sound him on it, and I thought, "That's odd." And later I found out that Lee pocketed that. And so what I did is I decided, going out on the street and stuff, and I was out there with the fans and they were all my friends and stuff like that, and I was getting more press than Lee. You know, I got beat up at one show and my face was broken in 12 places, which ended up with me getting a full-color picture of me in Rolling Stone magazine.
Yeah! Lee couldn't stand the fact that I was getting as much press if not more than him. It really rubbed him the wrong way. Like Philo wrote the song, "Johnny, Are You Queer?" Remember that?
I don't know that one.
I don't know that song.
It was Josie Cotton. It was a pretty big hit. These guys named the Paine brothers who were the producers played on it and messed around with it a little bit, who later Lee despised. Lee had this way of burning bridges for no reason. I didn't understand it at all, but I - anyway, so the Paine brothers heard Philo's version of "100 Downers," which turned into "Johnny, Are You Queer?" The Paine brothers rewrote the lyrics and rearranged it and said, "Hey, Philo! We'll give you half-credit - you know, whatever you want. We're gonna do this with your song." But Lee hated them so much and Philo didn't really have that much of a backbone. He really hated confrontations; he'd do anything to avoid them. So he called Lee and said, "What should I do?" and Lee goes, "Don't take any credit. Don't have anything to do with it." Well, the song became a hit, and Philo did what he said - he didn't take any credit. I mean, he would have made 50 grand, you know? I can't believe that Lee would do that. And so.... So, umm.... Let's take a break here. Ask me some questions. You got any questions?
I just like the story!
Yeah well, I'll keep going. I just need a break. I gotta roll a cigarette.
Oh, okay. Let's see - did you hear the records that came out after yours?
Yeah. As a matter of fact, I was told by the guy that engineered the second record - the "More Beer" record - that actually the person playing bass on that is me. And I didn't know it! The engineer, one of the brothers that owns Cherokee Studios, when we were doing the sessions for the - you know, John Belushi was a big fan of ours and he was a good friend of mine - and uh... Let me put you on speakerphone for just a second.
Can you hear me?
Okay. Well, hold on a second.
Okay, no problem.
The guy who runs Cherokee Studios - I ran into him and he told me that while we were doing the song for the movie "Neighbors," which John was in - we were supposed to do the last song in the movie, but it never came to fruition - we cut some basic tracks. And those basic tracks are the ones that are on that record. Did you hear me?
They used the basic - you mean just the basic bass track? Or the basic everything?
Hey! Did they use just the basic bass tracks? or the basic everything for that album?
Here we go. (phone feedback) Hello?
Here we go.
Sorry about that.
That's alright. No, I was just asking, "Did they use the basic, like, ALL the tracks? Or just the basic -
I don't know, because I don't really remember. There was like four or five or six songs that we did. We were just fucking around in there. We weren't really serious about getting anything down. I didn't think were were getting it for anything yet. You know, like the first record, you take all your best songs and you put your best songs on it. Your second one, you take the songs that you could have put on the first one and didn't. And Fear -- we painted ourselves into a corner. After we shocked everybody, where do you go from there? I wanted to maybe go out and call ourselves The Happy, where we'd be wearing pastel jumpsuits with buttons, something like that.
Anyway, that didn't happen. So let's see - so let's get to the point where I left the band. Oh yeah, well I'll say this also. Slash Records wanted to sign us and put our record out. And we'd had a few record deals. I'd found our manager, who was Danny Hutton, one of the singers from Three Dog Night. He managed us for a while.
Really!? Did he like the music?
Oh, he loved us! That's where we got the equipment!
The guy from Three Dog Night!?
Oh my God.
He managed us and financed us.
Oh my God! That's insane!
