Gun Club Pt 2
"Walkin’ With the Beast
The Las Vegas Story (1984)
The Gun Club back stage in Australia - 1984.
So, I land in
Australia and I meet Jeffrey and Patricia. I had met Patricia before
whenever I played with her. And these two Australian musicians and
we make a band. I’m still very Cramp-ed out - I still have
all these black shiny clothes and big hair - and so does Patricia.
So it actually works out quite well.
We quickly play
some oldies that I already knew from my past - that I have in my
instant recall. And already there were songs that were going to
be on The Las Vegas Story Jeffrey had written and started
to play, like “Bad America," "Eternally is Here,"
"Moonlight Motel" - I know those three we played and Jeffrey
already had those ready for that tour.
It was quite a
crazy tour, started out crazy like that, I was brought in and we
had a big tour. The promoter thought we were something else all
together. It was kind of the new romantic era and he was in some
kind of new romantic band and he was kind of freaking out because
we were completely drunk and I think he just didn’t know what
to make of it at all. So we had our band and we went on this wild
wild tour of Australia mostly by car so we drove a lot. From Melbourne,
Sydney, Kenbourough Adelaide, Brisbane, and some other places.
And there were
a lot of fans there - that was the great thing - is that there were
a lot of people really wanting to see The Gun Club who really knew
all the music and were really into it there’s a huge garagy
community. That whole Birthday Party offshoot audience. And it was
very much like Americans…like redneck Americans -v ery brash
crass humor and they like to drink a lot. It was funny, it was the
first time I encountered punk rock prostitutes too. There were a
lot of girls who were prostitutes. A lot of people were on drugs
and they had really good dope and we were showered with such presents
and things. Our reputation had preceded us as one of the drunkest
and druggiest bands ever. And I guess that was part of the allure
of our popularity in Australia.
But, it went really
well, it was very chaotic but we made our mark there. The end of
the tour somehow, the promoter told us that we weren’t going
to get paid – there were too many expenses, plane tickets,
the loss of the members, etc. So they waited till the last second…We
had a road crew who were all ready to kill him for us. We told everyone.
So at the last second some people at Sydney threw an impromptu concert
at a club The Strawberry Hill Club. And we played one of the craziest
sets and we had the entire audience come on stage and everyone was
playing our instruments and we were having the wildest party and
it was totally oversold and we made so much money. It didn’t
even matter that they weren’t going to give us the money that
they said they were because they gave us all the money from the
door. They made a killing at the bar. At a Gun Club concert the
bar was almost guaranteed that they would make a killing.
So that was my start with my reunion with The Gun Club.
After being in
The Cramps for so long and only doing The Cramps, I kind of fell
into doing The Gun Club pretty naturally because I knew most of
the songs and Jeffrey’s style of song writing - I was well
acquainted with. He had actually matured as a writer so the songs
were a little more complicated.
And I had never
played with Patricia and we had never played with Spencer or, I
want to say Johnny but I know that’s not his name. And so
I knew Patricia only from The Bags and her band Legal Weapon. And
she looked great. She was great gothess. She stuck with Jeffrey
for a while by then. And a lot of band members could complain about
Jeffrey at the time. He was really unruly. I knew that he appreciated
the people he played with, but a lot of the people he played with
didn’t think that they were very appreciated – or at
least he wasn’t very good at showing that part. But she stuck
with him and she was a great sport about the whole thing. She was
really funny and I got along with her immediately, and she knew
it was a big wreck and she was okay with it. A very unique bass
player. She didn’t have the Rob Ritter, the main bass player
of The Gun Club when I left, smooth feel. Her playing was much more
militant maybe… More punk I guess. But I thought she played
really well and I kind of liked that.
We got back from
Australia and Jeffrey moved in with me and this is again after we
had been reacquainted, and then we proceeded to write and rehearse
for The Las Vegas Story.
For some crazy
reason Jeffrey let Terry back in the band I guess just because good
drummers are hard to come by - the right drummer is hard to come
by... but I’ve learned now that maybe that’s not true.
So for whatever crazy insane reason (logic doesn’t really
go with The Gun Club) Terry ended up back in the band and we started
rehearsing songs for The Las Vegas Story.
Jeff had put out
the preceding records Death Party and Miami with
Chris Stein (Animal Records) and they were going to do another album
with The Gun Club. Jeff at this time started to play guitar again
because he said that Jim Duckworth was such an incredible guitar
player that sounded like ten guitar players at once that it would
take twoguitar players to fill his shoes. But I think that Jeff
really just wanted to play guitar again, because he was a guitarist
and never really played except to write the songs and on the records.
So we started to hash out the songs for that and we went on tour
before we recorded that. And then came back and in 1984 and recorded
The Las Vegas Story.
