I spend most of my free time trying to hunt down punk rock like Gary Wrong Group – loud, distorted, weird, creepy, monotonous, negative and unique. Gary Wrong Group is certainly all of that – going with a guitar, two synths and drums, you might be expecting some sort of herky-jerky new wave, but they are pure sludge-punk, tripping out on Flipper speeds with the southern negativity of Culturcide and Bobby Soxx and the science fiction mentality of Chrome or The Misfits. They’re pretty much exactly the sort of punk I want to hear in this day and age, and after speaking with Gary Wrong himself, it seems like they might implode at any minute, so let’s not take Gary Wrong Group for granted!
It’s my understanding that most, if not all, of Gary Wrong Group have been playing in other punk and noise and rock groups for years… how did the Gary Wrong Group come about?
Gary Wrong Group rose from the ashes of Wizzard Sleeve and being friends with each other for years. Me and Benny Divine had been doing Wizzard Sleeve as a two-piece (there were also many other incarnations of that band for years) for quite some time and there was talk of Steve Kenney being in the band for a couple years. Then when we (me) decided to try something a hair different with a name change, and a not so fresh start – it made sense with him moving back down to New Orleans from Detroit. We all knew jamming with Quintron at the Spellcaster felt good and it just kinda started happening. The people that dug all the early stuff with Wizzard Sleeve just thought we were the same thing with a different name mostly, and it kind of was, especially when we started sharing songs with the band and even appearing in some form or another as Wizzard Sleeve. That is all over now. I tried and failed at reviving that again. Gary Wrong Group can play whatever we want, there is no reason to be anything but Gary Wrong Group. I am attempting to get a solid Mobile line-up going that can play separately or simultaneously. I split time between Mobile and New Orleans with my electrical work, so I can theoretically do both line-ups. Everyone on the Knights Of Misery version of the ‘Group lives in New Orleans. Benny is a hard-working musician banging, strumming and diddling the keys in several current bands, while working in a busy woodshop and raising a dog. Weird Steve is a noise freak, delivery man and a record-flipping maniac, while Quintron is one of the busiest humanoids on the planet with what seems like constant touring / recording / inventing. Currently he is hard at work on his newest creation “the weather witch”, and now it is the time of year for the all-consuming 9th Ward Marching Band practices so I don’t see how we ever accomplish anything, but we do, occasionally.
None of you are teenagers – I’d imagine you’re all pushing past thirty and into god knows whatever age comes after that. How does it feel to be punk as an adult, versus when you were a kid?
Yeah none of us are under thirty except the sweet baby bear Benny but he is close. He says the only difference for him is that he “has more records and wants to get paid more.” Haha. I doubt any of us would be considered punks under the rigid punk standards set by today’s youth, but we definitely buck and fuck the system any chance we can get. I feel pretty much the same as I did when I was young, except for the fact that none of this is really about me anymore. I have to do what keeps me happy and stable enough to effectively raise a brilliant little child who will destroy everything.
Do you think today’s youth are setting a rigid standard for what ‘punk’ means? Do you meet a lot of younger kids, like teenagers and early twenties, who are into Gary Wrong Group?
I dunno, I just say that shit because it seems true. I don’t really know a lot of young kids into music that I like anyway. The kids I see around town listen to that mall-metal crap; you know, those bands that show up to the gig with a brand new huge van and a trailer full of pro gear and fifteen multicolored tshirt designs. The reason I know this is because I worked in a bar that had matinee shows with that bullshit fairly often. None of it was punk or hardcore but good luck telling them that.
Is there anything you’d say is unique to the Gulf Coast, as far as local music vibes or attitudes? Can you think of any unique cultural offerings the Gulf Coast has brought to the rest of the world?
The music of New Orleans is very much unique. It can’t be reproduced anywhere with any real authenticity… hell, even trying to pull it off a couple of hours to the left or right fails. The South is my jam. I love the laid-back attitude of a true Southerner… it helps to keep on truckin’ without blowing your wad, but it also makes for slow going on pretty much every aspect of your being. Southern comfort-food adds to the slowness of things. Gulf Coast seafood if the best. If you can’t find good food down here something is seriously wrong with you.
