Spit Stix of Fear
Former drummer of the explosive band Fear talks
about his current musical collaborations, reunion possibilities,
and the colorful characters that helped create the band's unique
sound and attitude.
By Mark Prindle
Spit Stix (better known by his hilarious
stage name "Tim Leitch") was the original drummer for
L.A. hardcore punk band Fear. He appeared on The Record
and More Beer and became part of hardcore legend through
the band's infamous appearances in The Decline of Western Civilization
and on a 1981 episode of Saturday Night Live, before the
band acrimoniously fell apart in the mid '80s. Since then, he has
continued to play drums for such surf music avant-gardists as Dick
Dale and Nina Hagen, as well as writing film scores and producing
records for other artists. His latest project is an electrojungle
duo called SOL-I.
Spit, which I believe is short for "Spittle,"
took an hour out of a hot Manhattan night in May to answer a series
of questions over the telephone thing. My questions are in punk
bold; his answers are in hardcore plain.
Hi! Whatcha up to tonight?
Oh, actually I just was watching that WB-11 show that's like the
opposite of American Idol, where the worse your act is, the
farther you go. They've got some horrible people on here.
Sounds like the Gong Show, sorta.
So what is -- I don't even know how you pronounce it -- SOL-I?
SOL-I. How'd you get involved in that kind of music?
Well, that's just my pseudonym, and it was a way for me to release
a bunch of stuff that I've done over the past few years. That was
kind of born out of playing with Dick Dale in '96. I started playing
that speed. And punk and speed and drum 'n' bass are all the exact
same tempo; it's just different emphasis. So it was really easy
for me to play it live. Or FUN, I should say, for me to play it
I started playing out in '99 as SOL-I at the Izzy Bar and just the
few places around town that were having live techno. So I'd sneak
in as "SOL-I" in DUMBO over in Brooklyn, the Lunatarium,
places like that. So that was just a form of playing, and I get
out and play wherever and whenever because I can't practice in my
living room. So given the opportunity to play, I usually jump.
When you're doing that, what do you play? Play on pads? Or --
Yeah, we did a couple of shows in Germany and I didn't want to bring
my whole kit or my whole band, so Tai just came with me and was
just singing through a vocoder and we had the bass and audio sections
on CD and I played live pads to that. And I did some shows with
Mutators and it sounded like the record, but I found that playing
live drums was much more impressive because people, sometimes people
didn't believe that I was really playing that fast with pads. They
thought it was loops or something. Plus it's just way more satisfying
with the dynamics of a real kit. The kit that I travel with has
like a 16" kick, 10" snare, 10" cymbals and it sounds
like a sped-up funk kit. So I can play them at this superfast speed
and it sounds like a funk record sped up.
Oh cool. What other drum 'n' bass artists were you into that
got you into this music?
I guess the first thing I got into -- a friend of mine gave me something
by this guy Boymerang -- Graham Sutton. He put a record out that
was very, very musical. It had a lot of elements at a fast speed
with dub elements. So it was kinda like how punk had that dub element
like the Clash, or somebody brought that dub element into punk.
And people playing drum 'n' bass were basically playing a surf style.
And that's kinda what I started playing with Dick Dale. It was like
a surf style drum 'n' bass. It was the same tempo as punk.
How did you end up playing with Dick Dale?
His bass guitarist Ron Wheeler and I were in a band together. I
was in a rock band with him called the Gyromatics -- a band I used
to play out in Orange County with. We'd play out at the Sunset Pub.
They were like my day gig. When Fear wasn't working, I'd make money
three nights a week in pubs.
Was it playing originals or covers?
A few originals. Actually we did some originals, but a lot of it
was '50s and '60s stuff. Maybe like rockabilly -- so I spent three
to four nights a week playing ski resorts and stuff like that. I
started doing that in '83 and '84 because Lee started getting more
acting gigs, so Fear wasn't working as much.
Ron was the bandleader of that, and Alan the saxophonist/keyboard
player of the Gyromatics also played sax with Dick Dale. So a couple
of people from the Gyromatics had been playing with Dick Dale. So
Dick had always heard about me because Ron and he would hang out
-- Ron would be playing bass on his tours -- and I was living out
here in New York and Dick just wanted to come out cheaply. He was
doing Conan O'Brien. And Ron said, "Well, hire Tim to play
drums when you're in New York City." So he sent me out my CDs,
and then we did the show without even rehearsing.
