Junkyard Interview

October 5, 2008

Twenty years ago a bunch of punk rockers came together to form one of the genre’s best no-frills hard rock bands, Junkyard. They didn’t manage to capture multi-platinum success like label-mates Guns N’ Roses, but Junkyard was able to find a niche with their down-home southern-influenced sleaze metal. Today the band still tours around the world and the members continue to create new music, including a DVD and reissue CDs available at www.junkyardblooze.com. But will Junkyard ever record another album? Guitarists Chris Gates and Todd Muscat along with drummer Pat Muzingo discuss that and much more with Jason L. in this exclusive interview.

Sleaze Roxx: This year you guys released an album, a live DVD, launched a new website, played Hollywood and toured Spain. Is Junkyard back?

Pat Muzingo: I suppose in a sense we are back…as long as its weekend gigs! Put it this way…you won’t see a full blown USA Tour. Its just not gonna happen. We all have great careers in the entertainment and web business.

JunkyardTodd Muscat: Our careers and families are priority #1. We toured all over the place ‘back in the day’ and really don’t see going out on the road (in the USA) as something that would further the band’s popularity.

Pat Muzingo: All of us were at this game way before Junkyard started. Chris Gates and Brian Baker have been at it since 1980 beginning with Minor Threat and The Big Boys and Todd Muscat and I have been doing this since ’83 starting with Decry. I guess people don’t realize that all our bands prior to Junkyard were quite popular and influential in the punk scene. If you ever get a chance rent the critically acclaimed documentary “American Hardcore.” You will be surprised just how big some of our old bands used to be. Anyhow with Junkyard, we are what we are. If ya like us and we are playing…fly out and see us. Every time we play a gig people fly out to see it. We know that some people can’t scratch up the money to fly out but that’s what YouTube is for.Sure, we can never rule out a small mini tour, like 8 days, but it has to be in places where we want to vacation…like what we did this year in Spain. I have been over there many times with my old band Speedbuggy and I really wanted the guys in Junkyard to experience what I had experienced. Plus I knew that we would be treated way better then Speedbuggy. Buggy is/was a fun band but nowhere near as popular as Junkyard.Junkyard (for the 5/6 of us) is a fun way for us to hang with each other and get out of the house every once in a while. We are not looking to revive our career and live off the band again. I guess that’s why it’s so fun when we get together and play….no drama. For the fans that come out it’s definitely not a stale performance.

Todd Muscat: That’s why it’s always an event when we play.

Sleaze Roxx: One of your myspace blogs stated that you hadn’t done a real gig in Hollywood since ’92. What was it like for Junkyard to play there again?

Pat Muzingo: Holy mackerel! It was a blast!! We had only done one real show in Hollywood since we got back together. That one was at the House of Blues with The Supersuckers. Man, was that a kick ass show! For us it was a perfect show for our ‘so called’ comeback. Rather than play with some irrelevant band from back in the day we played with a current, viable rock band that we had so much in common with. Years ago we did the same thing. I remember a few shows where we opened for Charlie Sexton or the one gig we did at The Palomino (an old country bar in North Hollywood) with Tex and the Horseheads.

Todd Muscat: We did a few more shows after the House of Blues gig at the Viper Room, the Mint, Bar Deluxe (unannounced…that was way cool) and The Cathouse but nothing like a ‘real’ Junkyard show. The show we did in May at Safari Sam’s was almost like we were back in 1987 at Rajis! East Hollywood!! Not to be confused with West Hollywood.

Sleaze Roxx: Can you tell me a bit about your experience touring Spain?

Junkyard's Pat MuzingoPat Muzingo: Spain…ahh Spain! I have been there many times with my old band Speedbuggy. I fell in love with it over there the first time I was over there. The people, food, history, women and booze are the best! The people that came out to see gigs (Junkyard, not Speedbuggy) are rabid! They are amazing. They want to be part of the show, not just stand there with their arms crossed. Junkyard has only been over to Europe three times. The first time was back in 1992 when we toured England with The Almighty. The second time was when I got the band on the Serie Z festival. People didn’t know what to think of us when we played that festival. David Roach actually went beyond the barrier and shared a bottle of wine with the crowd. We are not the type of band that spends all the time backstage. We would much rather mix it up with people in the crowd then other bands…or ourselves.