And so -
Oh, another question: did you end up liking punk rock? Or at least liking -
Oh, fuck yeah! Yeah yeah yeah! Oh yeah. I totally jumped into it. It totally won me over. Oh totally. It was just one of those things where - you know, I hated disco and it was a big deal and.... I didn't understand it. And once I understood it, I went, "Yeah, okay. I get it now." I'm glad that I gave it a chance. And so Danny Hutton managed us, and Slash Records made us a record deal, but Lee was looking for the record deal like Fleetwood Mac had gotten - you know, half a million front money. That's the record deal he wanted, so he was saying "No" to everybody. And by that time - Keith Morris, the lead singer of the Circle Jerks, was the guy who started Black Flag. He was the first lead singer for Black Flag. He would show up at all our gigs. The first time I met him, I poured a beer all over his head. He was a real fan of ours, so we gave Black Flag their first gig at the Hong Kong Cafe opening for us. And then later I guess they threw him out and they kept going and he started the Circle Jerks. And so by this time, Black Flag had put out a record, the Circle Jerks were putting out a record, and we still hadn't put out a record. And we hadn't gotten that pie-in-the-sky deal. And I had to go back to Slash and beg Bob Biggs to extend the offer so we could sign it, and I promised him we would. And then I went to the band and I told the guys at rehearsal, "Listen, if we don't take this deal, I'm gonna quit. Because we're gonna be looked at as like the second generation of this punk movement. Our record's gonna come out way after all these other people, and we're not gonna be where we should be." So we took the deal with Slash. I had worked at Sound City, where we cut the album, years before, and I knew Gary Lubow. I grew up with Gary Lubow, and he now has since passed. And we got him to co-produce it with us, and we cut it at the same studio where Fleetwood Mac cut their "Rumours" album, so it was the same studio that Fleetwood Mac did their thing in. It's funny that Fleetwood Mac keeps coming up so much, because I heard even Lindsay Wag - Lindsay Buckingham was a big fan of ours too.
I've actually grown to like that "Rumours" album over the years.
Yeah, me too.
It's well-played. It just got played too much on the radio, I guess.
Yeah, Gary worked on it and stuff. Anyway, so I forced their hand into the record deal and the producer, and then we come to the - there was a movie by Ralph Bakshi we were in called "American Pop." Did you ever see that?
Say it again?
There was this movie called "American Pop" - a cartoon movie.
I've seen the commercial for it a ton.
We were in that!
You were in "American Pop"!?
Yeah! We're like the punk band at the very end.
Oh my gosh.
Yeah. Check it out.
Do you guys talk? Or do they just have your music -
Yeah, we talk. I'm sitting on a piano bench, and we got the guy who goes into this song called "Night Moves." You know, by Pete Seeger.
Yeah. And it's Philo, me and Spit. And we were waiting to do this - they had to yell to come and get us because we were walking down the street to get some beer on our way to do it. And then we did this movie called "Get Crazy," right?
I've heard OF that. That has a Ramones song in it.
Yeah. Well, that's the movie where at rehearsal Lee comes and he goes, "Yeah, we've all got a part in this movie called 'Get Crazy.'" And I thought, "Cool. Now we're all gonna get our SAG cards." And so we get there and Philo has a principal part, Lee has a principal part, and I'm just an extra and Spit is just an extra. And so for three days, I didn't sign my waivers or vouchers. And there was a couple thousand people extra at the shoot. So I didn't sign my waivers and vouchers and I got established in most of the shots, and after three days I went to the producer and I said, "Hey, I was told I was gonna have a principal part in this movie, and I want one. Otherwise you're gonna have to reshoot the last three days." And so the next day, I had my own trailer and I had a part in the movie, which I think was a little bigger than Lee's!
And at the last rehearsal I did with them, I said to Lee, "Don't you dare forsake this band for an acting career." And we got pretty heated - it came almost close to blows. And he goes, "Oh no, don't worry. I won't." And then during that movie is when I got fired. Then he took the part in the movie "Flashdance." What was funny is right after he fired me, we had a tour up and down the West Coast where we were guaranteed two grand a set, and when the bookers found out that I had left the group, they dropped the guarantee down to 500 dollars. So they came back and asked if I would do this last tour with them, and I told them, "Yeah, only if you guys fly me where I have to go and you pay for my hotel." Because it really crushed me. I really thought he was a bro, you know? I'd go out and I'd get press for us - for Fear. It was for the band; it wasn't for me. And I didn't realize I was rubbing him so wrong. And he knew that I knew that he was trying to skim off the top, and I didn't tell the other guys in the band that that's what he was doing. And I couldn't say it after they fired me; it would have sounded like I was just being spilled milk, you know - sour grapes. "Hey, Lee's doing this!" "Yeah right. Sure, Derf." And the reason it looked like I wasn't carrying my weight was because I knew he was trying to skim, so I would go out and get a roadie. I'd hire my own roadie. SVTs are pretty big amplifiers and my roadies did that, and I'd be in where the money was when it was getting paid out, and I'd make sure that all four of us got equal pay and he couldn't skim. And I think that's another reason why he wanted to fire me. And then he told me when he fired me over the phone, "Oh, I'll tell everybody that you quit," and I said, "Yeah, right. No way. I'm gonna tell everybody I was fired."