Do you wish Gary Wrong Group was something that could hit the road for two months straight, or are you fine with only getting together when you can?
I would settle for a group of people to jam with regularly that were into similar shit that I am and don’t need me to tell them everything that needs to happen to be in a fully functioning band. Not saying that Benny, Q or Steve are like that, but they also don’t live in the same town with me either. At this point, I don’t even know if I have a band at all. I would never want to be on the road for two months unless the money was good enough that I / we didn’t have to worry about coming home to nothing. Fuck that noise.
Most of your songs are kinda slow, at least by general punk standards. Is that something you consciously decided upon, or did it just happen? Could there be a blazing fast Gary Wrong Group song?
Well I prefer slower plodding-type stuff that you can feel, plus I’m not exactly a good musician, so playing really fast isn’t necessarily an option.
There’s a sort of fantasy element to a lot of the lyrics and song titles, almost owing more to metal than punk. Are sci-fi, fantasy and horror things that influences your songwriting?
Yeah, of course. The members on record are all pretty well versed in metal and have grown up around it so it shows through. We all are either good friends with or have played in metal or sludge type stuff. Horror and sci-fi seems second nature. Brutality, bloodshed, abduction and general uneasiness is a product of our southern heritage. With the amount of Project Blue Book entries from my immediate area it makes me lean more towards sci-non-fi.
Are you hopeful for the future? Do you think those mall-punk kids might grow up to become cool, or is there going to be some big industrial and economic collapse and we are all just going to be fighting each other to survive anyway?
Oh no, I don’t think they will progress into anything other than knuckle-dragging life-haters who just live and breath ‘Bama football and the good old days when they used to mosh at shit shows. I’m not hating on football, I myself enjoy a good game, but the idea of being consumed with something that the extent of your involvement is the television or at best a good seat in the stadium is pretty lame. I respect hobbies you can actually take part in and become part of. You must fight to live on the planet of the apes!
There’s a new 12″ EP on the way, right? How would you compare those songs to Knights Of Misery?
Yeah, I am in the finishing stages of a new three-song 12″. The songs have been released in some form or another previously, but with different additions and mixes. I want to release them on my favorite medium, the 12″ 45rpm format, which to me sounds and feels the best, plus I have somewhat of a short attention span when it comes to full-length records. These songs should line up pretty well with Knights Of Misery… I doubt it will lose anyone who liked the last one.
Will that be out on your label, Jeth Row? Tell me about some records I should buy.
Yes, it is intended to be a split release with Jeth-Row Records and Bat Shit Records. Knights Of Misery has just been repressed and is now available again from me or Total Punk. If you don’t own either of the True Sons Of Thunder LPs you should look for those. I need to see if they are interested in repressing the first one that I put out. True Sons Of Thunder are the most important band of the past five years in my opinion, they are playing their last show next week in Memphis. I have played the Vaginors 12” 45 and single quite a bit in the past year, also the Devo Hardcore LPs, well, hell, pretty much anything Superior Viaduct puts back into circulation. Scavenger Of Death Records in Atlanta is doing great things too. In the next couple of weeks I will be releasing a 3 song banger from Melbourne, Australia’s Gentlemen, don’t sleep on that one.
I got some nice feedback on the first Consumer Report post last June, wherein I listed some underappreciated punk/hardcore singles that were available for purchase on Discogs for under five dollars a piece. It’s January now, and we’re all living fat on our holiday bonuses (or unemployed and nihilistic, so same difference really), so here are some more fantastic records available on Discogs for under the five-dollar mark (at least at the time of publication). Who needs new albums for $18.99 and up when there are so many great old records ripe for the picking?