And Prairie, the drummer from the Tubes, had played on the original
CDs, and he came up to me afterwards and said, "Hey, did you
know you were playing four drummers' parts?" And I didn't!
I learned it just because I knew Dick wanted to play it. So I listened
to it later and was like, "Oh, okay. There's some overdubs."
But I pretty much covered it. That was a blast. And I did a couple
more shows with him -- we did Irving Plaza, some place like Tramps
I met Dick Dale once very briefly. He seemed like a character,
a real colorful --
Yeah, he is. He's on all the time.
Was he nice?
Yeah, very. Very. Just a real intense player. When you see eye-to-eye
as another player, it just feels really good when you're playing
with somebody of his calibre. And I think he felt the same way about
me. He even said so at Irving Plaza. Whereas most of my professional
friends know me as "Spit," he announces onstage at Irving
Plaza, "Tim Leitch is the best drummer in the world!"
And I was like, "Dick, you could have said 'Spit Stix'!"
So I actually was able to quote him on that later.
Now see, I don't know much about drums -- I've always just played
the guitar -- but I've always been able to notice that your drumming
on the Fear records sounds different than most punk drummers. But
I don't know what it is or why. Did you concentrate less on the
backbeat than on the 1's and 3's or something? Just something about
it just seems more --
Bob Biggs, the president of Slash Records -- the way he described
it, he goes, "You goose the beat!" And I knew what he
meant. Goosing the beat means you're not lazy on the backbeat. The
backbeat is just as important as the downbeat. And it's hitting
the drum before your ear hears it.
You know how it is with bass -- if someone's playing bass, you gotta
be really far away from it to really hear it. And with a guitar,
you can be right up close, so there's a happy medium happening in
the room when you play. Then you hear it fine. Some bass players
rush, and it sounds good out in the audience because the bass frequency
takes a little longer -- by the time it gets out to them, it sounds
okay. But being on stage, you have to tune the bass player out because
he's rushing it. So I guess the bass player's just gotta -- it's
just crucial that they're not lazy. The Ramones have the same feel
-- it's like "DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH-DUH."
A lot of Fear stuff was written around my exercises.
Oh! Really? Like which songs?
Like "Fresh Flesh" was an exercise. "Let's Have A
War" was an exercise. "I Don't Care About You" was
What would happen is that I would be the first one at rehearsal,
and I would just start playing my exercises. Then Philo would come
in and just start playing along with whatever I was doing. And the
songs were born. That definitely happened with "I Don't Care
No wonder the drums sound so interesting. It's like the songs
were built around them. That's so cool! That's rare, isn't it?
That's how I kinda learned how to compose, I guess, in its earliest
form. I used to play in a drum-and-bugle line and we had to memorize
these cadences with incredibly long patterns. It wasn't just simple
4-bar patterns -- these were 32-bar cadences, and maybe three or
four of them I had to memorize are in fact parts of really long
patterns of African drums. So in the end, they sounded more interesting
than just sterile patterns where you hear it once and you get bored.
These were interesting longer patterns. That's kinda what I was
trying to put into punk. Like "I Don't Care About You"
and "Fresh Flesh." "Fresh Flesh" was inspired
by Sly Dunbar. I heard him and was like, "Man! That's really
I saw a quote from you somewhere a couple of years ago saying
that if you were asked to do a Fear reunion, you would only do it
if Philo did it, because Lee's politics get a little bit too much
Well, Philo and I together can overpower Lee, you know? We can be
enough.... Because it used to be Philo, me and Derf too in the beginning.
Philo and I left at the same time, and I think....
Did you leave because he was acting too much?
No, we just went in different directions. He kinda thought of us
more as sidemen, and saw it as, "Why am I paying these guys
such a big cut when I could have sidemen do it and pay a lot less?"
So he started paying us as sidemen without telling us. And it was
like, "Okay. I guess that's how you want to work," and
that was the last time we worked. There was no money involved in
our first reunion show, so that was okay. We did a show at the Continental.