What reason did he give you? Because you weren't pulling your weight? That's it?
Yeah, that kind of thing. And that I was a junkie. I wasn't any more of a junkie than anybody else. I just liked to party like anybody else. I was no Keith Richards, you know? I don't know. It kinda backfired on them, I think.
Oh, it definitely did. Look what happened to the band!
Look what happened to the band. It definitely backfired on them.
I'm like the only person I know who likes the second record, you know? People kinda buy the first album and say, "That's it."
Yeah, and you know what? It's picking up on sales again.
Yeah, I'm still getting royalty checks.
Yeah. Anyway, I think that's pretty much as far as I can go with it. I don't know if there's anything else I can remember. But if you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them. Oh yeah - John Belushi had just died, and people were looking at me because I was hanging with him the night before, and I also yelled at Bob Biggs for putting money into this other band when he should have been promoting us. Lee had a bunch of bogus things, and basically I just said to him, "Why don't you just face it, Lee? We're just spent on each other. You just don't like me anymore. That's why you're firing me." And I've tried to talk to him since then, but he won't have anything to do with it. He won't even talk to me.
Have you talked to the other guys since then?
No. I saw Spit a while back, and me and Philo started a band after that called The Happy for a while, and then that didn't work out and I haven't talked to them in, God, 15 or 20 years. And I was thinking after reading Spit's that maybe we oughta start a band and redo the first album and call it "Fearlesslee."
Ooh! Ha ha!
And just rewrite all the lyrics and do parodies on all the songs.
It's too bad you guys weren't able to write more songs together.
Yeah, I know. If I'd been there, it would have been different, but -
Have you heard the other records?
I've heard parts of "More Beer," and a couple of places I go, "Yeah, that's my bass playing on there." But of course Lorenzo's getting the money for it, not me, so I don't care. People have always said to me, "Why don't you go sue him?" And it's like - no. You know, if I were to sue him, it would be like trying to take money when there's no money there. The record didn't make that much money, and the lawyer fees would be too much to do, and it would just make me look like a real asshole too, I think. So I've just been waiting for this chance to tell somebody what was really going on.
Do you think Lee was faking being a nice guy the whole time? Or did it change him to get more popular?
Maybe faking it a little - faking it somewhat. He had a good eye for horseflesh or whatever. You know, when you go to the races and there's a guy with a good eye for horsef - err... He could tell who's a good player - who had talent - and he surrounded himself with three really talented guys. And he took the glory for it. And as you can tell, he got rid of us three and he isn't doing squat. He keeps hammering Fear - I keep seeing, "Fear's playing some place." Now everybody's, when they go see it, it's a joke. He's beating a dead horse. And now it's not even cool to like Fear anymore out here. And I guess his acting career didn't pan out. He thought he was gonna be the next - the guy who just died. What's his name?
Yeah, he thought he was gonna be the next Marlon Brando. He really did. But really when you see him, like in "Flashdance" when he plays that club manager, he's actually being actually himself in that. Yeah, that's really what he was like. An asshole. You don't have to print that.
Why not? Ha! I mean, he alienated three really, really talented guys.
He had something special, and even by the second -
It happens in band after band, I've seen it happen. So I've got this band called Derf Scratch & Friends where I'm gonna share publishing with everybody, and screw all that. My wife's playing in it.
What does she play?
She sings and she plays keyboard.
Oh, okay. How long have you been married?
Mrs. Scratch and I have been together for almost 12 years now - married for 8 of them.
Oh, okay! Very nice.
I played the field quite a bit, and I've - enough's enough!
What happened when you were beaten up that time? Spit said they just pulled you off the stage?
