By Tim Storm
I say, “Fuck the chronology and making sense.” Y’know stream-of-consciousness is more my style anyway; I lack Kerouac’s proficiency at the keyboard, but I do like to drink while I type. I don’t want to do this… for one thing, I have destroyed most of the parts of my brain that deal in memory. For another, there’s the “age” factor, which seems to work something like this: Those things that once seemed really important become completely irrelevant in time. In fact, what once was may never have been, but if it was it might have gone like this:
In the beginning there was “Rock N’ Roll, ” just like the song, “One fine morning she puts on the NY station, ” but you know that, else you wouldn’t be here now. There was oppression, not the “totalitarian state” kind of oppression, more like, no– exactly like the Stooges’ “No Fun.” Iggy expressed the mid-western angst better than anyone: stultifying, bourgeois tedium sealed in a Wonder Bread bag.
The Stooges, the Velvet Underground and the New York Dolls– these were the bands that did one particular thing, the thing that I could most relate to, the thing that the Gargoyles would try to do. In spite of the ultimate horror of our all too human existence, these bands would KICK ASS! Yeah, life sucks. It’s ugly, stupid, and dull, but there’s one thing we can do, and each of us gets a chance to do it. They took their turns, we took ours, and you’ll take yours.
There were those long weekends down to L.A., y’know, you get off work around 4, hop in the ’85 Chevy Suburban (spray-painted Gargoyle-green), load up with equipment and bodies (it, and they, fit with room to spare), and it’s across the Berkeley hills and down good ol’ Interstate 5! Now, I-5 is in contention for the most boring route in America, or at least I used to think so until I moved to Texas. Anyway, I won’t drive anywhere without high-volume noises comin’ out of my car-stereo. Considering there was no AC and it’s damn hot on I-5, after a seven hour drive all our brains had ceased to function beyond a sorta ash-black hiss– a perfect state of mind to begin drinking, which we did, immediately upon arrival in L.A. Now, we would never go out on the road (or to the living room, for that matter) without plenty of little white rocks in small bags (that’s speed, kids: just do it). Personally, I liked to keep 2-20 bags (one in each front pocket) for my own personal use, enough to keep me going through work the following Monday. Point is, there would be no, and never was any, sleeping.
Back to the adventure. So we survive the Grapevine (massive up-hill north of the valley) and roll on down into Ventura. We usually stayed in the valley ’cause our friends, the Electric Ferrets (particularly drummer Robert “Flytrapper”), would book the shows and put us up for the weekend. The valley certainly does bring new meaning to the word “sucks” so we’d wanna get into Hollywood ASAP; it’s more fun to go through the hills (I think we took Laurel Canyon) because it’s picturesque, then boom! Hollywood! Say what you like, I mean I wouldn’t live there, but it’s a great place to go for the weekend. It’s plastic, cheesy America in all its filth and sleaze. Friday night might be at Rajis, or Shamrock (my favorite), or Gaslight, or even the dreaded Al’s Bar… any one of them would be full up with all the coolest LA/Hollywood hip scenesters, and cool it was. There’d be the omnipresent Rich Coffee in his finest Oscar Wilde gear, Candy Del Mar (already drunk), queen of any situation, Kim and Melanie of the Muffs, the Flipside crew and the man with his under-the-nose video camera, and how ’bout Arlen, the reputed postman who hung around the shows taking pictures of the girls for his private “collection.” So many cool characters, can’t count ‘em all. We’d hang and party and play our bitchin’ set, then off to the valley to not-sleep that night.
Up in the morning, we head on back to Hollywood to spend the day on Melrose. Melrose, for the uninitiated, is the hippest street in Hollywood, where the “in”-crowd goes to shop and be seen, mostly to be seen. Here’s the picture: it’s L.A., it’s Saturday afternoon, about a hundred degrees, there’s nowhere to buy beer on Melrose, and we’re dressed in black! It’s OK though, ’cause by this time, we’ve left our physical bodies and have moved onto the store down the alley where they sell the fake rocks and body parts. Hang, hang, diners and record stores, ’round 4 it’s over to Hollywood Blvd. to take in some of the sleazier shops for t-shirts, movie posters and (maybe) some dinner. Besides, just after dusk the low riders start cruisin’, man– you never saw so many little trucks lookin’ all the same.