It had been a
while since we played together and he had become a really great
guitarist. You could really see the influence of Richard Lloyd and
Tom Verlaine on that record. We were huge Television fans, and we
wanted to use that same interplay between guitars for the new material
rather than do the same old country punk conglomeration –
blues punk thing… We did that already. And we were in our
free jazz and international music phase – we were exploring
new territories and we wanted to do a record that satisfied us.
We rehearsed and that combination of people was really good and
it made a completely different sound than before. And im not sure
how – there were no conscious calculations for it.
So some of the
tracks came out sort of gothy sounding, some were old Gun Clubby
sounding. We were very into disco music – very into disco
music. We were big into pop music. I think Prince was the influence
at the time... Little Red Corvette era. What was that? 1999?
And just different crazy things… and drugs. It seemed that
Chrysalis Records was taking over Animal Records. Chris Stein had
fallen ill at the time so someone at Chrysalis took over the project.
We had quite a good budget and arrangement.
They wanted us
to have a producer, and we wanted to too. So we thought to ask Tom
Verlaine, but he couldn’t do it. Then we asked John Cale but
he couldn’t do it. And we thought, "Who else?" We
thought maybe David Lynch, but then we decided that wasn’t
a good idea. Then we decided that none of those people were going
to do it. Then some guy, Mitch Easter, almost did it - the guy from
REM. People kept pushing REM on us for some reason. And that didn’t
work out. We decided that we’d either produce it ourselves
or we’ll get David Lee Roth to produce it. Because even though
he might not know anything about producing, the jokes would be really
good. Then we thought maybe, well Prince probably wouldn’t
do it because he’d probably want a lot of money. But maybe
we could get Vanity 6 to do it. Because then we could just produce
it ourselves and we could take pictures of them at the mixing desk
painting their toenails in lingerie and stuff. But they didn’t
go for that.
So we went trying
again to find a real producer and we found this guy Jeff Eyrich
who had produced this T-Bone Burnett album that actually sounded
quite great. Slightly experimental sounding… Very dreamy sounding.
We wanted to have ar really dreamy sound rather than a harsh punk
sound. We wanted more dreams, more subconciousness, to come into
And so we ended
up liking him and he came and recorded the album with us. And there
were some funny things with that recording. We recorded it at Ocean
Way studios in Los Angeles … in Hollywood. It was a big studio
but he had the off time so wed go in at like midnight till 6am and
record. The good thing though was that Ry Cooder was recording the
Paris, Texas soundtrack in the same studio in the daytime
so he had all these vintage amps there and all these crazy noisemakers
things. So we stole all of his stuff and recorded a bunch of stuff
on his equipment. That was really funny and also Stevie Nicks was
recording in the next studio and she was the one that didn’t
come in until three in the morning. And this big white limosine
would roll up and like eighteen people would fall out and immediately
go to the bathrooms and block the doors - both men’s and women’s.
We don’t know if they ever did any recording - but they got
up to something in those bathrooms. So it was a very amusing time.
Despite all the
drug taking and merrymaking we would do in our extreme behaviors,
we were always able to pull it together for recording and be really
focused and be there for it. And Jeff Eyrich actually had a good
influence on us – and brought in different things and didn’t
poo-poo our ideas – like doing “My Man’s Gone
Now." And he was actually like “Oh, I know the piano
player from Julio Iglasias!” So, we got the piano player from
Julio Iglasias. We could get him to come play." He was like
“Oh, I know the sons of Andy Williams and they sing really
great operatic baritone!” So they came and sang on it. So
it was a fun, weird, very un-punk studio experience and we were
all for it. It wasn’t careerist – it was more perverse
for us to do this. We wanted it to be as real as possible. A lot
of people wanted us to be earthy punk, but the more people wanted
that from us the further we wanted to get from it. We were not afraid
to go there. It was interesting experiment. We were able to follow
our whims and desires and not be able to fall short of it.
The song that
didn’t make it on the album, “Secret Fires,” that’s
in all the reissues, is an absolutely beautiful folk song. That’s
a song that Jeffrey wrote as just an acoustic guitar number, he
just played. It was going to be on the record. Just him and a guitar
- no band. And then we decided that we should add a lap steel just
for atmosphere. So we got a lap steel player to come in because
none of us could play lap steel. I think in the end we just couldn’t
figure out how to fit it onto the record. I think that’s why
it didn’t make it onto the actual original one, because that’s
just a whole other process – sequencing a record and making
it be one piece of atmosphere. And somehow that one stuck out. And
I thinke we kind of forgot about it. And then remembered it. I think
it ended up on the B-side of something or another.
The Las Vegas
Story came out in 1984 - and that was the year that the Olympics
were coming to los Angeles and Reagan got re-elected to a second
term and we really saw the right wing really come in and sit down.