No. No, no, no. What happened was we were playing a pretty big hall with Black Flag and Adolescents. We were headlining, and we'd just played and I was feeling pretty rich about myself, and I'm walking through the club - I was going to see if my girlfriend ever showed up, because I hadn't seen her at the club. So I was crossing the dance floor, and as I'm walking across the dance floor, this skinhead about 6'3 - pretty strong guy - laid this body block into me, into my shoulder as I was walking by. He hits me really hard in the shoulder, and I turn around and look at him, and he flips me off. So I go up and we both hit each other at the same time, but he totally won. I turned around and started running from him, and he tore the jacket off my back and started punching me in the same side of my face over and over. I finally charged him, buried my head in his stomach and wrapped my arms around his back and started yelling for help. Finally these "vatos" from like 18th Street Gang pulled him off of me. Then he left the place, whoever did it. I vowed I was gonna get even with the guy, and later on I found out that somebody knew where he was, and I heard that he was eating out of dumpsters and stuff, and I decided my revenge was to leave him alone.
How did Spit remember that so wrong?
I don't know. Well, we did have this one thing that we'd do whenever we'd go on the road, and that was we'd always lie to the press. We'd always go, "Whatever you do, lie to the press. Because that way, the next time somebody interviews you, you can say, "You're gonna get the real story." And that's how we'd keep the press coming back.
Ohhhhhh. So that's what you're doing to ME! Awwwwww jesus.
No, no no no. No no no. This is once and for all. I don't wanna have to repeat all this stuff again. People ask me about it and I'm blue in the face trying to explain it.
What do you think about the album now?
Oh, I think it's great. I think it's great Back then, it was funny, first when we'd put it on, if you ever wanted a party - If you ever wanted to clear a room, you could put that record on and it would clear the room quicker than shit. It scared people!
Let me turn the tape over. I'm not done!
And you know that part of Spit's interview where he said he beat me up once? I wish I'd been there when that happened, because I don't remember that at all.
Oh, Spit claiming he - oh, he did - I think he -
Was he joking when he said that?
Did he say he beat you up or just hit you? Because it sounded serious when he said it.
In the interview it says, "I beat him up once."
Oh, he did say that. Maybe I heard him wrong and he actually said, "I almost beat him up once." You know, I sent him the interview when I was finished -
He's 130 pounds soaking wet.
He's a real nice guy. He's got a warped sense of humor. So when I read the part about how they left because Lee was trying to use them as sidemen, that's the main reason it looks like I wasn't pulling my weight. They were really - Philo and Spit were loading their equipment, and I was having guys carry my stuff out. But I was where the money was because of Lee - making sure that they were gonna get their fair share. That's what happened there.
What did you think about the movie "The Decline of Western Civilization"?
What do you mean what I thought about it? I thought it was cool.
I think it's great. It's just that I've interviewed a bunch of people who were in it. That guy who called you to set up this interview has set me up with a lot of people, and everyone always complains, "Oh, that's not what the scene was really like," "Oh, they should have had the Weirdos in there," you know, this and that. And it's a movie that I watched about 20 times when I was a kid!
Well, here's what happened. Lee and I were going through Laurel Canyon putting fliers on telephone poles on Laurel Canyon. There's a parallel street - you ever been in L.A.?
Not in a long time, but yeah.
There's a parallel little street that runs parallel to Laurel Canyon, and if you get caught by the police putting up fliers, back then it was like a $350 fine and a weekend in jail. So we were doing our guerrilla tactics and like walking along the street down below and then running up to a telephone pole, stapling the flier up and running back down. Well, Penelope Spheeris lived up in Laurel Canyon, and she was driving down in her Mustang and she saw us do this. So she pulled over and asked us if we wanted to be in the movie. And, "Okay!" You should see my scrapbook; I've got pictures of the meetings for "The Decline" with everybody that was gonna be in it. The Plugz were gonna be in it, but they decided that they didn't wanna be in it. Too bad. I thought Penelope did a good job.
I really like it.
Yeah! I've got a copy of it. I used to watch it all the time.
Yeah. I mean, I always used to fast-forward past the Slash part just because it went on so long.
Yeah, Catholic Discipline. THAT was bogus - the Catholic Discipline band. That was put together because of Claude Bessy and Craig Lee, the guy who was the guitar player - he wrote for the L.A. Weekly - and he was in it. There was a little political thing going on there.
