Freaks and punk rock geeks
The Secretions celebrate a quarter century of punk rock shenanigans
It was 1998 and local pop punk trio the Secretions was playing a show at Rio Americano High School. Their set was cut short, however, after some jock kids started tossing rocks at them, demanding to hear NOFX instead. This caused bassist Mickie Rat to flip out and start yelling at them.
A school administrator quickly pulled the plug and told the band that the police had been called. They had 10 minutes to get off campus.
Later, the band found out from a friend that the school had added a clause to its contract for future bands: “None of the members of the band are members of or are affiliated with a band known as the Secretions.”
That was just one of roughly 800 shows the band has played in the past 25 years, but maybe the first time it inspired such a rule.
Of course, it may not be the last time. The Secretions celebrate the band’s 25th anniversary this Saturday at the Colonial Theatre. It’s been a long journey from the band’s rocky origins, which are rooted in tragedy. Throughout, they’ve managed to keep their fun, rebellious punk rock spirit firmly intact.
In the past quarter century, they’ve often been considered troublemakers. In fact, says drummer Danny Secretion, one Sacramento radio station in particular seemed to have it out for them with a deejay who repeatedly and gleefully referred to them as “Sacramento’s most offensive band.”
The band, whose members asked not to use their real names, perhaps for obvious reasons, says the reputation isn’t necessarily accurate or fair.
Sure, the band name might be a little off-putting to some. And yes, songs like “Boner” and “Jerkin’ Off To You” are crude in nature—but labeling the group as shock-rockers entirely misses the point.
“I don’t think we’re that offensive. When I think of offensive, I think of the Dwarves,” says Secretion, referring to the legendary punk band that’s perhaps best known for its onstage sex antics, hardcore drug use and self-mutilation.
“Maybe our name is kind of gross [and] we say ’fuck’ every now and again,” he adds. “[But] I think people realize when they meet us and hang out with us that we’re nice people.”
Some of the band’s seemingly offensive and snotty punk tunes have a point, even. One song, “Three Chords and a Fuck You”—which they consider their greatest achievement, by the way—touches on how the band’s members identify as geeks, freaks and weirdos, kids who grew up taking drama classes, playing Dungeons & Dragons or enduring life as the tallest kid in class who didn’t play sports.
More importantly, they all see their band as a safe haven for all the other freaks and geeks who are looking for a place to fit in.
“We always wanted to make it welcoming, not confrontational. You’re not going to get your ass kicked at a Secretions show. You’re going to laugh your ass off,” says Secretion.
The band gets serious, too. Over the years, the Secretions have staged myriad benefits for groups such as the American Cancer Society, Autism Speaks, the Zapatista Coalition of Sacramento and Food Not Bombs. Proceeds for their upcoming show at the Colonial Theatre will be donated to PB SOC, a group that advocates for pit bull socialization.
Such benefits are just one way the band asserts its independence and influence.
“I’ve always had a problem with authority, which is probably why I gravitated towards punk rock. I don’t want to tell anybody what to do or think. I can be an influence based on the choices I make with my band,” Rat says. “I felt like we’ve made a statement by some of the shows that we’ve played.”
This current version of the Secretions is something that’s evolved over time with plenty of hurdles along the way. Twenty-five years is a huge milestone for any band. For a small one like the Secretions, it might be even bigger since more is stacked against them.
“Most bands last 25 years because they have a recording contract and touring. They’re making a business out of it. We’re just losing money for 25 years,” Rat says.
And, they’ve stuck it out despite several lineup changes. The current lineup was locked into place about 10 years ago when Paul Filthy joined the band on the guitar.
Prior to Filthy joining, the band’s first 15 years were a time of upheaval. Rat and Secretion remained the only thread as they repeatedly adjusted to new members, which affected the overall sound and style. The unrest was fitting, perhaps, considering that the Secretions’ formation was largely shaped by tragedy.
The group formed in 1991 with Rat, drummer Dave Leon and guitarist D.J. Willis. Rat and Leon loved punk but couldn’t play instruments. In contrast, Willis was a guitar virtuoso but didn’t know much about punk. Willis taught the other guys how to play music and they taught him about the genre. The name Secretions was Willis’ idea. It was intended as a parody of ’50s doo-wop group names like the Temptations.
After just a few months, however, Willis was killed in a motorcycle accident. It was at Willis’ funeral, oddly enough, that Rat and Secretion first had a serious conversation about music. They knew each other superficially—they both worked at the same radio station at Sacramento State. During Rat’s speech at the funeral, to lighten the dark mood, he talked about the Secretions and even told the other mourners that the band was “looking for a new guitarist.”
Not surprisingly, the comment garnered plenty of uncomfortable laughter. Even as it struck some as inappropriate, the moment intrigued Secretion. Soon, he was the band’s new guitarist.
Subsequently, when Leon quit in 1992, the next drummer couldn’t cut it. So Secretion, who’d barely played the instrument, decided he could do a better job. He’s been there ever since.
The lineups changed every year or so—and the sound did, too. There was one period in the mid-’90s, for example, when the band played a more serious, angrier set that often got them lumped in with the local riot grrrl scene. By 1999, Rat and Secretion the primary songwriters, trading off on vocals equally.
Despite all the changes, there’s always been a constant.
“No matter what era of the Secretions you’re listening to, it sounds like a group of people trying to figure out what the hell they’re doing,” Secretion says.
Longtime Sacramento musician Kevin Seconds, who’s seen countless Secretions shows over the years, sees it this way.
“They rock and work their asses off and manage to still look and sound like they’re having a blast up there,” Seconds says.
In a way, Secretion and Rat are just as surprised as anyone that the band continues to thrive a quarter of a century later.
“I think that’s why we’re still doing stuff 25 years later, we never really planned things,” Secretion says. “I guess that leads us to not being disappointed with what happens.”
With the lineup solidified and the songwriting duties more consistently divided, Secretion and Rat have been at liberty to explore different topics: juvenile stuff, angry, political stuff and personal material. Mostly, however, they’ve allowed the content to evolve as they do.
Somehow, it all makes sense. A prime example is a new song about Secretion’s love for Home Depot that he’s writing for the band’s upcoming eighth album.
“I’m not going to write about how no one invited me to the homecoming dance. I’m 46 years old. Home Depot matters to me now,” Secretion says. “There’s probably someone else at that stage of their life, that’s like, ’yes, I get that.’”