We had grown up in the 70’s - in a liberal time and we were
nihilistic punks and we were able to do whatever we wanted and things
weren't so band. And with that second term of his, it really became
apparent that there was a right wing in power for real. And we were
starting to become really disillusioned with America's politics.
And coupled with the Olympics coming to Los Angeles, it was becoming
more apparent the clean-up of the city. All of the restrictions
and all the good buildings being mowed down and new buildings being
put up and homeless people and prostitutes being bused out of town.
And all the good things that we liked about Los Angeles were being
swept away - all the good dirt was being swept away.
We started to
see it become apparent not only in mainstream culture, but we started
to see that there were a lot of bands that were going along with
this. And it was this whole “proud American” kind of
nationalism coming into a lot of the bands. Like, we would go see
a punk band and they would have a red white and blue headband on
and an American flag behind them and we’d be like, “What
is going on!” And musically, things were taking a turn for
the worse as far as we could see. We were like way off on some other
The title of The
Las Vegas Story refers to an actual story me and Jeffrey had
written that appeared in the vinyl version of the original album.
We did a cut up story of the apocalypse of Las Vegas. And little
did we know that it was the apocalypse of the United States at large.
Jeffrey and I wrote it together and we just threw lines at each
other and we cut it up and made a story out of it.
So, we went on
this endless tour to promote The Las Vegas Story. We did
two full American tours and two, maybe three, European tours that
were back to back. Before we left for tour actually, Jeffrey and
I were starting to get our first real serious drug habit. And right
before we left for tour, we went to Mexico to Yucatan to dry out
and to go on an adventure. We said were not coming back - and were
not going to have a chance to go to Mexico and we’d been reading
about the Yucatan explorers. So we did that, got completely drunk
the entire time and climbed on pyramids and flew on planes over
jungles and… snorkeled! - when we didn’t have too bad
of a hangover. And went for the cure.
And then we left
for the tour, these complete back-to-back tours. And me and Jeff
kept telling our American and our European agent, “Just keep
us on tour. We just want to stay on tour. Just keep booking. Keep
booking! Keep booking!” And they were very happy to do that
because we were popular and the record company was happy that we
would promote that. And we were having really good success –
full houses everywhere we played.
And so we embarked
on six months of touring non-stop. Tat was really some super drunk
things but the band was at a complete top-form. We had really gotten
down improvisation. We really had played so much that we could totally
guess what eachother was doing. We were really incorporating a lot
of our free jazz ideas - we weren't playing free jazz, but just
the idea of free jazz into rock music - where we'd see how things
And you know…
American tour is an American tour and we had all of our equipment
stolen right before we were going to Europe. So we were going to
Europe with no equipment – no guitars or anything. That’s
when I started playing the Squire. That’s when I got my first
Fender Squire guitar - in London. And those were great guitars because
those were the first issue of them. So they were actually really
Fender guitars - just with a sticker on them.
There were some
amazing shows we did up all the way up until Terry left in the middle
of the last leg of the tour. We would get all of our equipment and
suitcases and everything stolen once again - in Manchester. For
some crazy reason we left everything in the van and someone broke
in and stole everything. Not our equipment because we were on stage
playing when it happened - but all of our personal belongings. Terry
had been documenting the whole thing on Super 8 and it all got stolen
and that was really the last straw for him. Drummers are real hot
heads and he had a history of quitting – it was almost no
surprise. But it was a big surprise because we had just played a
really big show in Paris – and the next day he was gone. We
woke up and he was gone - his passport and everything. But, we continued
on and we didn’t miss one show. We got a pickup drummer -
and that was really awful. And that was the beginning of the end
of that version of The Gun Club.
Everyone was mad.
We were mad at Terry. Jeffrey was really mad and belligerent and
out of control and insufferable. At the end of this tour there weren’t
even factions. Nobody wanted to talk to anyone. It was really the
end. We’d driven tour managers crazy. It was really a very
harrowing experience. Yet somehow we made it to the end of the tour
and that was it.
Me and Patricia
decided we couldn’t do it anymore - we cant be around Jeffrey
anymore. It was just way too out of control. Me and Jeffrey actually
talked about it and I just said, “We really should just stop
because we're going to drop dead for one, physically- and also this
last leg of the tour was so terrible and embarrassing compared to
how great we were at the first half of the tour. We should go out
on a high note – we can do something but it would be terrible.
And let's just try to do something else. Amd we didn't become U2
or REM." We were just so frazzled that seemed like the only
So we ended up
in London. That was the last stop - and me and Jeffrey and Patricia
just stayed. We decided at that point here we are. Do we go home?
And somehow individually we decided not to go back to America. It
was too horrible. The political climate, the musical climate - everything
was not where we were at in our heads… or our hearts.
to Kid Congo Powers
Oral History Pt 6, London