I didn't like the Alice Bag Band much either.
Yeah. She had a band before that called The Bags.
They were really good, I heard.
They were good. And this was them trying to recreate The Bags, but it didn't work. And they just wanted to I guess round it out with some female singers.
But otherwise I think it's a great movie. I just wish, I mean I always wished that they had interviewed you guys and the Circle Jerks like they did X and Black Flag.
Yeah, I wish they did too. There's a short movie that the guy who ran the Cuckoo's Nest just put out, where me and Spit are interviewed. It's short, but it's pretty funny. And uh, what else have we shot.... Some other stuff - I can't think of them offhand. You gotta check out "American Pop" though.
Okay. Is the movie itself good? Or should I just check it out -
Yeah! Yeah, rent it. I think you can rent it.
Okay. Yeah, I've seen the commercial so many times. The Jimi Hendrix part, and -
Apparently that was gonna be a movie that was gonna have like the Stones doing music in it and stuff, because I had this agent for a while named Maggie Abbott who - she was an English woman - and so somehow the negotiations got all screwed up and they ended up going with like, you know, Bob Seger and shit like that. So it became from an A-movie that it could have been to a B-movie. What's funny is that that premiered the same night that "The Decline" premiered, so we were able to go to two movie premieres that we were in the same night on Hollywood Boulevard. It was a trip. Except "The Decline" had this big crowd out in front of it. And I had a big black eye at that time because I'd just been beaten up a couple weeks before. It wasn't until like two weeks later that I realized my face had been fractured the way it had.
Wow. How long did it take to heal?
Well, after I went to the hospital and they set my bones, they put this cup on the side of my face so I wouldn't roll over on it. I told Rolling Stone that it was a drainage cup just because it sounds better. As soon as they put the bones all back together, it was just about a month and then I was back to normal. The night I got out of the hospital, I played at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go.
Damn. Do you know why the guy hated you?
Ah, no. It was just a real violent night there too. A lot of people were getting beat up. The punks were sowing their oats.
Were all your shows really violent? The crowd, I mean?
No. A lot of them were though. We closed the Starwood and that night a bouncer got stabbed. And Lee didn't mind provoking the violence schtick; I was more into trying to make people laugh. So was Philo. I heard after I left that the band wasn't the same. Lee was able to shut Philo up. 'Cuz me and Philo had fun kinda like making fun of Lee onstage and stuff sometimes. And like I said, it kinda rubbed him the wrong way. I was the only guy that would stand up to Lee. It was a tragedy.
All three of you guys in that movie, you could just tell it would be - even if you never got around to playing the songs - it would just be a great show just watching you guys. You know, you telling jokes and you know, you know -
Philo would tell jokes and he'd go "Uh b-bl b-bl" You know, you'd hear him in the background, "Ah b-la bibib bleah," throwing his guitar around and stuff. The thing where Philo broke his guitar that Spit talks about in your interview - what really happened is we were in Tempe, Arizona and Philo was telling a joke, and it was so hot that Lee went up and pushed Philo - and pushed him so hard that he fell over the monitor in front of the stage and off the stage and onto his guitar and broke the neck in half. I mean, Lee was out of control at times.
Did he just want to be a tough character?
Did he just want to be a tough character?
Yeah, maybe. I don't know. I have a lot of anger towards that guy, as you can tell.
Spit sounded the same way when I talked to him.
Yeah. Spit said he just had this feeling like Lee was out for himself the whole time and didn't realize that Fear wasn't - I mean, he thought Fear was great just because of him, and that wasn't the case.
Yeah, and I was glad to hear that Spit said that I was the bass player - the right bass player for Fear, when you asked him that question. Because I think they realized after the fact that they shouldn't have let him get rid of me.
In addition to being a great bass player, you were a character too!
And that was a big part of the Fear show.
And I don't know who Lorenzo was, or -
I think he played with the Dickies for a while before that. Flea was the first bass player that replaced me.
Yeah, I've got a picture of me that looks exactly like that picture with Flea that you printed. I'll send you a copy of it. But I'm in the picture. It was shot at DAYMAX where we rehearsed. They have these white roller doors that go up for the garage, and we'd always shoot it in front of that with high-contrast black and white photo. So you wouldn't really see the lines in the door, but it just looks like a psych - you know, like a movie set. So it was always white, high-contrast black-and-white pictures so it was kinda timeless looking.