That's surprising to hear that he was that unaware of what incredibly
idiosyncratic styles both you and Philo have.
Yeah, Philo's a mathematician so he brought an originality, and
Lee had a great delivery as an entertainer. And Philo's mathematical
input into his phrasing -- because he's got like a degree in Physics
That would explain something like "I Am A Doctor."
(*begins singing the guitar part to "I Am A Doctor." Just
in case Spit has forgotten how "I Am A Doctor" goes, I
Yeah, and "We Destroy The Family."
Oh yeah! (*begins singing the guitar part to "We Destroy
The Family," for what can only be described as no reason at
That's so hard to play. And he does a guitar solo in that song in
7, but he knows right where to start it so it ends perfectly.
What is that song in? What time is that song in?
And he plays the solo in 7. Ha!
Yep, he plays the solo in 7. And 35 bars later, it ends on time.
And that's why, I mean aside from just the great punk songs as
well, it's not like listening to a Dead Boys album; all of a sudden,
you hit something like THAT song or you hit something like "I
Am A Doctor," it's just like, "Good lord! These guys are
It's the same thing I thought about -- I don't know if you like
them or not, but the Dead Kennedys, when you're listening to Fresh
Fruit and all of a sudden you get to "Ill In The Head."
What the hell is THAT!? Why do they bother with the three-chord
songs if they can do this? Yeah, but that sucks to hear that. Lee
really should have -- I have the two Fear albums he's done since,
you know with the new band?
I actually like the second one -- American Beer. But there's
nothing about the players that stands out. I like the songs but
there's nothing. Like when I listen to you guys -- man, Philo had
such a strange style -- all the bending strings and the "DEE-DEEUURRR"
things he did.
Yeah! He had an SG that he broke the neck off of because it didn't
have a whammy bar.
Oh wow! Really?
How did he do that? What -- did he just yank the --
He kinda bent it a little too far and I think it just snapped or
Hee hee. It was onstage, so it was even better.
Have you heard either of those?
He played me some of the stuff when he sent me some of the early
demos that he'd done at home. I was gonna talk to him and maybe
do a session, but it just didn't work out. It was too hard for him
to put it on a four-track, and then he was worried about sending
me the masters through the mail.
The first one was really awful. It was him and these other guys
trying to basically sound exactly like Fear used to sound, to the
point of just writing songs about beer and.... I like the second
one though. It's better. It's not a classic like the The Record
What's it called?
It's called American Beer. Terrible title of course, but
the songs are actually pretty catchy.
Well, that was the other thing. That was the situation you first
asked about, whether I would go back into Fear. I'd want to organize
a reunion with Philo, because Philo's sense of humor onstage balances
Lee's extreme right point-of-view. Philo's so left, it's just like
ying and yang, Abbott and Costello. It was funny. But the thought
of doing it without the humor with Lee -- it's just... it's hard
work. It's really hard work, so it's gotta be fun.
I think the first I heard the band was in that movie The Decline
Of Western Civilization when I was a teenager.
There you go! That's where Belushi first saw us too.
We were unsigned.
Really? Earlier tonight for the first time in a long time, I listened
to the Fear songs on that soundtrack -- I was just showing my wife
what band I was interviewing the drummer from -- and God, the stage
banter is just so funny.
Yeah! That was the balance.
"It's great to be gay and to be here!"
Ha! Well, what happened is we would play San Francisco so often
that we'd just want a reaction from people. We found out from some
friends of ours who lived in San Francisco that you DON'T say "Frisco."
Yeah. "Frisco" is not proper. You gotta say "San
Francisco." Or "San Fran." But not "Frisco."
Oh! I never got that joke, because I didn't know. "We're
from Frisco." "Then go back to Frisco!"
It was only a joke for people who were from San Francisco.
What was the deal with that first bass player [Derf Scratch]?
What ever happened to him?
Derf actually ran into a friend of mine. I'm supposed to hear from
him. He's living in Los Angeles obviously somewhere. But actually
one of my nephews works at an equipment repair, or like guitar or
musical equipment repair place out in Los Angeles, and he came in.
And he asked about me. They got in a conversation and he was like,
"Hey, do you know where Spit's at? Do you know how I can get
a hold of him?" I would talk to him.