If we didn’t play a party then we’d be at one of the aforementioned clubs that night, and it was more of the same as the previous night: party, play bitchin’ set, then back to the valley.
I know which coffee shop opens first on Sunday morning in Hollywood.
If we’re lucky, we can go swimming in Jeff Dahl’s pool today, or maybe we go down to Venice to drink at a dangerous little shit-hole just off the beach. Probably the beach any way you look at it. There’s something soothing about water when you’ve been up a couple days. At this point the drinking is constant, it becomes like breathing, you just do it. Sunday night is the big show at Cocoanut Teaszer, a club down further on Sunset Strip. Every Sunday they put on a 7-9 band show with a free keg and hot dogs for those who come early, they like us and are real nice (unlike the booker at Al’s). So the crowd gets bigger, we party, play our bitchin’ set, party more, load up with equipment and persons (’round 3am), and it’s back out to I-5, this time northbound. By the time we arrive back in S.F., every last one of us is mute, smells like a hamster cage, and looks like Bowie (thin white duke period). It’s home to shower and off to work by 8am.
“I am my own existence.”
I waited 39 years to begin studying philosophy, and my concept was this: Live life first in order to find out what my philosophy is, through experience, rather than study and then try to live someone else’s ideas.
What I found out is that I am an existentialist. I’ll let you look it up yourself, but to narrow it a bit you’d go to Colin Wilson for the positive and Albert Camus for the negative (at least in my case), or you could always just rent “Apocalypse Now.”
We spent most of the 1980s in a very deep, dark, psychedelic jungle. By ’88 I was ready to come out, and it took about a year of intense mental anguish ’til I was clear enough to realize that I wanted to be in a “real” working band again. We had been doing a thing called the Koel Family (a strange bastardization of the Manson and Partridge families, taken from a comic strip about a family of sadistic dentists, drawn by our guitar player Pete), but it was more of an insane cult thing, very drug-like and anti-social.
So I decided to create a new band. Four of the five members would come from the KF:
Tim Storm – Vocals
Doug Heeschen – Guitar
Lisa Lombardo – Guitar
Julia Alstatt – Guitar
The lineup would be rounded off by an old junior high/high school friend of mine and Doug’s named Brian Tierney (recently arrived from Japan), who I re-christened “Brian Tyranny, ” on drums.
Now, it should be noted at this point that there was a shadow sixth member of the band in the ominous personage of Metal Mike Saunders (well-known Angry Samoan singer, VOM vocalist, and originator of the term “heavy metal”); his presence will be delved into at a later point, maybe.
I gave everyone in the band a copy of the Stooges’ “Raw Power” LP and I told them that this is what we’re gonna do. It was literally that specific. I also set up the band as a dictatorship, with me as the final authority on all decisions. I believe that most of the problems bands have are a result of too many “opinions, ” so I disallowed any and all opinions. Problem solved, next…
There are few crimes worse than a band who makes no attempt to put on a live show. It’s a “show” after all. I do not, nor have I ever wanted to waste my time going to see a band who thinks they can get on stage and stare at their fucking feet. No one should put up with that kind of pussy-assed shit. Consequently, I wanted to make sure we had good stage presence– that meant (strict) dress code for everyone and as much movement as possible by everyone! I was thinking of the Cramps, visually, only with the whole band moving, not just the singer, so our practices were held so as to be like a show. I would jump around almost as much in rehearsal as on stage, so I wouldn’t know how to sing the songs without moving.
I’ve done songwriting in a few different ways over the years. In the case of the Gargoyles, it went like this: I’d write lyrics ahead of time, then, in rehearsal, we’d take turns with Doug/Lisa/Julia’s riffs, onto which I would graft the lyrics. The lead guitar part would be the last bit added as Doug would learn what the song was about, then he’d do his part so as to accurately reflect the subject matter.