Yeah, send me that!
Yeah, I will.
NOTE: He did! Here it is:
Also - what was I gonna ask you.... Oh! What were you going for with "Getting The Brush"? It's just so different from the rest of the album.
Well, actually I had a bunch of other - originally we did about four songs of mine and we did about six songs of Lee's and we did about three songs of Philo's when we'd go out and play. And then we played in this thing when Casablanca Records was interested in us, and the people who started the Hong Kong Cafe - that was just to find bands for their label - Casablanca. And we ended up playing for the president, Bogart, before he died there. And they decided what set that we were gonna play, and the first four songs were my songs. They thought they were the most commercial. And after we did that, Lee says, "Okay. Well, we're just gonna do my songs because we've gotta have 'a sound.' A distinct sound." And we all thought, "Well... Lee, you're probably right. I'll be a soldier; I'll go along with that." So we did that and some of the songs are gonna be coming out from back then that I did back then on some CDs that I'm gonna be releasing. And uh.... Does that answer your question? What was your question?
Ha! What you were going for on that particular song.
Oh, "Getting The Brush"! I was kinda miffed a little bit, I think, and that was just a song where I played what I call an "A-demolish chord." It's an A, E-flat and A-flat, where it's two of the biggest -- minor second and a tri-tone off a tonic note -- those are the two most dissonant intervals, and I just put them together and so it's just real cringey. And I would orchestrate the band by bringing the bass neck down, and it was just so sick that Lee liked it so that was the one he allowed me to put on the record. And I wrote the music for "Fresh Flesh."
Yeah. I was the music end of that one and Lee wrote the lyrics.
Okay. Are there any other things that maybe Spit didn't mention about the way the songs were constructed, like you said -
Spit's input on the band in hindsight was so critical, and he really should have gotten some publishing and songwriting credit on all of them, because the way he made them sound was enough as to be part-songwriter, I think.
Did Lee get all the credit for all the songs?
Yeah! Except for the ones that he wrote with Philo. Philo wrote the music for "Camarillo," and "We Destroy The Family" was Philo. And Lee got half-credit on those. Yeah, he was really out for number one. Disgusting, huh?
Disappointing. Very disappointing. I don't know; you like to think the best about the kind of people that are in the bands you've been listening to your whole life. It's just disappointing when you hear things like that. But are there any other that, you know - because you said something earlier that I thought was really interesting about one of the songs. I've already forgotten which one you were talking about, but - Oh! No, no - "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place." Are there any other things that people might not know just as listeners that you guys did that were really musically -- whether screwing with the rhythms or doing some kind of -
I can tell you this about the movie "The Decline." There was a song that Philo wrote that started off, "O'er the land of the free!" and Lee says "And the homos too!" Right?
Well, I talked him out of saying "homo Jews." Ha! That's what it originally said. Because we realized that the music business was run, or is run, by half-gay and half-Jewish people. We can't alienate 'em all! Otherwise nobody will try to make us go further!
HA! Oh, that's awesome!
And after Lee finished that, the rest of the song is in A and it goes, "We're waiting for the gas/We're waiting for the gas/We're standing in the showers/And we're waiting for the gas." And Philo would sing, "Where are a we-o? We are a home-o. Where are a you-o? You are a homo!" "We're waiting for the gas/We're waiting for the gas/We're standing in the showers/And we're waiting for the gas." And that was the whole song. So there's something that you might find interesting.
How many songs did you guys - I mean, I wanna hear all these songs! Did you guys have a bunch of songs that didn't end up on those two records?
Well, no. That was about it for - I mean, "Null Detector" was still in its beginning phases, and I haven't listened to the second record to remember what those were. I don't know. I don't know what to tell you.
Okay. How long were you in the band?
I was in it for about four years. I started it with Lee. I found Philo and Spit for it. I mean, it just happened that it was through my contacts and stuff. And it was through my contacts that we got on Saturday Night Live also. And it was my contacts that signed us to a deal so we finally did make a record. So I get tired of people dissing me about this kinda shit.
