Monday, February 05, 2007

Interview Questions and FAQ's

I frequently get mail from readers of this blog - students, researchers and other interested parties - who ask me questions about the early L.A. punk scene. Although I know I have answered some of these questions elsewhere, I can’t always remember where and inevitably end up having to repeat myself. I thought it might be interesting to take some of the most Frequently Asked Questions and answer them here on my blog and so, without further ado - Me Interviewed by You.

FAQs for Alice

Why don’t you interview ____________ for your women in punk series?

I am interested in interviewing women who were active in the L.A. punk scene between 1977-1980. I don’t always have current email info and I don’t use the telephone but I try to follow up on leads. Many of the obvious choices have been given interviews but haven’t finished them or they have finished the interview but want to add pictures, or they want to change something or are in the middle of something else...

How can I get in touch with________________________?

Although I love to help old friends connect as well as introduce journalists, researchers and punk enthusiasts to new friends, I don’t have the time to go back and forth with messages. I never give out contact info without getting an O.K. from the person who is being sought. I hope to eventually compile an email address book where people who don't mind being contacted can be located but I haven’t had time to do it yet. The L.A. punk rock directory is on my to-do list. I'd venture a guess that many of the surviving Masque regulars are on MySpace and can be located by doing a little digging. A good place to start is on the MySpace Masque page.

Will The Bags ever do a reunion?

Never. Half the members are dead, one lives in England and we’re not on speaking terms and the other remaining member is busy working on his first book.

With so few recordings that The Bags made, what was your contribution to today’s music scene? Do you feel that you influenced any of today’s artists?

Although The Bags made very few studio recordings, the Dangerhouse recordings are a good example of what the band was like. The movie The Decline of Western Civilization depicts the band near its final break-up. It’s an accurate representation of some of the changes the band had gone through in personnel and in musical direction. It also captures the changes that were taking place in the L.A. punk scene as it moved from a young experimental phase into a more hardcore phase.

Ultimately, I think that the things that turned out to be most important and influential to others are not the things I thought were important at the time. I wanted to be appreciated as a singer, but I’d get all caught up in the moment and lose myself onstage. I was better known for high energy, aggressive, confrontational performances rather than my ability to stay on key. Some of those angry performances inspired other artists who also needed a different way to express their rage.

I also now know that being a Latina from East L.A. and fronting a punk band meant more to others at the time than it did to me. Both of those aspects (being an angry female and being from East L.A.) are things that people who got to see the band perform live could immediately relate to and which were never captured on sound or video recordings. Perhaps it’s for the best. So much of what artists do is significant because of when it is done and what is happening in the world at the time. I realize now that I could never in a million years be the type of singer who could deliver a controlled performance. My performances were chaotic, aggressive and therapeutic. In the many years since my days in the L.A. punk scene, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many young people and I’m convinced that being Latina and being a woman with a proto-hardcore attitude are the two things that left the biggest impression on others.

Why was Disco’s Dead not originally credited to the Bags?

Disco’s Dead was not written by anyone in the band. We were approached by an outside source and asked to record the song for a flat fee. I believe the song was used as a demo for the composer but it ended up on an obscure compilation under the name "S.G.A.B. from the Planet Zed." I have to confess that I was not a disco hater. The glitter scene which I was into before I got into punk had an active alternative disco scene. I never hated disco. In the late 70’s I just preferred punk.

What happened between you and Patricia?

This question is usually attached to the reunion question. I could probably write many pages about what happened between us. I thought the hard feelings about the break-up were all behind us, but I discovered through a recent interview that Patricia is still quite resentful at being kicked out of the band 30 years ago. I have a long response to this question, but I found in reading it back that it doesn’t make me feel any better to tell my side of the story and include nasty details. The long and short of it is that Patricia and I were close friends at one time and that is why we formed a band together. The reasons for the collapse of our friendship are numerous. Patricia has implied in interviews that I was jealous of her good looks. On the contrary, I think her striking looks were an asset. I have always been proud to have beautiful friends. When our friendship ended, our reasons for wanting to be in a band together disappeared. Although I would welcome reconciliation, I don’t really believe either of us will ever see the past in the same way and with the past unresolved, there is little hope of any renewed friendship. It is easier for me to put it all behind me because I’m not the one who got kicked out. I do have many fond memories of our adventures in high school and during the early band days and I’d like to hang onto those memories instead of focusing on what went wrong.