In California, if you play first on a bill, no one will see you. That’s the way it is. The only reason I could see for opening a show is to impress the club’s booker. Solution: enter Metal Mike, who set us up as support for the Angry Samoans. Playing up and down the state, from Chico to L.A., we performed and hung out with the band. Watching them fight over money (usually an absurd amount, ie: thirty-three cents for a hotel bill from last year’s tour) every night after the show was almost better than seeing them play – these guys could not be in the same room together – definitely the “punk-rock Who.” By playing with the Samoans we were not only able to bypass the usual “pay your dues” bullshit, but were also able to get excellent exposure and lots of cool contacts.
We recorded our first four-song 7″ ourselves… pressed and released it too. The next few things would be on Sympathy for the Record Industry, then Shakin’ Street (UK), Barn Homes/1+2 (Japan), Knockout (Germany), and a few other comps.
Our first producer was our lead guitarist Doug, followed by Jeff Dahl, and finally Buddy Saleman, who had been the engineer for the Dwarves’ LPs.
Somewhere around ’91, Lisa and Julia quit the band, and were replaced by Alison and Tony. Later Doug left and was replaced by Neil Smith, and then Alison left. She was not replaced.
We did one “official tour” up to Vancouver and back, with the Screaming Bloody Marys. We played with a lot of cool bands and generally lived the hedonistic rock-star lifestyle for a few years more than we should have, maybe.
Doug came up with the guitar riff. He later told me it was based on a UK Subs song (“Warhead”) I had been raving about for years. It’s about advertising; the devils are the evil executives who want to make us consumer zombies, slaves to their “products.” I had just gotten a promotion at work, to a graphic artist position. You know those flyers they put out when a house is for sale? I made those. I still hate and fear advertising to this day.
We had spent the evening at a friend’s house; he was a cocaine dealer and had this group of coked-out kids sitting on the floor playing gin rummy and doing lines. This went on day after day, night after night… they were no longer getting high or having any kind of fun, just “maintaining.” We got back to our place in Mill Valley about 4am, and Julia pulled out this “Gimme Danger” riff while I just put down my thoughts on the evening. The chorus was my idea of a Led Zeppelin parody. I’m not exactly sure how it is, but I’ve always hated “The Zep.”
FISTFUL OF SAND
This was Julia’s song. Lisa did the Dead Boys riff and all I did was change three or four words around. It had a “nature” kinda feel at first so I made it a little more “urban.” I did the chorus, which I was particularly impressed with. I was very angry when I was young, and so the chorus was really a reminder to myself. You can hold a handful of sand, but the harder the fist you make, the more sand you lose. Get it? Sand = Life, just like the hourglass in “The Wizard of Oz.” Wow, I’m so deep.
Obviously the Iggy song about Los Angeles, perfect for us as we spent a fair amount of time playing and hanging out in L.A. (I can tell you which coffee shop opens the earliest in Hollywood!) I think it’s good to do covers, not too many, but enough to show people your influences. Though I never liked the idea of doing a cover of a “definitive” song… for example, why do people want to cover “Search and Destroy”? The original is perfect, and any cover will therefore be inferior. “Kill City” is great because that whole album is full of utterly brilliant tunes produced HORRIBLY! Maybe we could do a version a little more like how it should have been?
Fuckin’ “Runnin’ Down.” I’ve always been embarrassed by this song. Lisa was learning to play guitar and had never been in a band or written songs, so we’d sit on the couch and I’d work with her on songwriting. She’d do a simple riff and I’d make up some really stupid shit just to complete the process. For some reason, this was the only song to survive… I don’t know how it did but I wish it hadn’t. Oh well. There was one song we wrote called “The Second Song” (guess which one it was) that I really liked. Its only lyric was, “This is the second song, this is the second song, this is the second song.”
