Geoff Geis

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Here they come, the Part Time Punks

Our second PTP, March 2007

Part Time Punks has a storied history, one that has been significant to me. The club started operating, every Sunday night at the Echo, right around the time that the New Motherfuckers (who became Pizza!) moved into a house on Alvarado Street in Echo Park together. In the early stages of being a band, we would see the club’s ubiquitous black-and-white posters around the neighborhood and talk about how much we wanted to play it. Eventually we worked up the nerve to bring DJs Michael Stock and Benny Shambles a copy of a 5-song demo we’d made, and they invited us to play. When we performed at Part Time Punks for the first time, in October of 2006, we felt like we were beginning to actually do something as a band.

Even though I don’t go to PTP as frequently now as I did in the past, I’ve continued to cherish it. Last year, I got to see the Raincoats thanks to Michael’s excellently curated PTP fest, and I ended up getting to write a review of my heroes as my first published work in LA Record. I’ve also had the honor of playing with Pizza! on Michael’s radio show, and have fond memories of spending long hours hanging out with Ben (who now lives away from Los Angeles, unfortunately) in the kitchen of Tiny Creatures and talking about our mutual love of James’ mid-eighties Village Fire EP. Part Time Punks was also the location of my very worst episode of bad gas: while attending a (terrible) Ariel Pink show in commemoration of PTP’s second anniversary, I was struck by sulfuric farts that rumbled in my belly and pushed out with a vengeance that completely disgusted everyone around me. I fart a lot, so the fact that those farts still stand out in my mind suggests that they were, indeed, epic.

On Sunday, Part Time Punks celebrates its fifth anniversary.

In 2007, Drew and I conducted interviews with Michael and Ben for Tiny Creatures Magazine. Print copies of that thing are probably long gone by now, but I dug up the interviews on my computer and I’m publishing them here:

—-
Ben,  interviewed on August 29, 2007, at Tiny Creatures:

You guys met at Amoeba?

Yeah and everyone was telling him that he had to talk to me. Because he would talk to all the girls and they would be like “You have to talk to Ben. He likes all the same stuff you do…” I was always apprehensive though. I’d see him around with his daughter and like – he just looked like a grown-up indie rock teenager. Shaggy. Classic indie rocker. So I was really skeptical until I met him. I don’t know why; it’s usually like that, though…
I worked there. He was shopping. He would go in there like two times a week, like he still does…

When did you decide that you were going to try to put together a DJ night?

Well he’d play records at shows like at the Knitting Factory or at Silverlake Lounge. He had friends who booked there. He knew all the booking people, like all the – I call them “dark men” – industry people, people behind the scenes. I had Djed with my old roommate and was more of a, I don’t know – I would DJ at parties and clubs sometimes. I’d just moved to LA and I was trying to feel it out. We did a thing at Three of Clubs a long time ago that was like Part Time Punks without the bands, without the crazy dancing… but it was pretty much the same kind of music in a smaller bar and it was pretty cool. My old roommate Andrew is the one who got me into Djing. It was like “Oh, you’re playing music I listen to by myself.” I thought I was a total nerd. “This is cool. You actually play this? Oh I could do that.” That’s how it happened. So, I had done that for a while and then I got really sick of parties, like the West Hollywood sort of scene and the kind of things we were accidentally involved in and I was like “fuck this, I’m quitting.” And I buzzed my hair off and I got really into punk again and – it all happened with the Libertines. I got really into the Libertines and then I started listening to old punk. Besides Sex Pistols and the Clash, (I was listening to) Adverts and the Stranglers – that’s when I started loving the Stranglers… My roommate Andrew got more into house music and electro type stuff. I liked that and I liked the punkier side of it but I got really burnt out on it so I went really into guitar and punk. I started getting really into R.E.M. and the Replacements… So I was coming full circle or “figuring myself out” or just on a different tangent. That’s when me and Michael met, around that time. He started talking about how they had a Sunday night free at the Echo because they’d stopped doing “Club 82,” which was an 18 and up hipster electro-clash club that was kind of successful. They didn’t have bands and it was just really trashy and not very good. So Liz was looking to put new people there and Michael was like “me and you should start a night.” We were hanging out at his house  having barbeques – he cooks; he’s a really good barbeque chef. So we’d play records, smoke bowls, and eat barbeque. And we thought “this would be so cool if we could do this at a club and just play what we’re playing here and have our friends – have like a listening party, but have people dance… And I said “alright. I’ll do a club. I’ll get back into this DJ thing.” And then we were thinking about names. We had a little list. I was going to call it “Sunday School…” We wanted to tie it into the music we liked and I thought “Oh, that song ‘Part Time Punks’ – that’s kind of funny because it’s on a weekend and…” Well, I have a job, I mean – I  worked 40 hours a week. And I felt like I liked punk music. So I was like a Part-time punk. Wage slave. I was playing music, but I was also trapped by having to make a living working, so… I thought it fit really well. And it stuck.

