1978 OG LA Punk Rock

Sugarbuzz Magazine – Rick Wilder Interview

Rick Wilder
The Mau Maus
Interview by Lucky (SugarBuzz Hollywood)

Rick Wilder is the real deal. He has never sold out and has never surrendered. While other LA punk musicians hung it up and went mundane, he denied conformity.  His exploits are the stuff of legends. His contribution to history – undeniable.  Here at last is a one on one with the notorious front man of the Mau Maus.

What is your earliest rock and roll memory?

Earliest I guess is when I got one of the record clubs’ packages in the mail, and had a Stones or Hooker (John Lee) up loud and the man who said he was my father said I shouldn’t listen to that ‘Jail’ music. It was for black people. I don’t know what or how he’d know that, but as a teen I knew right then that ‘that music’ would be my constant companion and be part of my life. Rebellion, of course, but that it was to be frowned upon by my opera singing family, made it the more thrilling, cause it was FORBIDDEN, right? Then later after the parents divorced me mom got us three kids bundled and we rode a bus to see Elvis at the Forum, which was grand because he had so much energy. It was captivating.

What was your first automobile and can you share a fond memory of said vehicle?

My first car was a Barracuda, the earlier ones with that big ass glass window covering the back. Fond I guess because I, raised as I was with my sisters in hotels and flats all over the world was finally getting to meet somebody on my own, and the fact He sounded like the people on the records made it all too alluring and I’m sure that’s the reason I bought that ugly ass car…which ran for 4 months before the transmission gave out.

Who was your first crush?

Actually, I started young. I recall, my parents had us in a motor lodge, and it’s still there…Hollywood Center Motel, across the street from Blessed Sacrament, where my sisters would go and I got confirmed. This Place had little private bungalows, I was like nine and her name was Vicky, with black hair she wore in pig tails. We’d run around, play games, even kissed, kinda. When the parents moved up to Seattle, I threw a bloody tantrum, goin’ to the front screen door yelling, ‘Vicky’ come back…..where are you…? Know What, I still wonder what happened to her in life, but I don’t feel the same. Can’t understand it …I still get violent crushes.

Was Berlin Brats the first band you were in or were there others prior? What led to Berlin Brats demise?

Yeah, they were my first. Actually, they were my school band. I mean I started while in school, senior year.

That trip back from San Francisco. We had nailed the Mabuhay Gardens show headlining with the Avengers. Great show, some great feedback. A great after party which was mobbed. But, I knew along with Rick Sherman, best friend who had learned from Scratch just to be a Brat. We knew we had had it. It occurred to us we wanted one thing, keeping the speed and I think it was Keith, more than Jon, who wished to slow things and go with what we (Rick & I) felt was New Wave. I was already movin on. But, it haunts me sometimes. The “what ifs”. I don’t regret it though. We are all still friendly and will probably put out another what?

What in your opinion was the brightest moment for Berlin Brats? Darkest Moment?

Brightest – Some of the Whiskey shows. The overwhelming feedback I got from fans, who still write, talk, etc. That has got to be a high for any musician. That the little we got out was in terms of quality, that it is/was great, really superior stuff.

Darkest – Realizing that that original band – family; ‘all in this together for the same artistic and musical ends’ had changed… and frankly, it had changed, when Matt Campbell was replaced. Talk about superior, there was and is one of the biggest talents ever.

What would you attribute to the gestation of The Mau Maus?

In the beginning? Or the subsequent musical chairs? Great word. Gestation. The Brats, were gone, but not forgotten. In more ways than one, it has turned out. Rick & I had been made aware, early on, by way of his working at Warner-Chappel, of the ‘goings on’ in the UK, with the Sex Pistols. So he’d bring over to me Mum’s, where I was staying at the time, these records from them. Keep in mind, these guys had a ‘schtick’ where they did Rock N Roll and then say they hated it. Jones doing Chuck Berry, and Lydon and them biting the hand they were generously eating from. But, we just loved it, even though our Brats stuff was better, in that at least we credited influences. But the speed alone made it of the “Now”.