In retrospect, looking back all those years, were you at all doing anything to affect the band's progress? I mean, I know Lee said that you were a junkie, but were you showing up and not playing well?
No, no! Not at all. Not at all.
So they dropped you just because you were getting a roadie?
Well, Spit's kind of a slight, small guy. And I think Lee was all of a sudden befriending Spit real heavy. If you ever talk to Philo, Philo'd have a whole different story too, I'm sure. And I always felt that making fun of ourselves was the best way to keep fresh and alive, so I'd make fun of Spit and Philo - there was always badgering going on between us all - and I must have rubbed him the wrong way for a while there. And I think Spit probably in a state of denial is saying that that's what was going on, or just wanted to believe Lee because of realizing in hindsight that they really fucked up when they let me go. It was the beginning of their demise.
It just seems like a strange decision for them to make. I mean, even in just the few songs they show in that movie, it's so clear that every member of that band is really, really integral and important to the sound.
It was really "a band."
Yeah, exactly. It seems like the kind of thing where they would at least warn you, or - Did they give you warnings? Or say, "Hey -"
No! No, I called up Lee to see when the next rehearsal was gonna be after "Get Crazy" was over, and he went, "Hey man, I wanna get a new bass player." And that was it.
He said I wasn't playing good and all this shit. And that was bullshit. That was total bullshit. And like I told you, I just said, "Listen Lee, why don't you just face it? You just don't like me anymore." I think it was just because I was getting more press than him, I was getting more females.... You know. I don't know. I was out on the scene all the time, and I had a lot of girlfriends. And I - I don't know. I wonder that too. I was pissed off at all of them because they didn't stand up for me against him.
Yeah. So how did you end up still playing with Philo? Did he end up calling you? Or -
I think I called him and we got together and played. Finally I had to fire him from my band because he was falling in love with this girl who was in love with me, and I didn't really want anything to do with her, and it just was not healthy. And I guess Spit's not with Susan anymore.
Yeah. He had a kid with her. I've got his phone number so I should call him, but I thought I'd let this interview come out before I get back to him. See what they have to say then.
I'd love to get Lee's side of it, but I've tried to call him a couple of times - so has the guy at the zine - but he doesn't return our calls.
Oh yeah, you gotta give him 12 grand to get an interview with him. It's ridiculous.
Because he's the star of "Clue: The Movie"?
Yeah, really. A lot of people as time goes on are going, "You know? Lee really is an...."
It's just so disappointing because you guys -- I mean, at least there was one more album with Philo and Spit so there was still kinda that sound for one more album.
Who knows? Maybe after this, we'll get back together and do something.
Wouldn't that be cool?
That would be pretty good. Or touring as "The REAL Fear."
Yeah, that's a pretty good idea actually.
Well, he's got Lee Ving's Army and he's calling THEM "Fear." You know, to be honest, I actually like the last album they put out. It's not classic Fear - it just sounds like Lee Ving songs. It doesn't have the -
It sounds like Lee with some sidemen.
Exactly. There's no real personality to the playing; it's just that the songs are really catchy. There's definitely nothing on there like "We Destroy The Family" or -
Do you think he's trying to go commercial now?
No. No, not really. It sounds like he's trying to recreate the sound of old Fear basically. Especially the third Fear record, which is a real piece of shit. That one was so embarrassing, when he came back - it was called "Have Another Beer With Fear." Not a good record. The follow-up I like though! Like I said, it's not as idiosyncratic as the first two, but it's -
Those are the songs that weren't good enough for the first two. Well, if you have any - do you wanna end it right now? If you have any more questions you wanna ask, just call me back.
Okay. And I'll shoot this over to you when I finally get it all typed up.
I might go, "Oh, I wish I'd said that!" and I'll write anything else down that I can think of. One thing that I find ironic goes back to when we were auditioning drummers and Lee asked the question, if we had a show to play one night, and you had an acting job the same night, which would you choose? Well, I just wish I had asked Lee the same question!
Who should I email this back to? Because I emailed you at that one address and I didn't hear back.
Yeah, I'll see it.
Nice talking to you, Mark!
You too! Thanks so much.
We'll talk again, I hope.
Yeah, me too.
For more about the author please visit www.MarkPrindle.com.