You guys had no idea it would be this successful.

No, no. Not at all. We were hoping to make it through the summer because it started in May. We weren’t going for any money at all… we  just wanted a chance to play these records.“If you build it, they will come.” Make it happen and you’ll meet a lot of like-minded people. After we did a couple of them, I was like “this is the Echo. There’s this big stage. Let’s have bands – I have friends in bands. I’m in a band. So let’s just ask people…” it was just people I knew, people Michael knew and then it just snowballed big-time. And then the Smiths thing happened because our friend Chloe (Sevigny)… is a humungous Smiths Fan – like, obsessed. in New York they have a club called Sway every Sunday and it’s Morrisey/Smiths Night. She said “You guys should do that out here. In Morriseyville.” So we’d do it every now and then and it just started to be a tradition… and we happen to be in Southern California, which is his biggest fan base… I hated the Smiths when I was a teenager. And Morrissey – forget about it…. but then I had friends make me mix-tapes… and then an ex-girlfriend of mine liked them and it rubbed off. So when I got into rock n roll again – that whole “I’m into punk or rock music…” I got into the Smiths because it was guitar… but I was  still like “Morrissey? eh…” But then you start playing it all night and you just fall in love – like, lyrically and his voice – I never tire of it, I get more and more into Morrissey and the Smiths. It’s funny because I’m still meeting people who are involved with this Morrissey Cult… and it’s really cool, it’s like a family in a weird way and it’s totally sincere it’s not like a “Oh we like Morrissey. We’re so cool.” It’s like, how could you not?… cuz he’s got the hearing aid and the flowers out of his pocket and you’re like “dope…” they’re amazing. They look so cool and the music is sensitive and hard. And weird. And like totally pop but totally fucked up. I mention Smiths Night because it’s a big part of Part Time Punks, in a way. But the usual nights we usually try to cater to the bands or try to get a vibe going but it’s not totally planned out….

Do bands normally come to you guys asking for shows or do you do the asking?

Constantly people are asking to play Part Time Punks. You have to be like – and I never thought I would be like this and I don’t want to be like “Oh your band doesn’t fit this at all” because I wanted it to be very inclusive… that’s why we write playlists, we share the music. Anybody’s welcome… like whoever – some fucking old cowboy dude, some grandma, and some Hollywood hipster who’s a total douchebag – bring ’em on. At least turn people out. I love turning people on to stuff, so I was hoping it would be like that and it is. Mission accomplished. I just didn’t think that it would last.

—-
Michael, interviewed August 31, 2007 at La Cita:

(The beginning of our interview with Michael was seized by a drunk old “waster” who wanted a platform for ranting about his disdain for Hollywood and Los Angeles itself while bragging about working on a handful of second-rate TV shows. Regarding the Punky Reggae Party, the man was emphatic: “This place is never gonna make it. The people here – these guys look like they come out of a soup kitchen!” He spent a while making crude remarks about Angelina Jolie’s tattoos and saying that David, the Dub Club DJ, looked like Hitler. It was an unfortunate scene to say the least, and it cut our discussion time with Michael short. The drunk eventually left, but not before asking us if we were “looking for some kind of sex.” He kept inviting us all to go to Boardner’s in Hollywood with him because “it’s all about fucking and sucking and S&M, really.” After he left, we got to interview Michael.)

Tell us about the beginning of Part Time Punks.