I’d been reading a lot of H.P. Lovecraft and one of the great and horrible alien-monster-gods was described as being something like, “The goat with 1, 000 young.” I started thinking of the United States as being like this monster, only with more young. I can’t remember the number, but the original song title was “The Goat with ____ Young” (fill in the blank with the U.S. population in ’89). It’s sort of our lifestyle in Paradise. I really liked doing these BIG-heavy songs; Doug’s leads are kick-ass and the dynamics are bitchin’ too.
This song’s story isn’t so much what it’s about (it’s just a joke, I was born in Michigan), but how it managed to survive. It never seemed to be right, we kept trying to get it but finally decided to drop it from the set. Well, our long time friend (and future bassist) Tony Palmer found out about it and made it his personal crusade to get us to keep it. Not only did we return it to the set, but we recorded and released three different versions of the damn thing! It never did come out how we wanted it. The LP version is probably the closest, while the original single version is a production disaster.
WORLD AT WAR
My second favorite TV show as a kid (Monty Python’s was #1). I’d watch these war documentaries over and over again. In fact, my main inspiration for being a singer were the characters from WWII. Winston Churchill is my all-time favorite, but for pure stage antics and comedic effect, I’d have to say Mussolini is the hands-down winner. Man, that guy wasn’t much of a dictator but he was a great rock star! When the first Gulf War was going on, I would sometimes change the lyrics to make it a little anti-war-ish. Otherwise it was really just a message to Lisa to remind her to keep working for the [rock n' roll] “cause.”
CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION
A cover song on every record, right? I love anything “apocalyptic”– movies, sounds, pictures, anything. Funny, the original working band name was “Children Of The Revolution” and for a few months there I was, sporting my approximation of a Marc Bolan hairdo. It didn’t last though, long hair doesn’t work for me. I was particularly obnoxious recording this in the studio. I did the vocals in the main room and was climbing on top of and knocking down all the shit. You can hear it all. I told them to keep it in and add as much reverb as possible. The hand claps at the end was another one of mine, I always loved the idea of having fake applause. I think I might even like an entire fake audience some day.
RIDE INTO YOUR MIND
I don’t remember exactly what this was, but it sounds like some of my paranoia creeping its way onto vinyl. Sort of like this: knowledge and intelligence have become almost a liability in our society, and if you’re out there moving amongst the “common” man and you display any of this sort of thing, you’ll be immediately branded as some kind of weirdo-troublemaker. To the vast majority of our fellow citizens, knowing much more than how to pound a nail and turn a screwdriver is a sign of dangerous aberration and should be discouraged or ignored. The whole nature of our fun has its roots in “tweaking” these assholes, but it does get frustrating sometimes.
THESE THINGS AND MORE
This song pre-dates the Gargoyles, and its rejection was one of the reasons we started the band. I had absolutely nothing to do with its creation (aside from singing). Lisa’s sister wrote the words and I thought they were great, while the riff is Doug’s. It sounds to me to be a little autobiographical. I’m really not interested in going into her sister’s story, except for that time we dropped acid at Circus Circus in Reno, decided it wasn’t strong enough, and dropped some more. It started coming on heavy in the fuckin’ monorail car.
This is as honest as I have ever gotten in a song. The time period while transferring one drug habit to another is a particularly brutal one: the struggle with depression, against insanity, self-loathing and rampant paranoia, with expressing the difference between the “thing” up on stage that everybody thinks is so cool versus the person who lies in bed staring at the ceiling, hoping for death. It took about ten years but I finally did get out of that particular hole. This is your typical Lisa/Dead Boys riff with Brian sounding kinda heavy-handed. He almost reminds me of Paul Cook. Goddamn, there are a lot of guitar overdubs here…
What a disaster. This sounds nothing like what I’d envisioned, fuck! People in San Francisco think that people in L.A. are a bunch of plastic phonies living in an empty swimming pool, and people in L.A. think their northern counterparts are a bunch of dirt-squatting, self-righteous, wrinkled old hippies. They’re both right of course. We were originally from the midwest (except Julia, who was from DC) and although we lived in S.F., we had no feelings of rivalry and thought that shit was pretty funny. I use the word “Frisco” in the song, which is the worst thing you can say to a SAN FRANcisco native… very silly. It was supposed to be much, much more violent sounding and threatening, to offset the silliness. Instead it sounds even stupider than the lyrics are.
