“CALLING ALL DESTROYERS”:
THE SUGARBUZZ MAGAZINE INTERVIEW WITH BOBBY DURANGO OF THE ALMIGHTY MONDO-PHONICS AND ROCK CITY ANGELS!
-by Geordie Pleathur (SugarBuzz USA)
….We, the Sugarbuzzin’ rock’n'roll people, are devoted and abiding fans of Mister Bobby Durango, from way, way back in our stonewashed youth, in the halcyon daze of spurs and feather ear-rings. One of the most versatile and under-rated singer/performer/songwriters in the whole history of rock’n'roll. Not only is he a major talent, but he is also a bit of an encyclopedic rock’n'roll philosopher, with a broad knowledge of underground music, literature, and cinematic history, so every once in awhile, we like to catch up with the man, his bands, and glean some of his
more recent insights about art and music and underground culture, in general. Check out his new group, the Almighty Mondo-Phonics!
SUGARBUZZ: Please discuss the origins of “Midnight Confessions”, where the rock’n'roll people can locate a copy, and why it’s important that they do…
BOBBY DURANGO: “Midnight Confessions” is a series of recordings that were intended to be the Geffen follow up to “Young Man’s Blues”, so I would say that anyone that is a big fan of that album would probably be interested in how the band planned to take our music to the next level.
Honestly, we probably wrote about 80 songs for that album which was originally going to be called “Lost Generation” with the general theme being the apathy and hopelessness my generation was feeling at the time. There’s a reason so many songs were written. We would turn in a batch of say, six songs and our A&R man would listen, (presumably) and get back with us in a week with the same words every time, “These songs are brilliant, you are one of the best writers I ever signed, but I just don’t hear THAT song yet, the one that will take you over the top.” So it was back to the studio for another round. After the 4th or fifth time, this became extremely frustrating and I began to think that something other than what he was saying was contributing to this problem.
As this man had also signed Guns and Roses, he was extremely busy with them, which wasn’t helped by the
feud he was having with Axl, as well as the pressure he was receiving from Geffen to take “Appetite” to the next million copies sold. It began to be clear that we were nothing more than an inconvenience to him and I began to suspect that he wasn’t even listening to our songs. To test this theory, I began to write very hostile lyrics to him and the record company and even went so far as to change our musical style fromthe bluesy punk rock of “Young Man’s Blues” to a more straight ahead attack. These songs ended up becoming my favorites and actually anticipated Nirvanas’ “Nevermind” by several months. When I got the exact same shpiel back from the man I knew I was right, he hadn’t listened to a single song. By our contract we couldn’t be dropped but we could be strung out for so long that the band would eventually break up so I knew I had to do something drastic to save our careers. I thought a sold out tour of Japan might help. It didn’t.
Through a friend, I found out Brian Robertson, (Robo) was looking for a project. The guitarist of Thin Lizzie! Wow! We jumped on a plane to London and spent the next month working up 6 more songs that we laid down in the studio. Brian was a great guy and we got on well, the songs we wrote were dynamite and it all sounded like a
mature version of “YMB”, I figured it would be a no brainer for Geffen to get behind it. I wasn’t worried about the Strip bands going down because I never considered Rock City Angels to be anything like those bands. We weren’t the flavor of the month, ha ha, we were making music that would stand the test of time.
Just to be on the safe side, I did something considered a no-no in the music business, I sent out copies of the songs with Robo to a handful of the top music critics in L.A. and asked for comments. Then, we turned the songs in to Geffen and waited. And waited. And waited! Ha Ha Ha! I had all the critics comments in hand by the time I got the same tired message back from the man. But this time I had an answer. The reviews we got back were incredible, overwhelmingly positive, and I asked our A&R man to explain this. He hit the roof! Then he asked for more time with it. When he came back about a month later talking about what a genius I was, but claiming to be worried about my (at that time) non-existent drug problem, I knew we were on a slow boat to nowhere.