Sleaze Roxx: The current lineup of Junkyard has three original members – David Roach, Chris Gates and Patrick Muzingo. Brian Baker is currently in Bad Religion. What’s Clay Anthony up to?

Chris Gates: Clay’s working as a translator for the CIA and playing bass in the reformed Mama’s & Papa’s… Na, seriously, Clay is still living and playing around LA. He came out to the last Safari Sam’s show and it was great to see him again.

Pat Muzingo: He came up and got me in a headlock! I had no idea who he was! He was all healthy and fit. Have to agree with Chris, it was real good to see him again.

Sleaze Roxx: Next year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of your debut album. What sticks out most in your minds when you think back about those early recording sessions?

Chris Gates: It was kind of a daunting project… we had all been touring and making records for a number of years with our punk bands (Big Boys/Minor Threat/Decry), but working on this kind of scale, and with a producer like Tom Werman was a little outside our experience. We were a great live band right out of the gate and we really wanted to get that onto the record. Once we settled in to the process and got used to working with Werman (who was great to work with, by the way…) everything rolled right along. We got to meet and play with Al Kooper, Earl Slick, Duane Roland (Molly Hatchet), and Derek St. Holmes (from Ted Nugent’s early band) and Mick Taylor stopped by the studio as well. Pretty cool stuff for a kid who grew up listening to these guys records.

Sleaze Roxx: “Hollywood” is probably your most well known song. Can you tell me how that song came to be?

Junkyard's Chris GatesChris Gates: Funny story… I was watching the Cheech & Chong movie “Up In Smoke” (or whichever of their movies was about a band) and I SWEAR I heard Tommy Chong play the da-dada-dit-dadada riff. I turned the movie off and started playing the riff and the song grew out of that. I got with David and we finished the words and later I went back to see if I could find the scene where he played the riff and it’s just not there. I don’t know what I heard, or how I so completely misheard it, but we got a great song out of it.

Sleaze Roxx: When did you first realize that “Hollywood” was going to be a big hit for you?

Chris Gates: Actually that was a complete accident. We were trying to decide what to release as a first single and I think we wanted “Hot Rod” and the label wanted something else (I could be making the “Hot Rod” part up… it was a long time ago). Anyway, we sat down with our manager and A&R guy and decided that we just needed to release something, so we picked “Hollywood”. All the bands were releasing power ballads at the time and Geffen was really looking ahead to releasing “Simple Man” so the “Hollywood” single wasn’t the highest priority. We got hooked up with an insane French Canadian video director named Jean Pellerin who really liked the band and who helped us make the video for “Hollywood”, which really got the band rolling at MTV and radio stations all over the country. So no, I don’t think any of us expected the success of “Hollywood”… pretty cool though…

Sleaze Roxx: Can you tell me a bit about how Junkyard got signed to Geffen records?

