Reconstituted novelty punk
Berkeley, Calif., has long been known as a center of hippiedom and higher learning. When the band Fang emerged from the city in the early ‘80s, it stood in stark contrast to the prevailing peaceful and intellectual image of its hometown. The music was vulgar, violent and often dumb. The band played tough, grinding, riff-based punk rock in the tradition of The Stooges and The Dead Boys, but with a sense of humor. Sometimes maybe too much humor—their early releases featured songs with titles like “Skinheads Smoke Dope,” “They Sent Me to Hell COD” and “Everybody Makes Me Barf,” almost suggesting a hardcore novelty band.
Fang’s earliest records are still the band’s best-known, and the single CD reissue of their first two records, Landshark from 1983 and Where the Wild Things Are from 1984, is the most widely available of their discs. Though this summer, a new reissue will be released, featuring the group’s third and fourth records, A Mi Ga Sfafas and Spun Helga, along with their never-released fifth record Pissed Off Buddha.
The band fell apart in the late ‘80s after recording Pissed Off Buddha.
“There were a lot of internal problems in the band, and the record got shelved,” says singer Sammytown.
There were also a lot of external problems at the same time.
“At the time, I was fucked up,” Sammytown says of the period that culminated in a six-year stint in prison for a manslaughter charge, “[but] I straightened up my act and tried to find some sort of spirituality and peace.”
Sammytown resolved the intense bitterness he felt toward his old band, and a reconstituted version of Fang (with the steadfast Sammytown as the only original member) appeared and released American Nightmare in 1998, the group’s first release in 13 years.
The band’s current lineup is essentially the same as that of Sammytown’s other current band, The Resitoleros. It features Jimmy Crucifix from Crucifix on guitar, Ike Eichensehr from The Boneless Ones on drums, and Brian Schaffer of Cheapskate and Oppressed Logic on bass. Guitarist Jim Martin, formerly of Faith No More, has also contributed to recent Fang recordings.
Despite the band’s long history and repeated lineup changes, fans shouldn’t expect a drastic change from the sound of their early records. “As we’ve progressed, we’ve tried new things … [but] it’s all punk rock in one bastardized form or another,” says Sammytown.
In addition to fronting two bands, Sammytown recently appeared in the film Down Time, which is currently available on video.
It is “a prison film by ex-cons,” Sammytown explains.
His book based on his prison experience, Thirty Days in the Hole, is due out by the end of summer. It chronicles the five months he spent in solitary confinement after a performance of his prison band sparked a riot.
Fang is currently on tour with Oppressed Logic in support of the Malt Soda records “Live Cheap CD” series—Fang Live and Cheap being one of the first releases in this series of low-priced live recordings. The final stop on their tour is Reno.