So that’s the long, sad story of Rock City Angels, circa 1990 -92 and the album that never came out. When the
band started up again 10 years later, half of those songs had been lost with time, but I began to put out a version of that album with what I had on our own label until FNA RECORDS picked it up in 2009 and released their version in 2010. For the real RCA fan, this collection is invaluable as it is truly the missing link between “Young Man’s Blues” and “Use Once And Destroy” and contains the best songs from many sessions including the London session with Robo. It’s available at the FNA RECORDS site, CDBaby, iTunes and Amazon.Com as well, as many local record stores.
SUGARBUZZ: What are summa your best memories of Giovanni Vitanaza and the Coma Tones?
BOBBY DURANGO: It’s funny, Gio was a bit younger than me and he was also playing in a band with one of my best friends and first guitar players, Jimmy James, in the ComaTones, so when I first met him there was a lot of jumping around, cock of the walk type posturing, as we both checked each other out, kindof trying to out-crazy each other. He made me feel a bit insecure and later, as we became friends, I found out I did the same to him, ha ha. He was an excellent performer and definitely gave me a run for the money, which I honestly didn’t feel very often. He also came from the same school of rock’n'roll as me, honest, and real, with a BITE!
I guess my best memory was years later when he came to a Rock City Angels show in Miami and he introduced me to his beautiful daughter. He looked fantastic and they stood right up front, these two amazing looking
people, cheering the whole time. Afterward, we had several very genuine heart to hearts, before he passed about 8 months later. He was a sweet, talented, awesome person, who just wanted to be a good dad and keep rockin’ and he did, ’til the end. I really miss him.
SUGARBUZZ: Ever see the Joneses? Amanda Jones with Mandy of the Lame Flames?
BOBBY DURANGO: Was a huge Joneses fan since 1983 or so, so yeah, it was always a great time seeing them play, and playing with them which we did several times.
I was also a big fan of the Lame Flames since they were Lois Lame and the Lame Flames. Lois ended up moving to S. Fla. and she was crazy as fuck, ha ha ha! She always had lot’s of frozen Vodka and all the best drugs so my ex-girlfriend used to go over to her condo that her parents had got her and party all night! She had some stories boy! One about Steve Jones of the Pistols that I won’t go into here, but used to crack me up! Billy Idol used to come over at 3am and bang on the building doors yelling, “LOIIISSSS!” And she would shush us, so he wouldn’t hear us laughing! Wild times!
As for the Lame Flames, you’re forgetting a very important Flame, Iris Berry! Who is awesome. When I went back to L.A. I was rather surprised to find out they were still a band without Lois. I
told them of our exploits and they got a kick out of all that. They had a fantastic backing band with drums, instead of the synth band they started out as, and they really came into their own. We played together A LOT! and it was always a blast, those were good times! I still stay in touch on FaceBook.
SUGARBUZZ: What do you remember about Saigon Saloon, did you know Kim Cheyenne?
BOBBY DURANGO: Yes, I knew Kim… A nice guy, but I’m not sure what he has to do with my bands.
SUGARBUZZ: Well, I suppose I asked you about ‘em, ’cause Saigon Saloon vocalist, Jinx, came outta S. Fla., and both of you do share some punk rock and bluesier influences, and both Saigon Saloon and the ROCK CITY ANGELS were stars of the Hollywood rock scene, at various times, and Kim was Saigon Saloon’s soulful songwriter, who passed away, just awhile back. I just thought there might be some shared history, there-often, you are full of colorful anecdotes about that era…What did you think of the Shane MacGowan/Johnny Depp all star rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell On You”?
BOBBY DURANGO: Well, I got to tell you, I’ve never heard it, but I’m sure that with the talent involved it was probably great.
SUGARBUZZ: What is Circus Of Power’s Ricky Beck Maher doing nowadays? I heard he was producing movies. Have you two ever written songs together?
BOBBY DURANGO: You know, I practically lived with the Circus of Power guys in N.Y. in the early 90′s and I’ve known Alex and played with every incarnation of his bands since 1982 in S.Fla, but sadly I haven’t heard from any of those cats since then, even though we’re FaceBook friends. So I really don’t know what Ricky does nowadays, though I would love to hear from him.
SUGARBUZZ: Last time you spoke with Mike Martt from Tex and the Horseheads?