This was around the birth of Amoeba… I was getting to be friends with some of those people because I go to Amoeba like twice a week… But I also go to other record stores! So, everybody was like “You should really meet this guy Ben…” and some of them were saying like “because your musical tastes are  similar.” But most people were just like “you should probably just meet, I mean, it’s kind of weird.” And it was kind of weird cuz are tastes are just kind of like (whirring noise/hand motion meant to signify synergy). I think that one of the first acts of consummation of… our relationship was exchanging mix-tapes… Each of us – it’s basically the same approach that we still often take at Punky Reggae and Part Time Punks – is trying to stump the other person with whatever shit we found that week… Obviously there’s some stuff we play for the people who have gathered here, although typically when people come and make requests they’re ridiculous: “You got any hip-hop? Any music you can dance to, man?” Lately Ben has been way more rude to those people than I have, but we take turns playing “Good Cop Bad Cop.” I am sometimes a total asshole Nazi… especially with the guys who are like “You got any trance, man? Madonna would be like, really good now….” So going back to the Ben thing – we started meeting at my house, it was always on Thursdays. He would come, Sam would come… our friends… and everyone would bring records to put on the turntable and something to put on the grill… Eventually there would be fifty people at my house on a Thursday night, so we were like “we’ve got to move this thing…” I got to know Liz… and she said “why don’t you come to the Echo and do it on a Sunday night.” Of course all my friends were like “yeah, that’s because no one goes out on a Sunday night and they couldn’t give that night away!… Don’t do it. No one ever leaves their house on a Sunday night…” But as it turns out, also, we had no competition, which is a great business model!

You guys were in the LA Times… that was pretty weird, wasn’t it?

I was so shameless. I sent texts to people: “We’re in the LA Times!” I was like, “I sound like a fucking asshole, don’t I?” But it’s big!… Whatever. Everybody struggles – whatever the fuck art or commerce they do – with some goal of recognition. Respect by their peers; respect by total strangers. I don’t know which one’s better. The press offers both of those in one. Your friend can see it, that drunk-ass bastard probably saw it…

Ben told me that you guys didn’t play any black music.

Ben might have some black music in his record collection, but it’s been a running joke… Ben has made this joke, some of my old friends in Nebraska have made this joke: “I Hope you’re not looking for any black music!” It’s all Anglo… I always wanted to be a skinny hairless English kid, even in Nebraska… that’s why the Reggae thing was such a breakthrough!… it happened at the Coffee Bean. I recognized David… he was like, some hipster I see all the time, so I flyered him… I told him to come; I didn’t know who he was at all and then he came six weeks later… and he was hooked – he came every fucking week and several weeks into it he said “you know, actually, I do this thing called ‘Dub Club’ and I was like “ahh… black music!” My best friend in college had as many records as I did but they were all Reggae records. The only things we shared were Buzzcocks and some of the punk stuff, like the Slits. So I’d heard some Reggae but it all sounded alike to me… So, me and Ben and Sam decided that “oh, we’ll go check out this ‘Dub Club’ thing” and so we started going to Dub Club all the time… I just was not ready for it until I met David Orlando. And then I was hooked. And not just the music but the culture: there’s hotdogs in the street and pot brownies and everyone’s smoking pot inside! Total Dionysian extravaganza!… It’s the same venue, totally different but also very the same. It’s these four white guys playing all this black music – which was like at first, “I wonder how black people feel about all this?” But it’s the same sort of thing – they go real deep; i mean, it’s like some obscure shit. But it’s the same sort of thing Ben and I want to do except we’re doing it for white music.

I remember being really impressed when I saw the yellow K Records fliers.

My six-year-old daughter drew and wrote all the text on those. I mean, I laid it out… She’s still super-obsessed with super-heroes. Like, we just got a new kitten and his name is “Streaky the Super-Cat.” And I remember showing her the cover of the first Beat Happening record – which is the cat with the rocket ship, you know? – and I was like “Honey, Super Cat! Like this!!! Cool, right?” So she did like a couple, just black and white or whatever. And we were driving to school and I was like “oh fuck, I should have have her write the text! I didn’t even think about it!” So she’s writing – I made her a table in her car seat… I’m spelling out Jeremy Jay and she was like “J???? R????,” you know? We sat outside the school; she was 20 minutes late to school that morning… it was the first time I went to the actual art store with the CD and was like “I need this colored paper, man!” So I had to pay extra and Ben was like “what are you doing???” It’s art, man! I cut out the dots and the stars and shit off the Beat Happening record… so it’s a total pastiche. We did the coloring contest that night so I still have all of these posters that people have colored. Most of them didn’t put their names on them so at some point I want to have an exhibit and tell people to come forward and claim these… I never made visual art before Part Time Punks… I totally learned it and sometimes I enjoy it even more than the show… Every week I spend four to maybe nine hours at Copymat in Hollywood doing it. I make them all at the copy place.

– Part Time Punks happens every Sunday night at the Echo (1822 Sunset)

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