Why did he originally leave?
Derf was just not pulling his weight. It was like none of us had
roadies in the early days. Actually we never had roadies. Just a
very few on a couple of tours, but not regular roadies. Okay, we
did have a couple of roadies. But at any rate, in the early days
we didn't, when Derf was around. And if you didn't pull your gear,
other people had to pull it and they'd get really resentful towards
you. And I think that was one of the factors. And then just not
wanting to rehearse as athletically as the rest of us. What none
of us realized is what Derf brought to the table -- this kind of
Dean Martin classy drunk vibe. You know? He was like a rich guy.
Oh, he was rich?
Yeah. So he had a very -- I can't say he was rich, but he came from
a nice school in Woodland Hills or Encino or something. So it was
a good element. And he was really fun to hang out with -- someone
fun to party with. Just a funny guy, a guy that you wanted around.
But at that time, it was really a drag for us to lug our own and
his shit around, and be the only ones that wanted to rehearse. And
he just didn't want to pull his weight on that end, and at that
time in the early stages of the band, everyone was showing his muscle
and like, "Hey, you gonna pull your weight? What, are you a
punk or what?" Things got bad. I beat him up once.
Whoa! Was Flea in the band before he was in the Chili Peppers
or at the same time?
Before. Well, sort of at the same time too. Before the Chili Peppers
formed, he was like 19 at that time in 1983. He called me up because
he knew we were looking for a bass player. We'd just recorded "Fuck
Christmas," and a friend of mine, Eric Drew Feldman, who plays
bass or keyboards for -- he's played with a lot of people, Captain
Beefheart, (mumble too quiet to hear)....
I forgot what I was talking about! I started thinking about Pere
Oh, you were talking about Flea.
Oh, Flea. So Eric Feldman played on "Fuck Christmas."
But Eric wasn't available --
Wait, did Eric play with Pere Ubu?
So he was a roommate. That's how I know Eric. He and I go way back.
Was Flea ever on any recorded material at all?
Absolutely. When I first met them [Red Hot Chili Peppers], they
were doing shows and I was doing sound for a club, and then they
wanted to go in the studio, and I was using this place to do reggae.
I was producing reggae. And this place was like $20 an hour, so
I booked some time and engineered and produced their first ever
recordings. That's the recording that got them the deal on EMI.
Then Flea called me lately and we released those demos on a CD called
Out In L.A.
Oh yeah, okay. I've heard of that.
Flea was writing quite a bit, and we were playing his songs -- we
were rehearsing his songs -- and we weren't performing them. They
were full of early Chili Pepper ideas, but that wasn't the direction
that Lee wanted to go in. So.... I was getting pissed because my
songs weren't getting played either. I can't even remember what
I was doing, but I remember Flea's.
Were any of your songs on either of the records?
Say it again?
Were any of your songs on either of the records?
The Chili Peppers'?
No no, the Fear records.
Oh yeah. A couple were on the live record -- "Responsibility,"
"What Are Friends For." "Bomb The Russians"
I wrote the music for.
Actually a guy down the street from me when I was a kid, long
before I saw the movie, he was like, "Oh, you gotta hear this.
I got 'Bomb The Russians/Have Another Beer With Fear.'" I'm
like, "What are you talking about?" I was a kid listening
to Led Zeppelin. And he played this and I was like, "That's
really funny! Is all punk like that?" And years later, here
I am. God, that's a great song.
Ha! Yeah, I wrote that one on guitar, with my limited bar chord
Who's that guy -- the bass player on that album [More Beer]?
That was a guy named Lorenzo. But he was kicked out of the band
shortly thereafter. Or I guess he wasn't asked back, I should say.
Because we were really in between bass players, we gave Lorenzo
no credit on the record. It was officially recorded with no bass
player. There's no credits for him on that record. He gets a royalty;
I made sure of that. But Flea played in Fear from '82 to '84 --
But there's no recorded material of him in Fear?
That's a good question. I've seen a ton of pictures, and I've posted
some on my web site.
Yeah, I was just looking at those. That's a classic -- that promo
picture is a classic; I've seen that in a lot of places. The one
with him doing the little slam dancing guy (photo at right).