BOBBY DURANGO: I just spoke to Mike on FaceBook a couple of weeks ago on his birthday, he seems to be doing great, has the whole family thing going and I was recently turned on to a solo album he did about 10 years ago by a mutual
friend, Russ Wheeler, who plays Hammond B-3 with Rock City Angels as well as working with Mike, an excellent player who really has the authentic Memphis sound down. There’s not too many of those cats left, maybe a handful of players, who still drags that heavy ass equipment down to a gig! The solo stuff was really good and I turned him on to MondoPhonics, which he loved!
SUGARBUZZ: Tell me all about the Almighty Mondophonics? I hear there’s a lot of excitement!
BOBBY DURANGO: There really is, it’s turned into quite the monster. As you know Rock City Angels were going to go on tour this summer, but by the time we looked at the cost of gas and realized we were too late to get on some of these monster shows like Rocklahoma, it started to
become clear that we just weren’t going to be able to afford to do it the way we wanted to this year. We lost our booking agent so we would have had to have made it all work by ourselves and honestly none of us are very good at that kind of thing. So we decided to put it off. I’d still like to tour overseas but we want to have a new album out before we tackle that, so we still have plans to go in the studio and create something really mind boggling, hopefully the beginning of this next year.
It isn’t easy for us to get together because everyone in RCA lives in S.Fla. except me, so I was kind of depressed about the whole situation until one night I went out to see Laramie Dean at a local club. In the audience sat a big guy with hair down to his ass, a Grizzly Adams beard and a Vibrators T-shirt. He was one giant contradiction. My girlfriend, Trish, was playing in a band, (Angry Pudding) who happened to be opening for them in Miami, so as he walked by I said, “Nice shirt” and told him that. He got very excited and immediately sat down. His name was Kevin Walker and I’d never heard anyone so country in my life, ha ha ha. But when it came to punk rock, he knew what he was talking about much to my
He asked if I was in a band too, so I told him about RCA which he had vaguely heard of, then told him we were on hold. “Well, I play guitar, want to start a punk band?” I laughed and told him I was already in a punk band but his excitement was catching so I said, well, why don’t you come over and jam and we’ll see how it goes. I figured I’d never hear from him again but if I did, it would be good for a nights entertainment. He called, came over a week later and that night we wrote two songs. And they were GOOD! I found out he had been trying to start a band for years but could never find players and he had never finished an entire song before, ever. I saw a guy who had natural talent, a great ear for hooky riffs and played simple, melodic lead. He just needed some guidance. I held out my hand and said, “Welcome to rock’n'roll, son.”
After we’d written about five songs I thought about other players. Who in town could really make this project come alive and had the heart to stick with it. I knew plenty of guitar players but one of the main attractions for me was getting to play guitar in my own crazy style and Kevin didn’t want anyone else to sing, so we neede a
bass player and drummer. For bass, I immediately thought of my partner in the studio, Chris Swenson. He engineered the Rock City Angels “Use Once and Destroy” album and though I had never heard him play I knew he had played in The Devil Brothers and also knew I enjoyed working with him, I figured he could add a lot to the project if he had the time. Turned out it was perfect timing for him, he was looking for something just like this and the cat wanted to ROCK!
Drums would prove a bit harder. Kevin and I wanted Trish to drum, but she had returned to Fla. We still wanted a girl drummer, so we approached Alicia from River City Tanlines, one of the best bands in town. Initially, she was excited to do it but before we got a chance to play she had to bow out on account of the many bands she was already in. Kevin heard from another friend, Ron Hale, of the Psychic Plowboys about a drummer who had just came to town named Rico Kohler. Our first rehearsal together was magic. Everything fell together perfectly and there was a spirit in the air of perfect harmony. I know it sounds corny, but it all just fell together so naturally, we could all tell this was something special.
SUGARBUZZ: How did you come up with the name?
BOBBY DURANGO: We had to come up with a name to fit the music which was more simple and straightforward than RCA. As Kevin and I are major film buffs, we wanted to use Mondo as in the wild Mondo
movies of the late 60′s then settled on Phonics, meaning sound as in the old hyped up Hi Fi ads of the 50′s. Put together, the two words translate roughly into “world of sound” which goes with the experimental nature of our approach of the punk and rock’n'roll genres. And there you have it, the Almighty MondoPhonics!! What started as a little side project has blossomed into a full blown rock band from hell!