Boy In Love The Peehole Sessions 7″ (Wheelchair Full Of Old Men, 1995)
Everyone loves Sockeye, that much is true, but it can be difficult to navigate their dozens of side-projects, related joke bands and demo-only friends’ bands (although there is certainly no harm in trying). This Boy In Love single is a personal favorite from the Wheelchair Full Of Old Men discography, and if you are familiar with Pissed Jeans, I can tell you that the Boy In Love track “My Bible Is A Boy” (featured here) was more influential than any Birthday Party or Jesus Lizard tune (perhaps one day we’ll get around to covering it). I know Boy In Love have also released a CD or a tape or two, filled with dozens of songs, and I have never checked them out, mainly out of fear that it won’t be as fantastic as this. Boy In Love hit that perfect level of intentional-stupidity on The Peehole Sessions, rocking hard and mocking everyone in the process. Isn’t that what punk is all about, anyway?
Huren Tinseltown 12″ (Zhark, 1999)
Evil industrial techno sure is hot these days, but did you know that people have been making it for years? I’ll admit, I first heard Huren maybe a year or two ago, and I was shocked at how fresh and intense his Tinseltown still is – it’s scorching, monotonous, feverish techno that will make your nose bleed if you stand in one place for too long while listening. All of the Huren I’ve heard is great, but the fact that he looks like a Sin City comic character on the center sticker (that’s Huren, right?) makes this one special, as does the title track’s monstrous groove. With the cost of international shipping, you might as well just snatch up all of Huren’s EPs (they’re all pretty cheap) and utterly destroy your next DJ gig.
Girls At Our Best Politics! / It’s Fashion 7″ (Record / Rough Trade, 1980)
For all the twee, poppy post-punk that has been celebrated in recent years, I’m surprised that Girls At Our Best haven’t gotten more of their due – their cover art is some of the best that early ’80s post-punk singles had to offer, and their songs are short, catchy and sharp… it’s like they were just as frustrated and bitter as Kleenex and The Slits, but they opted for a smooth bubblegum flavor to mask their spite. All their singles are fantastic (although my favorite, Getting Nowhere Fast / Warm Girls seems to be the priciest), their album is solid (if a little harder to track down), and Girls At Our Best are really just one Slumberland retrospective collection away from being the hot new old band of the month with the record nerd cognoscenti. And there are copies of Politics! for a paltry two dollars on Discogs, right now!
Them, Themselves Or They Ribbons & Bows….Angel Dust & Magick Wands 7″ (Malt Duck, 2008)
Here’s a fairly recent single that seemed to fly under most peoples’ radar, and it’s a shame, because it’s one of the weirdest, most uniquely great singles to come out of the previous decade! From their weird name to the obnoxious title, it’s clear this isn’t an ordinary group, and their music is even more bizarre – imagine classic stoner riffs played on a clean-channel bass guitar, modest backing drums, random space-ship gurgle and whimpering vocals… it’s as if the best aspects of Wooden Shjips and Titmachine were combined into something entirely new. I could listen to these songs all day long and never tire, as they’re the perfect combination of DIY punk fuckery and smooth stoner bliss, and the whole thing reeks of true artistic insanity, not a calculated approach to being cool (as the many copies of Ribbons & Bows….Angel Dust & Magick Wands on Discogs for under two dollars may attest). Pick it up now, or get ready to hunt it like a fiend thirty years from now, once the rest of the world catches up…
97a Better Off Dead 7″ (Teamwork, 1996)
It’s funny how the history of hardcore re-writes itself over time… there was a point where this 97a EP was considered one of the most blazing, intense EPs (and coveted by collectors for its multitude of limited versions) by the general hardcore populace. And now, there are enough cheap copies on Discogs that you can buy a bag’s worth for like $25 and use them in place of Halloween candy. To this day, 97a’s debut EP still sounds vibrant and raging – they bridged the gap between the second-wave youth-crew and power-violence scenes, blasting and screaming but still allowing plenty of space for toe-touch jumps and stage dives. Many of these songs are oddly structured, where a fast intro will quickly fade and never be replayed, or a breakdown will pop up in the wrong spot, or never materialize when it’s needed most, and it’s that sort of musical uniqueness that really sets them apart. 97a kinda veered into self-parody toward the end of their existence, but this one is a ripper through and through. Plus, there are more hilarious 97a stories than any other hardcore band out of the late ’90s – I was there when the singer slapped the promoter of their last show for talking during his pre-show speech!