Yeah, yeah, yeah. People have asked me for that, like "Can
I have that picture? It's for something really important."
You can't give me money for that! There's only like eight of them
left in the world.
What the heck is all this on your shirt in that picture?
In Arabic, it says "Fuck you" right under my neck.
A friend of mine is Arabic, or speaks it. And I said, "That's
what I wanna write on here: 'Fuck You.' In Arabic." When we
played Saturday Night Live, I put on my bass drum the letter "Q"
and then "FA." It's just one of the chants that I just
made up: "Q-FA-Q-FA-Q-FA-Q."
The censors looked at it and they go, "What's that?" And
I said, "It's a chant." And they didn't read it. Well,
they read it, but they didn't see it because the "Q-FA"
was written like that. Not "FA-Q," it was "Q-FA."
So a bunch of my shirts say "Q-FA." And a lot of my bass
drums said it. But I guess we got away with it because the FCC didn't
notice. That punk show was a surprise to everyone who thought, "Wait,
it's not getting airplay because they're saying 'Fuck!'" But
that's not the reason -- they just didn't want to hear about it.
That's amazing that he got you on that show when you didn't even
have a record deal.
Belushi we met through a mutual friend of ours. Derf had been teaching
a friend of John's bass -- Tino Insana -- they both worked at Second
City together. So Tino was learning bass from Derf, so Derf gave
John my number and Lee's number, and he called us and told us to
meet him at On The Rocks. And as I walked in the door, he started
telling me our jokes. "I'll give you a dollar if you'll be
my friend!" You know? So he already knows our schtick. And
I hadn't watched any Saturday Night Live shows in years.
I didn't even own a TV at the time.
Oops! Well, he hadn't been on the show in a while, had he?
No, that's true. He hadn't. But for the show that we were on, he
did make an appearance. In the beginning, he's at the urinal and
he turns around to the camera, "Live! From New York!"
That was a favor he did for us because during rehearsal some of
our crowd -- bussed-in slamdancers -- tripped over a cable or something,
and the union people didn't want any dancers. So as a trade-off,
he went up to Grant Tinker's office for us and said, "I'll
make an appearance on the show if the dancers stay." John was
such a generous guy.
What do you think of the Fear records you were on? Now, looking
As far as our recordings, I think the better recording was the first
record. We were at the studio practicing and rehearsing every day
for a couple weeks before we started recording, and that made a
big difference as far as the performance we got. The second one
-- the More Beer record -- was recorded in one day and overdubs
were done on the second day. Rather than spending a couple of weeks
on it like we did the first time, we did it in a fraction of the
time. So I wasn't pleased with it, but I wasn't in control of the
recording. It was really produced by Lee. So that's why I don't
like it. I think it was done way too quickly. I think the live record,
Live For The Record, was just a great capture of our performance.
There was no smoke or mirrors or overdubs or anything.
And that was in front of a college radio station or something?
Yeah, I think Spin Radio broadcast it live. So it was like a small
soundstage with a big stage on it and people just crammed into it.
There wasn't much standing room because of the big stage. People
were all smushed together. So those are the two Fear records that
I like. "Fuck Christmas" is something we did between.
And there are other things we did for Slash that I wish I had recordings
of, like a track of mine called "Brainwash" that was really
dub. It was like Fear doing dub; I thought it was great. I was thinking
"Clash," you know? Just a direction, but it shows how
Lee like manicured things over the years. He didn't want to go Chili
Peppers direction, he didn't want to go dub direction where I was
I think he wanted to go a country way that was totally, we all would
have been opposed to it. In '84, I guess, he had a country band
called Range War that he thought would really take off. And he had
a lot of biker friends who loved country music so he kinda had a
new clique that he was hitting with, and he was doing a lot of movies.
I went to Europe with Nina Hagen in '83 and '84 while he was doing
country stuff. I played drums with her for a while.
To go completely off the subject here just because I was thinking
about this before -- why is he so right-wing? Is it a macho thing
I don't know. Maybe it's like his parents I guess were pretty conservative.