We liked the political bent, and A sides, but it was the “Did You No Wrong’ and the ‘Wanna Be Me’ that got us Made with them. So, I put out an ad in the Recycler for like minded players. I got an answer from some guy who sounded different from the rest, really into the Ramones, and no instrumentals etc. and made a plan to get together. Around the same time I started looking for places we could use for this and that and to rehearse. That’s how I came upon the Pussycat Theater basement, just sort of walking Hollywood, and this day, the Boulevard. Came to meet and fast befriended Brendan Mullen, who loved the Brats and ran the joint. (So much that he called the BB’s his favorite out of L A’s bands in “Masque: Nightmare in Punk Alley”).

So with a monthly place to play, Matt came back with Rick Sherman and I even took a pic, which is up at themaumaus.com. I don’t recall why but it was short lived, I think the speed of my songs might have been a problem for some. In any case, I came into another fast friendship with Rod Donahue, who shared some of my extra-curricular hobbies, and hung out with me at the Canterbury Apartments. I started working on Brendan to allow us to do a party or showcase at his rehearsal complex which was at that time called New Era. I’ll say. This finally resolved itself when after many a late night brain storm, he agreed to allow us, me and some of the Brats, to put on an event, which would become the very first show there and to push this kind of ‘under world’ vibe. He renamed New Era ‘The Masque’ and we put out the flyer that had Trudy (Plungers) on it. Things with the remaining Brats were in a shambles, so for that gig we decided to use bands that were there at the club, and maybe run through a loose set, but it was moot point cause so many showed, the fire department came before we were to play so as you see it went off without a hitch.

Next my Girl friend Tiffany Kennedy (future Castration Squader) and I drove the guy who answered the ad in the Recycler, Greg Salva, up to our usual hang out, which was a cliff on Sunset Plaza overlooking Hollywood and he played me some  OK tape and I gave him a tape to study and presto, I had a guitarist. With Rod learning bass a band but no name..at the next run through Rod or I came up with The Mau Mau and I added the – and apostrophe to underscore we were so off the beaten track we didn’t even use the right English, that and the pitchfork as our logo and a mess was truly born. Add Slash Magazine, which was really important cause you now had a group to keep track of this ‘NEW’ scene and set up some community. Remember, WE didn’t have an internet to make it easy; this community “did it the old fashioned way. By and for ourselves, and for a love of the music.  Oh, and  one thing more, I think Rick was in jail or something, cause when we played the first of our Masque Mau-Mau shows, we got a drummer from East L.A. who listened to our run through and said he really liked the stuff and  joined on the spot.

How much did the L.A. punk scene really change with the onset of hardcore? Was it radically different? 

Hard to know how to answer that. Because as you well know, that term has evolved and it means something completely different relative to your generation, upbringing and residence. Talk about geo ethno centric!  It never seemed anything I should think about, for we were being touted by the press as ‘hardcore’ and that term was used to label us. (see “California Hardcore’) The way I see it,  this Punk thing, was already part of the landscape here in Hollyhood  fuck you  very much. Thanks, in no small way to the efforts of us Gutter Gone Gangsters who had had enough of the bloated corpses of Fleetwood Mac and Disco. ‘Back Door Man’s  Phast Phreddie’ reviewed the Berlin Brats  DIY shows at least in ’73  and  maybe earlier. Then with the formation of Radio Free Hollywood the press, the clubs and parasites like Fowley began signing anything young and flamboyant.

Enter the Runaways. Shit, you had asked earlier ’bout a low for the Brats, and it didn’t occur then, but being the ‘little boy’ punk band to the Runaways ‘little girl band’ playing and having to put up with, oh, how can I put this, the eccentric perversions of certain people, had to be the low. It got old extremely quick.