Pat Muzingo: We were getting some interest from labels. I think Virgin was the first one to call us up? We had just got done doing an 8 track demo in some home studio garage setup in Downey…or Norwalk…one of those odd places. It wasn’t the best sounding thing in the world but back then that’s all you got for a few hundred bucks. We also needed a press package cause we were getting some good write-ups in the LA Weekly. We were also one of those bands that were in the gossip columns in the Weekly! I guess cause we came out of the ashes of the whole “Sound Check” scene. That scene was a trip! While bands were flyering the Strip we were doing free nights at whatever bar we could, drawing out people like Ginger Baker, Sean Penn, and all the Disgraceland/Loyal Order of the Water Buffalos crowd. A much hipper crowd but, for the most part, not very commercial for the people in the glass towers. Once we started to get a bigger crowd we did a Scream show twice a month. Those gigs were great! It was in a huge hall downtown and drew at least 800-2000 people. One night we were playing middle slot with Jane’s Addiction and Green River and this guy came up to me and handed me his card. It had the “G” logo on it. We called him a few days later and went through about a three month courting period. They put us in the studio with Matt Wallace, paid for our rehearsal space, and took us out to eat a few times. Next thing ya know we were signed. It was a no brainer with Geffen. They were pretty cool people. They signed us way before “Appetite For Destruction” broke so we weren’t one of those “sign ’em now cause they look even filthier than Guns N’ Roses” bands. It also helped that our A&R guy knew about our past punk bands. He understood what we wanted to accomplish even though they marketed us a little too much with the flavors of the year. It would have been nice to have tried to sell us to the Post-Punk/Underground/College Radio scene since we were all vets of those genres. In the end when we were released from our deal everyone at Geffen were pretty cool. It was just business.

Sleaze Roxx: Why did you guys decide to go with Tom Werman as producer?

Pat Muzingo: We were in the process of talking to a bunch of different producers. Tom’s name was brought up and we initially thought, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent and Molly Hatchet. Not Motley Crue or Poison. He was mixing the Kix album when we met with him and it just kind of clicked. He brought out things in us that we didn’t think we had. Looking back, for me, it was the best recording experience I ever had. Tom’s engineer Duane Baron was great to work with as well. He, and Tom, were big on drums. Shakers, cowbells and maracas!!!! I ended up recording that release with Chris on guitar, David talking the vocals and a click track. That’s what I am talking about! Stripped down to the bare minimum. I think I only had two cymbals, a snare, bass and floor tom for that session. The other guy that was in the running was Matt Wallace who produced The Replacements, John Hiatt, Redd Kross and Faith No More. When we were approached by Geffen they put us in the studio to record a proper demo and Matt was the guy who produced those tracks. Listening back to those demos I really wish we would have used Matt for the first release and Tom for the second. Ed Stasium (The Ramones, The Dickies, Smithereens, Soul Asylum and Living Colour) was a good choice for 6’s, 7’s & 9’s but in my opinion it could have ‘felt’ better. It feels a little stiff. The production is a 10+ but the feel of the release is a bit rushed? If that makes sense?

Sleaze Roxx: For the next album, Sixes, Sevens & Nines, you co-wrote with Steve Earle. How did you get hooked up with him and why?

Chris Gates: Steve’s fifth wife, Teresa Ensenat, was our original A&R person at Geffen. He was just getting ready to release “Copperhead Road” and we were in the studio working on our first record. Teresa and Steve came by the studio and Steve, Teresa, Werman, Werman’s engineer Duane and I went to dinner. All the business folks sat at one end of the table and Steve and I sat at the other. As we began to talk to each other we discovered that we were both from Central Texas (San Antonio and Austin) and that we had a bunch of mutual friends. After that, every time Steve came through town we would get together and hang out. By the time we were starting to write for our second record we had become friends and I had become a huge fan of his writing, so David and I made a trip out to Steve’s place outside of Nashville and wrote for a few days. “Slippin’ Away” came out of that weekend.

Sleaze Roxx: As I understand, material was recorded for a third album to be released by Geffen but the record never got made. What happened?

Junkyard's Todd MuscatPat Muzingo: Nirvana…the whole industry changed once “Nevermind” hit. It was, and still is, a great record! Thank god that band hit. The state of music was so stale at that point. Bands were churning out the same old stuff. We recorded new stuff from 1991 – 1993. We really wanted to produce it (there were two working titles…”Shinola” and “103,000 People Can’t Be Wrong” which was in reference to the first week sales figures for Sixes, Sevens & Nines) ourselves but our A&R guy said, “NO WAY”. Our approach was to go more hard edged but not rule anything out. Most of the material had that same ethic that we all grew up with, get into a practice room and write some damn songs. Some of the songs were collaborations with old friends. Hell, some of ’em Tim Mosher co-wrote! So, in essence, Tim has been in the band since 1993! Anyhow, out of all those demos we actually had a third record in place. The label came to us with an ultimatum. They would let us record it (with a real producer and not us producing) but they would not push it or give us support to tour off of it. Or, they would release us from our deal and let us shop the record to other labels.