And I think it was a character that he liked. He liked the Robert
Deniro kind of scary character as a persona, just as an entertainer
-- a form of entertainment. Here was a platform for him to use that
character. As opposed to his previous band. Right before Fear, he
had long hair and he was playing drums and singing in a -- there
was a girl in the band, I think it was a five or six-piece band
called Easy Love.
HA AHAHAHAHHAHAA! That's kinda hard to imagine! "Easy"
Gosh! Wow. So it's, it's -- hmm.
Whoever has an 8 x 10, I'd love to have a copy.
Is his actual name Lee -- I can't imagine his real name is --
Lee James Capalero is his real name.
Do you ever talk to Philo anymore?
Yeah. I haven't talked to Philo, but we e-mail each other. He e-mailed
me about a month ago. So I stay in fairly good touch with him. He
likes to be called "The Foot."
It started when Fear was playing in San Francisco and these girls
came back to our hotel room with us from the club. They took us
there on their motorcycles. So Philo had had his shoes off all day
as he usually did -- he walked around barefoot. So his feet were
in pretty bad shape. So this girl -- he's reading the paper and
ignoring her -- so she starts sucking on his toes.
And it was like -- I pulled my newspaper down and looked, and then
he pulled his newspaper down and looked, and then he looked at me
and he was like, "Can you fucking believe this?"
Did he keep playing the guitar after he left Fear?
Yeah, he did.
Is he playing in any bands?
Yeah, he said he just found a bass player and a drummer, so he's
got a power trio now. I'm not sure -- he's probably singing. He
had a record called M'Butu 'Ngawa that I produced and engineered.
What kind of music is that? I haven't heard that.
Hmm. Let's see. It was like metal, kind of like... the drummer would
play a lot of toms kind of like metal toms.... not shuffly toms,
just busy toms. They were trying to do like a metal songwriting
style, I guess. I don't know; it was interesting. And at the same
time, Fear was writing metal stuff. At the same time, we did a project
-- we actually did a show under the name of Peacock -- Fear's pseudonym
playing metal songs when Fear wasn't playing for a few months or
so. Just as a distraction. Just more melodic stuff.
Were your audiences as violent as they seemed to be in the movie
No. No way. In the other days, I think the people knew each other
and they had a lot of respect for each other. And you would bring
your own posse with you anyway, so you could punch or knock them
around and not get into trouble. But then other people would see
that and be like, "Damn, I gotta go work out so I can get up
to speed." And it was kind of a ripple effect.
Like me and my buddy were at the Masque watching the Controllers
drinking beers on Hollywood Boulevard in the middle of the day and
at the time people used to pogo to the bands. And you didn't want
to sit there and pogo; you'd kinda bop around and knock into your
buddy next to you and he'd knock back into you. But I think people
saw that and within a short period of time, I got punched in the
face! I looked up like, "What the fuck was that?" It was
this British guy standing there like, you know, "Come on! I'll
fight you right now!" "What the fuck is your problem?"
At that point, I was like, "Fuck the pit." That must have
been about '84.
Were there any other bands that you guys were exceptionally close
X was probably the closest. We'd hang out with those guys sometimes.
I was in a band, a sort of a side project with DJ Bonebrake from
X. We were playing in a drum-and-bugle-style line called Retro.
I basically was taking all my cadences from when I was a kid and
assigning people parts.
When did you start playing drums? How old were you?
Say it again?
How old were you when you started playing drums?
I probably started when I was eight. Then when I was 11, I started
reading, and when I was 12, I started the drum-and-bugle line. So
I was training with teachers. Actual instructors.
How did you get into punk first? What got you into punk music?
At the time, I was really supposed to be a jazz drummer. And when
I got out of high school, the gigs that I got offered -- (*tape
goes blank for about five seconds*) -- my brother's band up in Seattle
playing cover material. And Fear kinda wrote stuff that was really
hard, really fast and kinda hard to play. And he was even told --
my buddy who got me in in the first place told 'em, "Well,
he's really a jazz player, but I think he can play this fast."
See, fusion stuff like Chick Corea and Billy Cobham -- those kinds
of things were really popular at the time, so all jazz drummers
kinda had to keep their chops up. So I got the speed of it as soon
as I heard it, and nobody expected me to be able to play it for
that long. I was like, "Hey, it's like playing fusion!"
