Here's some more of the lengthy email interview I'm still doing with a German Punk music website/magazine. The interviewer first translates his questions into English, then translates my English responses back into German.
Q-As ever in history, there are a lot of rumours about Punk and also about Punk in L.A., for example one of these rumours is that you did not get along well with Darby Crash from the Germs, in how far is that true and what was the point for you having trouble with him ? Which role did drugs play in the early L.A. Punk scene and which were the reasons for that situation?
Another thing I was always really interested in is gathering about the band FEAR as featured in the movie `Decline of the Western Civilization` they and especially Lee Ving must have been the most fucked up assholess around trying to bitch everyone, how much of it was real and how much was fake within that behaviour from the way you see it?
What about the Hillside Strangler, did he spread a lot of fear within the Punk Scene, especially after he murdered Jane King, a club regular at The Masque?... (question has been edited)
A: I met Bobby Pyn (later to become Darby Crash) early on. We became friends and used to talk on the phone. We were both very much interested in philosophy and ethics and would often have heated discussions. Darby was into Nietzsche and I liked Kant, so of course we clashed. But at first we got along more than we fought. We were drinking buddies and were both known for our stage antics. Between the Bags and the Germs, we probably had the wildest audiences of the scene and we did several shows together. As Darby submerged deeper and deeper into his persona of “Darby Crash”, he and I began to grow apart. My observation was that he began to have less real friends and instead surrounded himself with fans and followers whom he could use and control. I totally disagreed with this and we got into an epic fight over the “proper role of fans” one drunken night. Darby thought that people who could be controlled, should be controlled and he disliked the way I treated Bags' audience members as equals. I wanted to erase the line between performer and audience and Darby saw his role as an artist being closer to that of an idol.
In the last part of his life, I can only recall one person having the guts to stand up to him and tell him to his face “No Darby, you’re wrong” and that was Nicole Panter. I have to say that when I heard the news of Darby’s fatal overdose, I was saddened but really not surprised. It’s always hard to lose a friend.
With regard to drugs in the scene, when the scene started in the Masque, it was mostly alcohol. Drugs were around, but it was mostly pot, speed, maybe some coke. Heroin did not come into fashion until around 1979 and then it hit the scene hard. I always avoided drugs as much as possible, preferring alcohol. People who were close to me got very seriously into heroin, and many of them are now dead. I think heroin had some kind of a glamorous aspect to it that might have appealed to some, also many of us (myself included) had the youthful idea that we wouldn’t live much past 22 years. We just couldn’t see a future beyond that and punk rock was very much a youth movement at that time. I personally did not have a death wish, but I do remember feeling that nothing could touch me because I was young and fearless. That attitude might have caused some people to take chances with drugs that ultimately led to their demise.
On the subject of Lee Ving, I can only speak from personal experience, and he has always been a perfect gentleman around me. He has always been unfailingly polite to me in person – I’m not kidding. I think that if Johnny Ramone could be a Bush Republican, then Lee Ving can certainly be as conservative as he seems and still be a punk. I don’t think that being a punk equates with being a liberal, even though I consider myself somewhat of a liberal. In some respects I find myself to be quite conservative and reactionary. I’m definitely not in the “turn the other cheek” camp. If someone attacks me, I kick ass first then ask questions later. I suspect that much of Lee’s onstage behavior was designed to get a strong reaction from the audience. He tried to engage the audience by provoking them - just like I did - but he did it in his own way.
Regarding the Hillside Strangler, I was aware at the time of the killings but I didn’t worry about it and I honestly don’t believe that many of the Masque regulars were overly concerned about it either. I never met Jane King or at least not that I can recall.