Who was in The Piranhas? Was Belinda really your girlfriend?

The Piranhas were started by me, Shannon Wilhelm and Sheila Edwards. We were bored one night and decided to dress up in wigs and fake blood-splattered clothes and take a walk on Hollywood Blvd., scaring tourists and causing trouble. Just good, clean fun.

Margot Olavarria (Go-Go's), Shannon Wilhelm and Sheila Edwards (Piranhas).

The lesbian part of the story has been greatly exaggerated. The women in the Piranhas were all good friends. Some of us were bisexual, some were just curious. There was no real stigma associated with being lesbians; in fact, I think we were thought of as a little edgier than our counterparts, the Poodles, who were more focused on being fashionable and attractive to men. We let the rumors run rampant because we enjoyed our bad girl reputations. As for Belinda and me, we were very close and cuddly, and we went through a brief period when we told people we were girlfriends. This had more to do with being there for each other during difficult times and filling in as a date when a guy had to be dumped. As for the rest of the details, I’ll never tell.

Was there much competition/rivalry in the early punk scene?

People in the early L.A. punk scene were pretty supportive of each other. I think we were each other’s first fans. Occasionally, squabbles would arise over petty things like billing or playing order, but for the most part there was a strange sense that seniority was important. It made sense to us that if you started a band because you’d seen an earlier band play, then naturally you’d want to open for them. That held true most of the time, but not always.

What’s happening with the skate deck?

The skateboard deck is being put out by a skateboard company. I don’t have any control over when it will be on sale. I love the artwork which was done by Zeroxed.

What’s happening with the Artifix release?

Artifix has been very good with keeping me in the loop about what they are planning with the Bags compilation CD. I understand that there will be some reissued studio tracks and some live material. The delay has been in getting authorization from all the proper sources.


Anonymous said...

Yay! It's good to have you back and with a nice long entry too. Keep on writing Alice, we missed you.

Anonymous said...

P.S., who else was in the Piranhas? I read somewhere that Jane Wiedlin was in it, is that so and who else was in it? Was it a pseudo band like the Plungers or was it a club?

naomi said...

Dear Alice Bag,

My name is Naomi and I sent you my zine, Punx is Ladies, a few months ago (at least i think it was that long ago...lately it's been kind of a time warp in my life...) I asked if you'd be interested in answering some questions for the next edition that I'm putting out. Anyways, after reading this I realize that it's probably a lot of effort for you to answer my specfic questions but I really am hoping that you wouldnt mind. I swear I will send them to you via e-mail as soon as possible and you can take as long as needed to send them back to me. Thanks!!

Sincerely, Naomi

Anonymous said...

Alicia Bolsa (Alice Bag translated into Spanish)!!!!

I so looked forward to a new entry in your blog! I thought that maybe your friend had transitioned and you were too depressed too write or something...But voila, as usual, you came up with something brilliant to write up about..

Thanks for answering some of the questions I myself made to you some entries back, like the Pat Bag story. I so enjoyed both of you as musicians and wondered why two talented women with such a rich history would become estranged. The truth is, like myself and many of my own friends from that era, you two just outgrew each other....

As a former punk and Gay Latino, I found myself comfortable and welcomed into the diversity and craziness of the LA punk culture...And like many of my peers, I also found myself getting out of control...

I remember vividly Darby's last solo show at the Starwood...I walked away telling myself that the guy was going to end up dead if he didn't deal with himself...And dicho y hecho (said and done) he died a short time later...That sent shockwaves through all of us, especially those like me who had developed out of control drug habits in order to quiet our internal rage...

That began my transition out of the punk movement, I graduated college, got a job to get a car and a car to get to the job...Becoming an adult was not an easy transition for the different, especially those of us who had been touched by the insight of the punk matrix..

I miss those days tremendously...Now, as a mid-40's adult, I find myself longingly looking back at my creative, risk taking, no fear youth. Thank God I've lived to remember that, 15 years clean and sober now, a psychotherapist providing some light for those in darkness, a witness to the greats such as yourself who dared to cross the boundaries of convention...

Thanks for your blog, sharing your story and your fearless advenures. Your number one fan, l.a. geo

Anonymous said...

Great post. Sad to hear that sometimes bygones can't be bygones. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe someday.

Anonymous said...

Who were The Poodles?I've never heard them mentioned before.