Todd Muscat: We knew what was up, the writing was on the wall. All of our friends had gotten dropped the year before we did. We decided it’s about time for us to face reality and get real jobs. Sure, we were bummed and still wanted to be a band but we also were extremely responsible adults and, from the get go, knew we weren’t gonna become millionaires doing this. We all got REAL jobs and went our separate ways. Some of us continued on with new bands for a few years, others got careers. There was no drama when we spilt up. No BS.

Sleaze Roxx: I also understand that the demos from the sessions for the third album were self released as two albums, “XXX And The Joker”, in 1998. Can you tell me a bit about the process of putting those albums together?

Chris Gates: Actually, there wasn’t really a process. In 1999 I made a phone call to Junkyard’s old manager and asked if they had DAT copies of all the stuff we had demoed or any other Junkyard stuff lying around and if so, would they send it to me. Several weeks later I received 2 boxes – one containing the master tapes from a live show from our 1989 tour that we later released as “Shut Up We’re Trying To Practice” and the other had the digital tapes of the mixes of 26 songs that we recorded/demoed for the third record. CD-burners had just become cheap enough to own, so I transferred the songs into my computer (I have been a computer dude since about 1994…) and burned them onto two CDs. I made cover art for the CDs cause that’s just the kinda crap I like to do and gave a few away and sold like 12 copies through the internet (although in a pre-eBay/craigslist/MySpace world I can’t for the life of me figure out how…). Apparently some of the people who got copies began to bootleg ’em and even though I didn’t put titles on the CDs (just Disk #1 and Disk #2) they began to be referred to as “XXX & The Joker” because of the cover art. Recently I had the original files mastered and made proper covers for them and we officially released them through the website www.junkyardblooze.com.

Sleaze Roxx: The “Tried & True” album came out in 2003 on Heat Slick records. Can you give me a bit of background on that record?

Pat Muzingo: We were out here in LA doing some shows and had some studio time put aside cause a few new, and a few old songs, worked its way into the set and label people asked if we had new songs. We recorded some of ’em for the label people and somehow they ended up on Heat Slick records. It is what it is. It would have been a better idea to wait a year and record 10 new songs and shop it as a full length release rather then settling for an EP put out on a homegrown label.

Sleaze Roxx: The “Tried & True” album contains an acoustic version of “Simple Man.” Whose idea was it to give that song the acoustic treatment?

JunkyardPat Muzingo: I can’t remember. We needed a sixth song and did it in one take.

Sleaze Roxx: This year “Put It On Ten And Pull The Knobs Off!” was released on Anyone Music. It is a compilation of demos recorded back in 1997. What was the motivation for the release?

Pat Muzingo: I think it was supposed to be released on another label and that fell through. All the artwork was done, everything was in place so we figured why not release it ourselves.

Sleaze Roxx: Chris Gates released an album of solo material in ’06 called “Ain’t It Grand.” What is the background on the project and how does the sound compare to Junkyard?

Chris Gates: I had throat surgery in 2004 that allowed me to sing for the first time in 8-10 years. Around that time I was doing some writing for my band the Charter Bulldogs and for a couple of other artists and I started liking the way the demos sounded with MY vocals on them, so I put a band together and started trying to figure out how to front my own band. The first record was made pretty early in the process and is a little more country than what I actually do cause that was what I was writing for the other artists so that’s what I recorded. I hooked up with a MONSTER guitar player named Tony Redman and the stuff we are doing now sort of starts out singer/songwriter (Ryan Adams/Steve Earle) and ends up out in Lynyrd Skynyrd/Allman Brothers territory. So the stuff I’m doing overlaps the southern rock end of the Junkyard sound…

Sleaze Roxx: Are there any other side projects that members of the band are involved with?

