After a legnthy hiatus legendary Surf Punks The Demonics are about to hit the waves again. For those in the know and those who ain't here's Russ Demonic to deliver the skinny.
Surfs Up Motherfuckers!
Interview by Ian Pickens
Gravy: Introduce yourselves?
Russ: Hi- how are you? I am fine. How are you? Did I already ask that questions? I’m Russ Demonic.
Gravy: So who strums things, who hits things and who shouts stuff?
Russ:Oh. Right now the current lineup is myself, Russ, Amy my girlfriend on drums, and our friend Joe plays bass and does a lot of guitar collaboration with me. We may stay a trio, or we might add another member. For melodies and harmonies and more guitar.
Gravy: How would you define the Demonics sound?
Russ:Better than Green Day.
Gravy: I'd describe your stuff as Brian Wilson meets Glen Danzig; is that accurate?
Russ: Yes, but you’re missing some essential stuff. Gary Usher of Gary Usher and the Super Stocks, Dracula’s Deuce, Monster Surfing Time, Go Sounds of the Slots, The Weirdos, not the band- the albums that Gary Usher made. Also um… The Sweet, Ramones of course. It’s really all about the Beach Boys going to hell and adding a little balls i.e. Motorhead, The Misfits are a huge influence, because they were like the first to juxtapose happy poppy with dark sinister lyrics, genius. Oh, of course the Sex Pistols too. They were my favorite for many years.
Gravy: It’s been a long while since you released Ritual on the Beach; what have you been up to?
Russ: Recovering from mental illness. Trying to survive and just pay my bills, but also resurrecting the Demonics. It was time to shut down for awhile. After our tour of Spain, it was time to get my life together. I was flat busted and severely depressed. But things are slowly starting to take shape again. I’ve been really inspired lately and writing some good material.
Gravy: You've been putting in a lot of work on your 69 Dodge Super Bee too right? Is it finished now?
Russ: Unfortunately it keeps getting very close to finished and I’ll run out of money. That’s another thing I’ve been doing since Ritual came out. The car is super-bitchin’- I just need to finish my interior and get it down to the exhaust shop to get my 3" pipes welded up. Money is key, but soon it will be "finished".
Gravy: Its no secret that you guys are Dirty Donnys' favourite band; is that based purely on the music or is it tied in to the pinstriping and custom car side of things?
Russ: Donny has been a Demonics fan for a long time. We have both influenced each other quite a bit. I think he digs the imagery as well as the music. Donny and I are good friends now, but we didn’t even really know each other when he did the Ritual on the Beach album cover. He asked us what he wanted and I told him in great detail what I wanted on the album cover. He came thru for us in a big way. The guys from Metallica saw that album cover along with all the other cool Donny stuff, and employed Donny for a summer to paint up their studio and do some artwork, t-shirts, pinstriping etc. Donny and I hang out sometimes and we’ve been to Hawaii together. I try to get him to go surfing and skateboarding with me, but he’s always got a paintbrush up his ass or something!
Gravy: He did the artwork on your new shirts too right. Its pretty neat...
Russ: Yeah, thanks, we like Donny’s work a lot. We’re working on the "Dirty Donny Theme" song right now, as a trade for some artwork he did, the t-shirt.
Gravy: I guess your a big Ed Roth fan too?
Russ: Yes I'm a big fan of both Ed Roths work and Robert Williams. Both these guys are amazing artists and have definetly influenced me a great deal. Dont forget Barris, Von Dutch, and Mouse, these guys might be the big five of hot rod custom culture.
Gravy: There's quite a diveristy of influences on Ritual.... What happened to the Sun is really close to the 60s West Coast pop sound; was that intentional or just your influences coming through; Is this a direction you see the Demonics moving in?
Russ: This is absolutely not the direction the Demonics are moving in. The reason I write ballads is because it’s a challenge. I try to do a ballad on each one of my records because its hard to do. You think because it’s a slower tempo song that it should be really easy. But to write a decent ballad is harder than any other thing I’ve done in a band. I think the best ballad is "Purple Hearts" off of Demons On Wheels. At the time I was working on Ritual, there was all this hype about all these Swedish bands. They were big, fast and loud, and everybody loved em. I just felt that it was all starting to sound the same. So with Ritual, I purposely asked the band to slow down and we concentrated on what we felt were good steady songs. The unfortunate thing is, I feel like this album came off a little wimpy. Our next phase of material will be heavier and faster, closer to Formaldehyde Injection.
Gravy: You used to be in The Faction with Caballero? Do You still skate?