This is my favorite song on the LP. It has that great sound of “ascent” in the riff. It’s strange because although it’s Lisa’s riff, the music has so much of Doug’s influence in it… he was really good at making songs “sound” right so the music would fit the subject. It’s a song written to my new girlfriend at the time. She had never been in the live music scene and was having trouble adjusting to going out to shows with me. I guess it worked out, she later became a bass player. Good thing too, cause I hate dance clubs, maaaan.
THRU THE RHYTHM
A cover of the 13th Floor Elevators song. We were HUGE Roky Erickson fans and we used to do “Cold Night For Alligators” in our live set, sometimes I would sing, sometimes Lisa would sing. She ended up recording it for her debut solo LP (an entire set of songs about what an asshole I was). I wanted to keep this cover pretty close to the original but at the last minute, Julia and Brian decided to simplify it and give it a more Ramones-y feel. I’m not sure what I think about it, I guess it’s OK, I hate the backing vocals though. Those are some very cool lyrics (Tommy Hall).
“Whirlwind” was the name of a “World At War” episode about the allied bombings of Germany near the end of the war. I was having some great sex one day, and in mid-coitus I got this image of myself as the planes and my girlfriend as Germany. You know; wrecking devastation, death from above, vengeance, hatred of women, hatred of the mother? So, I guess this is my idea of a love song. Later on we had Neil Smith go into the studio and overdub another guitar part. He had subbed for Doug on tour and invented an intro we liked, so we released his version on a comp.
Lou Reed is a scary old monkey now, but at one time he was one of the coolest humans to ever walk upright. This is my tribute song. I had a big problem deciding how to do the lyrics. Reed is such a great lyricist that I felt anything I wrote would be laughable by comparison. I finally decided to go the opposite route and write it as minimalist as possible, with no attempt at the sublime. There used to be another verse when we played it live, though I left it out on the recording, opting instead to repeat some earlier verses. Doug did the VU-style noise-guitar that sits in the background throughout, and there are a number of other cool and interesting guitars going on, with a nod to Mick Ronson, and maybe Julia on an acoustic.
This is Julia’s song, she wrote both words and music. I only changed a bit at the end to give it a specific “band” focus. The chorus is lifted from the Bowie song “Running Gun Blues”– it’s OK with me. I’ve always said that since theft in songwriting is inevitable you should steal from good sources. Bowie was one of the few points that Julia and I could agree on anyway.
OUT INTO THE WORLD
I was supposed to re-do the lead vocal on this one and on “Florence, ” as my voice was obviously shot at this point, but those bastards did the mix with these tracks. It’s Jeff Dahl’s fault, and I’m waiting for death so I can move to the desert and haunt his house. Doug writes stuff that’s really frantic and I write really paranoid lyrics. The combination can be unsettling at times, and I find this to be one of those times. This is what happens when you stay at home too much, kids.
This is the oldest song, written in 1986 by Pete Herstedt and me (Koel Family), and I’d always thought of this song as my Top 40 pop hit (go figure). It’s specifically about a character in the great, early 1970s horror classic, “The Legend Of Hell House.” If you’ve seen the movie you’ll know exactly who, if you haven’t you’d better get to it, and right away! I love the idea of the scream, not just any scream but THEE SCREAM!!! Not many people (outside Roky and Little Richard) can scream like they mean it, but that scene in the movie really stuck with me as an American Bandstand moment– where are ya, DICK?
FUCK FUCK FUCK
Doug did a bit called “Fuck” at the end, which I always assumed was an expression of his frustration after having gone through the process of making an album: “Fuck.”