Pat Muzingo: Well Chris Gates has been at it forever. Whether it’s solo or with a band, Chris will always have something up his sleeve and it’s always great. Brian Baker…well we all know who he plays with (Bad Religion). The recent shows we did with him in Tulsa and Austin were a blast. When his schedule permits he will be doing shows with us. Tim Mosher plays with The Looters (a great cover band, good times, good obscure covers that we all know) with Mike Dimkich from The Cult (Tim, Mike and myself had a band called Suckerpunch back in 1996). David Roach has a great band called Cruster up in Santa Barbara that is one kick ass punk band. Recently I parted ways with Speedbuggy due to personal differences. They always seemed to get a little pissy whenever Junkyard would get together and do shows, plus they were going into a musical direction that was just not interesting to me anymore. All the new songs were starting to all sound the same and the main focus of the band (the amazing Greg McMullen on pedal steel) is living full-time in New York. On top of all of that I was having some major health issues and the band did not support me during those times. Next thing ya know an ad came out that the band was playing and the show came and went without a courtesy phone call to tell me I was replaced. Kind of a chicken shit way to boot me since I was in the band for 8+ years and dealing with health problems, but whatever. Its best for both of us that we parted ways. I would never want to play with people that really couldn’t give shit if you lived or died.

Sleaze Roxx: How did Junkyard relate to some of the more theatrical make-up wearing groups that you got lumped in with back in the late 80’s early 90’s?

JunkyardChris Gates: Most of those bands were so far removed from the world we lived in that we really didn’t have anything to do with them. We were buddies with Guns N’ Roses, L.A. Guns and Faster Pussycat from LA, Dangerous Toys from Austin and Circus Of Power and Raging Slab from New York… I liked Motley Crue and Poison, but most of the bands that were trying to be Motley and Poison were a bunch of wankers. And they were only ‘theatrical’ if you include prancing around with delusions of gender.

Pat Muzingo: Those bands were pretty hilarious. What did that dude Bill Gazzarri say, “I want ‘foxy guys’ on my stage?” Give me a god damn break! I remember being at RIP magazine’s offices looking in the back pages. There was this one ad that some dude took out saying he was the second coming of Christ and LA better look out for him! The guy looked…..wrong! Chris is right. We kinda just hung with the people we knew and weren’t the A-typical dickwad ‘rocker” bro-dudes.

Sleaze Roxx: Who came up with the name Junkyard and why? Were there other names in the running?

Chris Gates: The name Junkyard was my idea. At first I wanted to call the band ‘Crack’, but then, you know… the drug crack showed up and fucked that all up. One of my favorite bands of all time back then was the Birthday Party (Nick Cave’s first band) and their third album was called “junkyard”. I just thought it would make a great name for a trashy rock band. We never really thought about any other names that I can remember.

Sleaze Roxx: On the debut album cover photo you guys are wearing matching jackets. What was the inspiration for that and do you guys still wear them?

Pat Muzingo: It was on a scrap heap of photos at Warner Brothers. We did a photo shoot in Mexico and that shot was a total fluke. Sometimes mistakes end up being a great piece of art! Do we still wear the jackets? David brought out his colors when we went to Spain a few months ago. I think he is the only guy in the band that can get away with wearing ’em. It still looks great on him! For the rest of us…..well maybe one day we will all wear ’em again.

Sleaze Roxx: What can fans expect from Junkyard for the rest of 2008 and into 2009?

Pat Muzingo: More shows…we hope!!! We are playing a festival in August 2009. Hopefully we will do another run in Europe in 2009 as well. Hard to say. We are just having fun cause that’s what it’s all about for us! We do it so we can hang out with each other, we are not trying to revive or relive 1989 all over again. We are just happy that people still remember us and want us to play. As far as touring the USA and a new CD? That is something that may or may not happen…let’s just say this, it has been discussed many times. With Junkyard it’s hard to tell, who would have thought we would ever play again!

Thanks to Junkyard and Jason L.