So looking at it from a jazz point of view, it wasn't the gig I
was looking for. But when this came up, it was really entertaining
-- more so than playing jazz to people who sit there and drink with
their backs to you. At punk shows, it was really bizarre people
and kids coming in and they'd get the joke. And a few of them became
part of the entertainment themselves. It was like they were turned
on by the music.
In the movie, that woman jumps up onstage. Do you know whether
she was actually meaning to attack Lee? Was she angry? Or just --
No, this was someone we knew. It was someone that had been around
-- no one's new here. It's kinda like a show -- a lot of punkers
were a show in themselves. I mean, she wasn't exactly a friend of
ours, but it was her form of entertainment as well. I mean, she
was onstage. That was her center. That was the rule for punk. You
could come up onstage and you could hang out there for a couple
of seconds and then jump. And we always respected that. And our
roadies were our security guards -- as soon as they touched us,
that was over. As soon as they made contact, they were thrown off
the stage. That's generally the rule of thumb.
At that show, everyone knew -- there were gigantic signs everywhere
saying, "YOU ARE BEING FILMED" and there were huge cameras
everywhere. It was their way of becoming part of the entertainment.
That was just an example of what would happen. A Fear show would
bring out an element in people -- an element that was really high-energy
and entertaining and sometimes really ugly, because people were
scared or intimidated by us.
It's easier now for people to look at punk because it's kinda been
stylized in a way, whereas back then it really frightened people.
You know? People thought this was A Clockwork Orange or the
Apocalypse. They were really worried about the youth. They thought,
"This is it. Rock and roll was bad; look at THESE guys! They've
got purple hair, they've got tattoos, they look like bikers -- these
guys are really frightening!"
And it happened too to my brother's generation where my brother
got in an accident and this guy in the truck tried to sue him or
something, and it all came down to my brother's long hair. So the
hippies had it, the punks had another form of it, and you were proud
to get it. You wondered if you were doing something wrong if people
didn't look frightened around you. It's a similar sort of thing
like the kids with the baggy pants -- you're assuming they're gangsters,
and it's just because they're wearing gangster clothes. That scares
The thing about Fear is that you really don't sound at all like
the other punk bands that were around at the time. You had the speed
and anger, but you really had your own unique sound.
Fear was trying to do something original. Fear was trying to be
musical about it, whereas a lot of early punk musicians found an
opportunity to be like, "Wow, I can play E-E. I can play an
E and an A chord. I can actually write!" So it opened the door
for new ideas. And I think Fear had some jazz element maybe because
of me. And Philo brought his own color to it, so it was just the
combination. A good chemistry. We had the right people there. Derf
was really the best chemistry as far as the original bass -- as
far as the personalities on stage, that was the best because Derf
was funny too. Derf is funny.
Yeah. What were some of your other favorite punk bands?
Do you know the Mau Maus?
No! I've seen people with their shirts, but I've never heard
The Mau Maus were great. They were really hard. The bands that impressed
me were like the Controllers and the Dils -- who became Rank and
File later -- bands that play fast and evil. And they're one --
the Vibrators are one of them. There were a few bands -- the Clash,
the Sex Pistols. It was just a certain style they had.
Do they have any records out?
The Mau Maus? Do they have any records out?
I think so. I can't be certain. They must have put something out.
But they were all junkies. In between songs on stage, they looked
like they were high, you know? Mouths hanging up, and the bass player
looking like a skeleton. And that totally impressed me. That was
such great theater. But people didn't see it as theater, but I did.
And I thought, "That's a great way to look." So I always
tried to look like one of those guys. In between songs, when I was
just catching my breath, I was actually just mimicking these junkies
But people would come up to me and be like, "So... We wanna
know what you take to play that fast." And I'd like pull my
Perrier out from under my coat and say, "Don't tell anybody.
I saw somebody in print somewhere bashing Derf and calling him
a "rich cokehead asshole." Was he? A cokehead? Or is this
just someone who didn't know him?
I didn't know him as a cokehead, but I can't say Derf hadn't made
some enemies. Like at one Fear show, I think we were playing in
South Central L.A. where it was a mixed audience. It was like blacks
finally had the door open, like, "Hey! Blacks come to punk
shows!" Because L.A. is so segregated, it was great to play
a show that bridged that. And Derf tells a nigger joke.