SUGARBUZZ: I heard you had some drummer problems?
BOBBY DURANGO: Rico ended up moving back to Nashville, but we have since found an excellent drummer named Tony Maharrey, (from the Dirt Brothers and many others) to take his place. We plan on releasing vinyl
singles, about one every few months, until we have a little more than an albums worth, we’ll see what to do after that, but we already have two recorded, with the first coming out in September. They will also be released online at CDBaby , iTunes and Amazon for those who don’t have turn tables. Each single will be numbered and signed for the first hundred or so and the artwork will vary slightly and have different colored vinyl, so this should be a lot of fun. We are also open to the idea of playing one offs in major cities like NY and L.A. or even touring, depending on the offer.
SUGARBUZZ: Will you be performing any Rock City Angels songs?
BOBBY DURANGO: There may be a few RCA songs here and there, I never say never, but Rock City Angels is still a band and no one does Rock City like Rock City, ha ha ha!
SUGARBUZZ: What is the first songs to be released?
BOBBY DURANGO: Our first single can already be heard on our FaceBook/Reverb Nation Page, at http://www.reverbnation.com/mondophonics and will start out with our anthem, ha ha, “Last Band (in the world)” on the A-side and a straight up rocker, “Two Hits” on the B-side We will have a video for “Last Band” out soon, it’s in the works and should be pretty damn cool. There’s already a live video on our Reverb Nation page for one of our future singles, “Long Way From Home”, but I’m excited to start creating our own music videos in the studio. Chris Swenson and I have put a lot of work into the video aspect of his studio, Memphis Independent Recording Studio and have some big plans in the works.
SUGARBUZZ: How can people stay up with what’s going on with the Almighty MondoPhonics?
BOBBY DURANGO: They can join our mailing list above on Reverb Nation or “like” our FaceBook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mondophonics and/or becomefriends with me, or anyone in the band.
SUGARBUZZ: Barrio Tiger?
BOBBY DURANGO: Jimmys band, I’m sure their good.
SUGARBUZZ: Your wife’s band?
BOBBY DURANGO: Trish is now singing in a South Florida punk super group that has members of previous punk bands like Jeff Hodapp from Roach Motel, etc. It’s a very exciting project and I’m really glad she’s singing again, she has an excellent voice!
SUGARBUZZ: Did you ever dig X?
BOBBY DURANGO: Who didn’t?
SUGARBUZZ: Steve Earle fan?
BOBBY DURANGO: Steve and I go way back, he was an early supporter of Rock City Angels and an all around great guy. An excellent songwriter too, I’m so glad he’s back on track!
SUGARBUZZ: How can we the people ever take back the airwaves from the corporations,so we can hear RCA and Almighty Mondophonics, instead of Kanye and Lady Gaga?
BOBBY DURANGO: By giving up broadcast radio altogether and subscribing to things like Pandora and others where you can DJ yourself, or better yet, as I do, just take my iPod everywhere and support the musicians by buying their albums and storing it on your player!
SUGARBUZZ: Seen Charley Horse with Corey Parks from Nashville Pussy?
BOBBY DURANGO: Don’t know ‘em.
SUGARBUZZ: The Hangmen are on Acetate, Pat Todd from Rank Outsider has a label, have you any need for a label, at this point?
BOBBY DURANGO: The only thing a label is good for is publicity and tour support and most of them don’t even do that. If you can find a decent distributor, you’re way better off doing it yourself!
SUGARBUZZ: What are your favorite Dylan songs?
BOBBY DURANGO: Jeeze, that’s tough. I don’t really have favorite songs, just favorite albums. “Nashville Skyline” is my top fave, I love “Bring It All Back Home”, I LOVE “Self Portrait” which most people hate and I don’t care for “Blonde on Blonde” which most people love, ha ha ha! Of his newer stuff I really dig “Time Out Of Mind” and seeing him live is always a revelation.
SUGARBUZZ: How were you affected by the death of Poly Styrene?
BOBBY DURANGO: I wasn’t. It was sad, but I was never a huge X-Ray Specs fan like everyone pretends to be now. I could never get over that loud, out of key Sax, though I did like “Oh Bondage”.
