Local legend

Ground Chuck

Photo By Don Button

Since I was 8 years old (I’m 16 now), I’ve heard stories from my mom, my dad, my uncle Mark and many other people about a living, walking, talking part of downtown Sacramento punk-metal lore named Ground Chuck. They all talked about the awesome shows he used to put on in Sacramento, how he used to hang out with the kids, set up gigs for seminal punk bands like 7Seconds, and bring Southern California bands like Agent Orange and the Descendents to the stage for Sacramento teens back in “the day.” I first ran into Chuck at Jack’s Urban Eats in Midtown. I found out that although he no longer does show promotions, he’s been doing some sick sidewalk chalk art and is now the frontman for a kick-ass punk-metal band, Mental Defective League (MDL). And he’s still out there giving us kids the time of day.

How long have you been a part of the Sacramento scene?

I’ve been around for about 20 years. I started out by setting up punk shows at this place called the Beat. Not the CD shop, but this other little place that was a disco that got converted into a restaurant. It was on Florin Road.

Where did you start going to punk shows?

I went to [most] of my first punk shows at the Crest Theatre. I was still kind of a metalhead when I started going to punk shows. … The first time I went to a punk show, I was supposed to go to a concert with Venom, Slayer and Exodus, but I ended up meeting the guys in Agent Orange. The night of the Venom show, I ended up helping Agent Orange out at the Scottish Rite Temple because they were playing the Elk Grove High School prom. They put me in a surgeon’s smock and pasted Agent Orange stickers all over it. It was pretty rad.

What do you think about the following: “If we rock together, why can’t we walk together?”

I think that it totally embodies the feeling of the Sacramento punk scene. This is one of the only places where you’ll see metalheads, skinheads and people who like rap all chillin’ together at a punk show, where the punk band will spend all night doing covers of Public Enemy songs. It’s really cool how everything is integrated and people can get along.

You also do chalk art on the streets locally. How long have you been doing that?

I’ve been doing chalk art on the streets since I was 15 years old. I’m 36 now, going on 37. I’ve been chalkin’ it up since before Chalk It Up was thought of. I’ve always appreciated people who like my art. It’s totally awesome when some people are walking by, and they stop to check out and praise something I created. I love it when people dig my work.

What originally got you interested in chalk art?

I’ve always liked doing art. You know, doodling on pieces of napkins and such. I started to like working with chalk, though, because this whole city is my canvas, and it’s free. … There are a lot of cool things that are a part of it. I figure that if I’m already going to be out and about, I’ll do something that I enjoy doing. I also see a lot of kids doing it, and I think that’s really cool. It provides a positive medium for expression that makes the city more beautiful instead of destroying it. It’s really simple. If you nurture kids with something, and they grab a hold of it, that’s a skill that they’ll enjoy using, and they’ll do great things with that skill. It helps to empower young people.

Do you ever get kids coming up to you, asking you if they can do some chalk art with you?

Definitely. I’m always willing to help kids out and hook ’em up with some love if they want to start doing art with me. I’m more than willing to give pointers.

Where have you done chalk art?

I do chalk art all over the place. I did a piece out in front of the Rubicon building. I did one in front of Flat Spot that was featured on Deluxe Distribution’s Web page. They’re the people that make Anti-Hero, Spitfire, and Real skate stuff, so I was pretty stoked when someone showed me the caption under my picture saying, “Sacto knows who’s who. This is Ground Chuck, and he does rad chalk art in front of local shops.”

About your band MDL—how would you define your sound?

Our sound is basically punk/metal, but I have Tourette’s, so it’s got a little bit of rap in it, too. I’ve got a really vernacular sound, so it’s a mix of rock and ABCs/123s and lolly-get-your-adverbs-here, with a twist of conjunction-junction-what’s-your-function. You know what I mean? It’s a really fun show to do, and I dig the vibes that I get from people at the show and all the kids that like our sound.