I tell you all this, because we didn’t have many problems with these new ‘Punk’ bands from the beaches, the valleys, etc.  Obviously, or we couldn’t have put Black Flag on all our shows, they started as opener and Ginn had the same love for the clear plexi-glass Dan Armstrong guitars.  And so it started this migration or integration of the bands from rural and suburban areas into the city and urban areas were only a few places even allowed what was labeled ‘Punk’. So, I never gave it a thought. We were too busy fighting the ‘be just like me, or else’ clones. When it really got outta hand, is when you’d notice that girls, women, wouldn’t want to be in front of the stage or in the pit any more. I can’t blame it on that label, or what have you, but it was a very real problem. I do have to mention, that perhaps I am not one who should answer that question because we drew quite a violent crowd and because of that had gotten banned for like two years, only places we did do were places we got ourselves. Like the Wig Factory or I.A. Press Club. It was censorship, really.

Did you know or have any interactions with Darby Crash?

Not too much, except in rear view mirrors.  Or when we bumped into one another at the Canterbury. Occasionally, Rozz brought him up. However, here’s a story and this one is true. It’s the reason I nicknamed him, Jan-Paul. Darby Pyn…. the “Armadillo”.

Tiffany Kennedy and I had a liking for David Bowie and as couples will do sometimes, they go to see these people when they play live in concert. She got tickets and asked if I would go and accompany her to the Forum. We get there, wasted some time mostly talking, smoking and necking, with her trying a ‘canister’. (Infamous Brat/MM drink “Rainier Ale’ or “The Green Death”, so lethal few were standing at the bottom.)

And finally as Bowie was about to go on, we went to find our seats and claim them, putting stray programs and the like on the seats so we could try and find a place in the front with a closer view. We were on the stairs, going down when she jabs me and says in a loud whisper, it’s that Bobby Pyn guy. Half interested, cause I never thought much of him as a vocalist, and I don’t ride bandwagons. Because he killed himself to be somebody. Is that where we are?  I didn’t notice any one, but she kept pointing. All I saw was some stubby guy in a hat and a raincoat with dark glasses, by himself, thirty feet in front and down the stairs.

“Come on the lights are gonna start dimming” and I started to say something like “NiX that’s not him and besides.”…when suddenly she became like Wonder Woman, and leaped towards this person who now upon seeing her and hearing her yell “what’s with the hat you poseur” or something only he could now hear and he started running. Down away but not very far as she raised a skirted leg and kicked him squarely on his ass. He just faltered, not falling forward at first but sideways, and as he did the glasses and the hat fell away. He started to roll down one step then too and she turned around with the biggest “see…I told you so, dummy” look on her face as she walked daintily back up the stairs. The lights now were going on and off, but I couldn’t get the way he kept thumping. Down the carpeted stairs, one step, two steps…that’s when it struck me, he looked just like an Armadillo.

Did you ever play the Starwood? If so, any memories you care to share?

The Mau-Mau’s are the band that literally played the closing weekend at the Starwood. That last bill was Eddie & the Sub-Titles with us and Castration Squad. I keep thinking it was a two night gig, but that doesn’t sound right…but maybe. Eddie who? LOL. I think there were two shows that final night, and we played before Eddie who the second show and the Castration Squad the first, or verse visa. They closed cause the neighbors kept complaining about the hippies that urinated on the walls, trees and what have around there to the cops.

If you could go back in time and re-visit one now defunct LA club, which one would it be and why?

Easy, though, the pre ‘punk’ Paradise Ballroom gets dishonorable mention, it would be the Masque.  For the very reasons it could never ever be a real club. It was all ages.

You could basically stay there and get drunk before, after and leading up to the show. There was little light so the sexual goings on were always going on….and then some. The stage sucked, but it was just another character in a factory of characters. Then, one has to address the fact a band could rehearse there then do sound check to do the show. The thing is, with the joint was it was like a living thing. Young, dumb but it had street smarts. And like the living, it had an odor, if you don’t watch it. So that’s where Brendan and so many volunteers stepped up or got fed. The best thing to me is it was all things to all people. It just didn’t happen. You know? There was Brendan who wanted a business, and there was the Brats, and say what you will ’bout that group but without them, there wouldn’t have been the grass for the roots to shake L.A. up and yes demand a scene. There might not have been me. Who else had that upbringing or lack of it to walk in, rent a studio and then ask, no demand a place to perform? But Brendan was the heart.