BIG NIGHT OUT
I used to live in this ancient, rotting mansion on the side of a hill in San Raphael. My stereo was set up between two windows, one with a view of the Richmond Bridge and San Pablo Bay, the other with a view of downtown San Rafael. During this time I was off and on with a few different girls, leaving me often confused as to whom I should be going out with on a given day. Sometimes, the result was me sitting at home listening to the stereo, drinking beer and looking out the window. This song is about one of those nights. I remember the TV being on (without sound of course), and I’m watching these stupid images and thinking about the garbage culture we have, and how much a part of it we all are. Doug’s playing keyboards that deserved a much higher mix (and got it on the earlier demo version). I wish we could have kept going, if for no other reason than to delve further into the keyboard sound… didn’t though, oh well.
I have a theory that technology presents a specific threat to humanity by making it easier and easier to avoid any contact with other humans (ATMs, phones, TV, computers). Soon we will be unable to react or behave properly when confronted with one of our own species in the flesh. What will be the result of a completely disconnected society? The song has great dynamics between the left and right channel guitar tracks and a really disconcerting lead in the middle. I’m afraid I’m not really up to the vocal requirements of my creation; one of the few times I broke my own rule about “knowing one’s limitations” and tried to do more than I could.
I started listening to gangsta rap at this point, so I wrote these lyrics in that style. I knew I wasn’t gonna do any rapping, but I wanted to see what would happen with a different cadence. I have it in my mind that Tony wrote this one, but I also seem to remember him denying it and crediting Alison, so I don’t know about that. You can certainly spot the difference with Tony on bass; he’s a bit more active and trebly than Julia. I thought that, musically, the new band members were an improvement, but when the chemistry changes it’s hard to keep it working.
This song represents the last time the original Gargoyles lineup were in the same room and writing a song. It was written only because Doug took charge and forced every member of the band to come up with a part, and consequently it is the only entire band composition we ever did. Even Brian wrote a part. (Not something you wanna encourage in drummers, y’know?) Well gee, “Stalingrad”? I wonder if it has anything to do with WWII? It should be noted that a fascination with the Second World War was not uncommon in young men growing up when I did, just reference Dee Dee Ramone if you don’t believe me. This one’s an analogy to our live shows; the battle of Stalingrad was one of the worst and most pointless battles ever fought, everything reduced to ruins because of a name. I thought playing shows was like that, or should be anyway: totally fucking pointless destruction and death!
THE ONLY GOOD HUMAN (IS A DEAD HUMAN)
Another Lou Reed-inspired number about the Channel 2 (Oakland) morning news. Every morning (for some reason) I watched the news, and every morning they’d start off showing bodies being carried out of some apartment in Oakland. People were always getting killed in Oakland, but I’m wondering why we need to know about it every day? Death becomes so routine in our society, do they expect us to give a shit? Well, I’d say they’ve effectively eliminated any concern that I might have had. Desensitization of humanity at the hands of a greedy media? I don’t believe a word of it. Anyway, you get to hear Neil playing the guitars, all the guitars, and he did a fine job too.
SHE HATES ME
The Dwarves had returned to S.F. from exile and were tearin’ it up all over the place (now that the ban was lifted). We hung out at the same places and played together often, and it’s the Dwarves that influence these final songs of the Gargoyles career. The inspiration was to go back to the kind of sound that had gotten us into the music years ago, kind of completing the circle. I’d chosen a girlfriend, we fought a lot, sometimes it was my fault, sometimes it was hers… it sucked, but the sex was great so I stuck around. Doug wrote the song but he was gone by now, so it’s all Neil again with Brian and Tony. I don’t remember for sure but I think Alison was gone too.
How come CDs cost more than albums? This was written in the days before you could download MP3s for free. Hence the frustration with the record company suits. The music’s pretty simple, almost dull. Nice chorus though.
I used a double negative on purpose. This song was about Doug, who kept pushing for changes in the musical direction of the band. I wanted evolution and felt threatened by his revolutionary ideas. At the same time, I was aware of the positive aspects of change and so, as a nod to ambivalence, I threw in the double negative. Otherwise, I was trying to point out how my ideas had gotten us where we were and therefore were the correct way to proceed. Maybe I’d re-think that now, but now’s not then, y’know.