We heard fights start right after that. It was a really fucked-up
thing to do. Another strike against him. About fifteen minutes later,
the riot police filed in and cleared everyone out. And that was
the show. And the very next show, his karma caught up to him. A
couple of guys who were probably at the previous show came up to
the stage in front of the band, pulled him offstage and broke his
face in about 15 places.
He was in the hospital with cups on his face to hold his bone in
place. So somebody didn't like that joke. And they picked the right
guy, because all of us felt that it was inappropriate and not funny.
It was like, "We're not there yet. You can't --." But
Derf was like, "Let's just love everyone, you know?" He
was a really sweet person deep down; he was just also really stupid.
Ha! Okay, I've taken a full hour of your night now, away from
your Fox TV show.
That's alright. I was looking forward to talking to you.
It's good to know you're still playing drums, and it sounds like
you're still playing as fast as you can perform.
Yeah, but it's just playing. Like today I did a documentary. Somebody
just needed some incidental music, so I just went down and played
drums for three hours and I was done. It's just being a drummer.
Cool! Do you do a lot of things like that?
I engineer for a lot of people as well.
So you've been able to make a career out of your music?
For the last four years, pretty much.
How long have you been in New York?
I moved here permanently in '92, but I was on the road with Fear
for another year. So I only started living here in '93.
Where are you?
Where are you?
Upper East Side, sorta close to Spanish Harlem.
I have friends on 91st and York.
91st and York?
I'm on 91st between 3rd and Lex. You should come hang out! Oh,
that's really cool. Yeah, I forgot you were in New York. I forgot
I dialed a New York-based number. I know it's been several years
now, but you know, it's New York, so where were you on 9/11?
I was home. My buddy called me and said, "Look out your window."
I did and I could see the tops of the towers engulfed in smoke.
And I just stood in shock looking from the TV to the window, just
in shock. Where were you?
I was running late for work that day, and I was walking by a little
newsstand and I saw a bunch of people gathered around listening
to a radio. So I stopped and they said, "Oh you know, two planes..."
and I thought, "Boy, that's strange." But I went ahead
to work because, I don't know, for some reason it didn't seem like
-- I didn't see the pictures; I didn't realize how big it was. So
I went to work which was midtown, actually one block from the Empire
State Building. And that's when we found out it was just horrible.
So we walked home from there. It was really frightening. It was
one of the most frightening days I've ever had. You had no idea
how many planes they had or anything. It was so strange.
It was just a period that you can't imagine. People I think in other
parts of the country grieved for us or grieved with us. I remember
walking down 7th Avenue and seeing peoples' faces -- no, I guess
I was walking UP 7th Avenue, and seeing peoples' faces and they
all looked really sad. And then when I was going back, I had their
view. And the view was where the towers were. I didn't know what
all those faces were until I became one of them. I just thought,
"It hurts to see this."
Luckily, we have a very strong president who's doing everything
in his power to make sure everything is A-OK!
I can't wait to see that Michael Moore movie.
I've read enough about that scumbag. I'd like to see the footage.
He's a really bad president!
No doubt. We're hated everywhere now.
No time to travel.
The irony of them hitting us here -- in the only place that's a
real melting pot really bringing people together. Why here? Why
not Austin, Texas?
I guess they figured that all the dickhead corporate millionaires
were in those two big buildings. It was sure well-planned anyway.
Okay. Thanks again for taking the time. Are you still using the
e-mail address that's on your site?
Okay, when I transcribe this out, I'll shoot it out to you so
you can correct anything. Like I'm recording it, but I don't know
-- you know, you might fade out. And then I'll shoot it out to CITIZINE
and also post it on my web site, which gets 2400 individual visitors
a day. And okay! Have a good'un!
Talk to you later.
You too. Bye.
May 25, 2004.
Spit Stix of Fear.
Surf legend Dick Dale.
Lee Ving with a new gang in the 1990s.
Fear: Spit Stix, Derf Scratch,
Lee Ving, Philo Cramer.
Flea played bass with Fear for three years.
for larger image.)
The Record was released
on Slash in 1982.
The Mau Maus.
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