Other than The Mau Maus, are there any bands slugging it out today that you feel SugarBuzz readers should be checking out?

I can’t speak for the whole band… like Fangs on Fur, the Flytraps the new DOA. Christ vs. Warhol, Pretty Mess, Fancy Space People, Piss N’ Blood, Stitches, Secret Society of the Sonic Six, Symbol Six, and I’m sure to be omitting someone.

Name three people who were instrumental in any musical landscape and why?

Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker, for hearing the impossible note… and making it possible, Public Enemy… for fighting the ‘power’, and  then selling it to the suits, Frank Sinatra…the ‘voice’ for his turning pop music into mania, his phrasing, for being the first pop star. Any who one doesn’t know, should Google it…or will never know. Youth is no excuse. Lazy and No Imagination would be more apt not to put too fine a point on it.

Cinema or Literature? Care to share any favorites? 

In cinema right now I like Tarantino, Terrence Malick. Film Noir, Sturges, Wilder, Bergman, Pasolini, Kazan, Welles etc.. a few.

In literature, I am a Fitzgerald fanatic, Philip K. Dick, Buchowski, Comte de Lautréamont to name a few.

Besides SugarBuzz Magazine, are there any zines, either in print or on the web that we should be reading? 

The whole Webzine thing is exploding. So… Before this is up, it would be obsolete.

 Compare and contrast The Mau Maus of today with The Mau Maus of the early eighties.

The obvious thing is with the passage of time one gets better at  ones musicianship…but, we are doing a lot of classic songs from the classic set, and if anything I feel more energy now on stage, more so than even before in many cases, and the feedback too, from the audiences is stronger.

Please discuss the new Mau Maus release. What’s on it, when will it be released, what formats will be available and where can Shugsters get it?

Oh yeah – the Plug…Yeah, I See. ‘SCORCHED EARTH POLICIES: Then and Now”. Side A  or “Then” is culled from the lost ‘Mad Dog’ sessions, which have been in different stages of release at different times. Gotta remember, this is a session that started with Greg Salva, the guitarist in version 1.0, and ended with Mr. Krieger  who was producing, taking over on the guitar for the one that was ready next: which was “(I’m) Psychotic’ with it’s tricky tempo change. Krieger just nailed it. That side has a crop of songs including “Puberty” which is a great little number, but for this reason or that wasn’t played much.

Now side 1 or ‘Now’ is produced by Geza X Gedeon, who also mastered all. Recorded 2011, This Disk is not for the faint of heart and should be played at MaXiMuM level. I believe it hits the streets June 12, in both LP and CD.  ITunes on May 12. It’s available right now at themaumaus.com and at Ratchetbladerecords.com.

IF I wanted to know what things were like before the tail wagged the dog, I’d buy this if not for music…I would want it for the booklet, which is OUTSTANDING.

How did Geza X get involved with the new release? How long have you known him? What’s it like to work with him in the studio?

The recording itself was done a while ago, I had laid down a vocal that to me, at least, was spotty at best…I felt, that I could do better.  Even before getting back here to stay for awhile, Geza had expressed to me, interest in doing something together. How real the interest was the point. But I, we, needed someone who could do the technical part and also somebody who ‘got’ it and ‘got me.’ So I sat myself down and wrote him a letter. And to my great relief he said let’s do it. In the letter I laid out how if we recorded one, we could use it as a vehicle to win over the others, which happened and then do a basically new vocal where performance and execution would be key. The great thing was that we were part of the same tribe…the original Masque tribe. We had known each other, since the Masque, and it was just so right that it should be. In the studio, he is real professional, and he let me kind of happen…but never lose track of focus.

What pisses you off the most about your bandmates?

That they are all such fine musicians, that it makes it too easy, sometimes…..

The end of the world is tomorrow, what will you be doing?

Figuring a way to make it fun. If there isn’t a choice in the matter, create your own Bang.