Left Coast punk legends tell their own stories in “Rage: 20 Years of Punk Rock, West Coast Style”

By on September 22, 2017

Over on our streaming Night Flight Plus channel, we’ve recently added thirty music documentary titles for you to check out, including Rage: 20 Years of Punk Rock, West Coast Style, which focuses on latter-day interviews with a handful of Left Coast punk legends.

Jack Grisham (TSOL), Don Bolles (45 Grave, the Germs), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Keith Morris (Circle Jerks), Duane Peters (US Bombs), Gitane Demone (Christian Death) and producer/musician Geza X, plus a few surprise guests, all talk about how they wanted to make music that didn’t fit into the corporate L.A. music biz’s pre-set punk mold.

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Keith Morris

Just 60-minutes long, Rage, directed by Michael Bishop and Scott Jacoby, requires at least a passing familiarity with the SoCal punk rock scene, we suppose, and it’s by no means a complete take on the west coast punk scene (that film would have to be two hours long, at least).

If you’re interested in the topic at hand, though, you’ll be able to hear directly from a handful of those who certainly made an impact in the Los Angeles and O.C. punk scenes in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

San Francisco, meanwhile, is represented by the Dead Kennedy’s Jello Biafra — wearing a “DARE to keep kids out of church” T-shirt — but don’t expect to see any representatives from any other Left Coast punk enclaves.

Read more about Rage: 20 Years of Punk Rock below.

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Jello Biafra

The documentary also features some rare video footage you probably haven’t seen elsewhere — including brief glimpses of the Screamers, Flipper, the Germs, and Dead Kennedys — even though Rage covers some of the same second-wave bands seen in Penelope Spheeris’s 1981 music doc The Decline of Western Civilization, Part 1.

Rage is also a bit more varied in scope than most punk rock documentaries that are primarily focused on one band, like Another State of Mind (Social Distortion’s tour film) or X: The Unheard Music.

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Don Bolles

The stylized, eye-catching graphics and art direction — including the interviewees names scratched directly on the film, inspired perhaps by the title sequence in David Fincher’s Se7en — continue the overall aggressive, anarchistic D.I.Y. look of this low-budget project, which was obviously truly a labor of love for the filmmakers and all of the participants involved.

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Duane Peters (left)

Their individualistic outlooks on life and music led to not only the creation of a few bands residing on the margins of the mainstream — or the so-called underground scene — but also inspired some of them to get even more creative and start their own indie labels, book their own shows, and do their own artwork (gig flyers, single sleeves, posters etc.).

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Gitane Demone (left) with Christian Death, circa 1985

While it’s interesting to hear performers like Gitane Demone espousing about pursuing a more spiritual path in life, or her reaction to her son playing her some shitty Green Day record (yuck), we have to admit that one of Rage‘s true highlights may be its inclusion of Geza X, whose involvement in the early L.A. punk scene certainly deserves to be praised even more than it usually is.

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As a musician, Geza X — born Geza Gedeon, he adopted the “X” in tribute to Malcolm X — released just one official single (“Rx Rock & Roll”/”Pony Ride”), and one full-length album, 1982’s You Goddam Kids!

A couple of his songs also appeared on memorable indie compilations (“Isotope Soap” was featured on Jello Biafra’s Let Them Eat Jellybeans, and “We Need More Power” appeared on Posh Boy’s Rodney on the ROQ, Volume Two).

Geza X — who appeared on “New Wave Theatre” with his band, the Mommymen — was mostly noted for working behind-the-scenes in the L.A. music scene, getting his first job at the generic-sounding Artists Recording Studio sometime in the mid-70s.

At night, he slept on the floor of the 16-track studio and repaired their broken equipment, but he also spent his free time learning how to produce records.

When the legendary L.A. punk club the Masque opened its doors in ’77 — it had been a rehearsal hall where some of L.A. first punk bands practiced before eventually becoming a B.Y.O.B. club — Geza became their house sound man, and the Masque’s Brendan Mullen ended up playing drums in Geza’s band, the Mommymen.

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In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Geza played gigs with his band — including a benefit show circa 1979 for your humble author’s OC punk fanzine, at Costa Mesa’s Cuckoo’s Nest — and he could also occasionally be found onstage playing with the Bags and the Deadbeats (who recorded for L.A.’s Dangerhouse Records).

He may have actually been the first person we ever saw who sang through a headset mic, quite a rarity in the late ’70s.

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Before long, Geza had befriended a lot of the bands who played at the Masque and other L.A. punk clubs, and he was soon producing some of the more seminal west coast punk bands of the late ’70s, including the Germs’s debut single for Slash Records, “Lexicon Devil,” and Black Flag’s “Damaged,” “Six Pack” and “American Waste.”

He also produced the Dead Kennedy’s incredible single version of “Holiday in Cambodia” (Geza says they’re the only band who ever actually paid him any royalties).

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Geza also produced demos for Wall of Voodoo (he also gave them their band name), the Weirdos, Red Cross (later Redd Kross) and his one-time girlfriend, Josie Cotton (best known for her New Wave hit “Johnny Are You Queer?”), plus lots and lots of other bands.

Watch Rage: 20 Years of Punk Rock, West Coast Style, and other New Arrivals, over on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.