SUGARBUZZ: Are you familiar with Billy Burke, the Humpers guitar player?
BOBBY DURANGO: No.
SUGARBUZZ: What are your film-buff impressions of Ray Gange…Jim Jarmusch, Alex Cox, and Julian Temple – where are all the new cutting edge rock’n'roll directors?
BOBBY DURANGO: I’ve been friends with Ray Gange since 1981, but he’s not a director that I know of. He WAS a co-star with The Clash on “Rude Boy” however which ain’t chickenfeed, ha ha. I met him back in Hollywood at the old C.A.S.H. Club, Zero oh Cahuenga and he was a bit like an older brother to me while we’d get trashed on the streets, a couple of street punks, and I’m proud to have known him.
Do you consider Jim Jarmusch a rock’n'roll director? I mean he uses rock personalities in many of his films and has some great music in them but so does Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Definately made some excellent films but I don’t consider him a “rock’n'roll director”, like say, Nick Zedd or Julian Temple.
I would say the same about Alex Cox, though he comes a bit closer, kind of like early Ken Russell, though I’m not crazy about the way he played fast and loose with the facts of Sid Vicious’ sad end. I absolutely love “Straight To Hell” and “Walker”, which gave us some of the best music Joe Strummer did solo. As for Julian Temple, he is capable of some amazing things and since he was a part of the whole English punk movement he has a great feel for the snarling bite of punk rock and that really comes through in his better stuff.
SUGARBUZZ: Have you heard Peter Murphy’s new lp? I been on a Joy Division kick….Ever like much goth?
BOBBY DURANGO: No, I haven’t and it depends on what you call goth. The Damned is one of my favorite bands, ever, all phases of their career and I dig 45 Grave and some Christian Death, but if you’re talking about that droney, monotonous stuff, no, I’m not a big fan.
SUGARBUZZ: What have you been listening to lately? What are you reading-you’re into detective noir and true crime, right?
BOBBY DURANGO: Man, you know I listen to everything. I’ve recently got into Scott Walker big time, the production is incredible! I love Charlotte Gainsbourg and, as I’m such a big Serge Gainsbourg fan I’m a lucky cat as they are always releasing different albums I’ve never heard. You know the movie based on his life is coming out soon which is awesome but I’m a little sad because I know he will now be exposed to such a wider U.S. audience so there’s that feeling that I’m kind of losing him, bitter sweet. I’ve been listening to a lot of Turbonegro, The Datsuns, LOTS of NOFX, Jacuzzi Boys and quite a bit of MONDOPHONICS, ha ha ha.
As for reading material, yeah, I’m always reading Bukowski, they’ve been releasing a lot of stuff that hasn’t seen the light of day for decades. James Ellroy is always good as is Phillip Dick. Tobe Hoopers new book, “Midnight Movie” is good as is Charlie Houstons stuff, he’s a really interesting new writer.
SUGARBUZZ: Most fun place to play with the Mondophonics and/or revamped ‘Angels? Summa the best bands you’ve shared bills with since the rebirth?
BOBBY DURANGO: I like Murphys in Memphis, which is a great little dive, wasn’t easy to get a Hammond B-3 on that stage, believe me, ha ha ha! Neils was cool but it burned down right after we played… I’m gonna say we haven’t hit the perfect stage yet.
SUGARBUZZ: Why doesn’t Izzy Stradlin make music anymore?
BOBBY DURANGO: Your guess is as good as mine, ha ha ha!
SUGARBUZZ: Did you like any of Westerberg’s stuff? After Bob Stinson died?
BOBBY DURANGO: It’s OK, I prefer Tommy Stinsons’ stuff. Lot more energy.
SUGARBUZZ: Dramarama? Jason And The Scorchers? Lone Justice?
BOBBY DURANGO: LOVED Dramarama, a very underrated band and of course Jason and the Scorchers have always been excellent. Lone Justice? Eh.
SUGARBUZZ: What did I forget to ask you?
BOBBY DURANGO: Ya got me, ha haha!
SUGARBUZZ: THANKS, BOBBY!!! ‘Always a pleasure.
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