Russ: Shit, you had to remind me. I was fired from that band when I was 17, and then I re-joined the band at 37 and I was fired again. Exactly 20 years later. Happy Anniversary, mother fuckers! Cab and I never got along for very long, I love him as a person, and deeply respect him as a skateboarder and all-around good person. I have always skated, and probably always will. I started skating vertical again about 8 months ago, with the opening of the Pacifica Skate Park. It’s a really nice park, so I had to get out my gear and skate it. I keep hurting myself, is the only problem, at age 40 the injuries seem to take longer to heal. But I have a really good time. I was recently in Ashland Oregon and skated the skate park up there. The locals were really nice, I hurt myself that day.
Gravy: What's the gnarliest trick you can pull?
Russ: Tricks are for kids! That’s what we always say when kids tell us to do tricks. I can do rock and rolls on vert. I’m just a very graceful street skater cuz I’ve done it all my life. But I hurt myself frequently.
Gravy: Do you feel the whole Custom car/Rock N Roll/Surf culture has been overdone in the last few years; particularly by people who don't really participate in it - rather they use it as fashion statement?
Russ: I saw it coming in the early 90’s. Me and my bros knew exactly how it was going to go down, and I always say before Monster Garage, there was Demon Garage. I know I was an influence and I’m satisfied with that. But yes, it mimics exactly what happened in the 60’s, with the surfing and hot rod craze. It started with a handful of guys who were really stoked and dedicated to what they were doing. Then people see how incredibly cool these guys are and how much fun they’re having, and they just wanna be part of it. It’s only natural. Everybody wants to feel like they’re part of the cool club. You just have to stay true to yourself. I know that when I go surf at Linda Mar beach, even though there’s a zillion people in the water, I’ll get my pick of waves, cuz most of them can’t surf well. The bummer is a lot of new comers don’t take the time to learn the proper etiquette, and that’s where the trouble starts. Refer to "Punchout at Malibu" by the Surf Punks off of the greatest album of the 80’s, My Beach.
Gravy: I cited Danzig as a musical influence earlier; were the Misfits an influence on your stage image too?
Russ: I’m sure. I was into the Misfits when I was only 17. Not that many punks were into them. They were considered a joke band, we knew differently. The Misfits are a truly bitchin’ band.
Gravy: Imagine you are putting together a festival; you can put on any band from any era - what would your lineup be?
Russ: Screaming Lord Sutch, Beach Boys, Gary Usher and the Super Stocks, The Undertones, Misfits (original lineup), Annette Funicello, Demonics, Donnas, playing old songs, DMZ, The Mummies, and the Go-Nuts, that’s probably enough bands, right?
Gravy: Is the image a big part of the Demonics?
Russ: I dunno. I’ve just always felt that if people are coming to see you play, and paying money, you should probably give them as much as you can. And I think putting on a show and dressing up is just a way of thanking your fans.
Gravy: Is it true you were in a Levi's commercial?
Russ: Yes, how the fuck did you know that? We were racing illegal soapbox racers that we built up at Bernal Heights in San Francisco. It became very hip. One Soapbox Sunday morning, I got a call from my friend Marty that helped me build my car. He said this company wanted to film us for a Levi’s soapbox commercial. They were going to pay us $50 each, and give us some lunch in exchange for us putting our lives on the line and letting them film us. Sounded like a deal to me. So we go up there and I decided this commercial needed some spicing up. We were all lined up at the start, and Chris Harvey, the guy that does the speaking in the commercial, called me ‘Suzy Quattro’. So just after turn 4, "Satan’s Slingshot", Jeff Grasso and I sandwiched him, and he flipped in his car. Anyway, we finished their commercial, and a few months into production, one of the soapbox racers had a brilliant idea. He called the screen actors guild and told them about this company paying us only $50. So this advertising agency ended up having to pay each of us over $10,000 each. Ha ha mother fuckers! That’s how I bought the Super Bee.
Gravy: Whats with the camping tent on your bed?
Russ: Amy and I like to set up the tent when we’re sad. We pretend we’re camping, which is something fun we like to do. Our cats love the tent, too. They have territorial wars for tent domination. The tent is a big part of our lives. We set up the tent for friends that crash at our house. Maya from the Donnas is a big fan of the tent, however this one night, after a Donnas show out in the desert, I had gone to sleep in the tent and she ruthlessly attacked the tent and disrespected it, an act which almost got her banned from the tent permanently.
Gravy: What's next for the Demonics?
Russ: We’re gonna go to England and jam with the Stones! We’re working on new material, and some other cool surprises.
Gravy: How can people get in touch?
Russ: Check out our website at www.thedemonics.com. Email us to say hi and send us pictures of your hot rods and your women to email@example.com.