Days of a long time ago
Here at Culture Vulture we’re all about the music—whether it happened yesterday or 30 years ago or, in the case of the bands I’m about to go on about, 20-some years ago.
It’s a not-too-hard-to-verify generalization that Chico’s homegrown pop culture is generally six to eight years behind California’s larger metropolitan areas—so it’s not too surprising that Chico didn’t develop much of an indigenous punk-rock scene until the mid-1980s. And of course it wasn’t the college kids who really did it right, it was the drop outs and the high school kids.
The best of the high school punk bands was Twistin’ Jacks, a devastating four-piece powered by the guitar genius of the late Scott Volmer, fronted by the manic shenanigans of vocalist Miles Montalbano and held together by a great rhythm section composed of a bass player whose name eludes me at the moment and a drummer named Marty who I worked with along with Volmer on a roofing crew. Those guys could play their asses off at about three times the speed of any band I ever saw, and since their singer was the only one in the band who got totally crazed on alcohol during performances, the band remained musically coherent and focused at any speed. It was a tragic loss to the Chico scene and to music in general when Volmer was stabbed and killed by a racist skinhead after a show in the Bay Area.
Less (but not un-) tragic, more legendary and definitely more intoxicated (and still surviving as individuals) was the often gruesome crew known as Dog Killer. The group was fronted by a 4-foot-something human dynamo named Howard Morey, whose performance could range from rambling, hostile drunken teenage rant to righteously sung old-school punk delivered with a slight and phony English accent. And then there was his smarmy lounge-crooner persona who delivered the swinging “Cock Tease.”
The (young) men behind the music of Dog Killer brewed up a distinctive if not incredibly innovative species of punk. Guitarist Chris Ross, who looked about 11 years old at the time, drew gnarly tones and twisted rhythms from his instrument, and bassist Derek Tupper and drummer Dave “12-Pack” Sorenson shadowed him like a pack of drunken mutts.
Gigs for teenage punk bands in those days were more often at parties in parking lots, back yards, basements or living rooms than bars. The drink of choice was whatever could be bought in the greatest quantity for the least investment, hence the inspiration for the Dog Killer classic “Burgie Brigade,” which contains the immortal lines, “What’s the attraction of this brew? Why won’t any other do? There’s no point in asking why. Look for an answer and they’ll reply: Burgie Brigade!” The lyrics admittedly ain’t much on paper, but when delivered at vehement top speed in a fake English accent by a guy less than 5 feet tall backed by a band of kids playing genuine Chico thrash-rock, this was pure punk apocalypse.
To experience some of this through the miracle of the Internet, visit www.myspace.com/dogkillerchico. To get a DVD, send an $8 money order made out to Derek Tupper at Wiki Wiki Media, P.O. Box 3647, Long Beach CA 90803. For a CD, send $6. For both, send $12. Remember kids, preserving history costs money.