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The U.S. Bombs

by Margo Tiffen and Robyn Hale


Kerry Bomb

As you read this, there very well may be five tattooed, pirate-worshiping, skirt-chasing, booze drinking, chain-smoking punk rockers crammed tight into a mini-van (otherwise known as the "War Bertha") and heading directly for your town. This bizarre cast of characters is more entertaining than a freak show featuring the lobster claw family. It just doesn't get more punk rock than the U.S. Bombs.

From sunny California to the streets of Brooklyn to, well... not Canada (they're banned from an entire country -- see below), these boys leave a trail of beer bottles and lingerie in their wake. From their first release, the Scouts Of America 7 inch in 1994, through their albums on Hellcat Records - 1997's War Birth, the frighteningly prophetic The World (1999), and their newest release Back at the Laundromat (2001), the Bombs have consistently produced some of the best punk rock to come out of the States in years. To say nothing of their live show.

Vocalist Duane Peters was every young skate rats' demi-God in the late 70's and had a large hand in making the sport what it is today. Famous for his complete lack of self-preservation and incredibly high tolerance for bone-crushing pain, Duane writhes around the stage like a man possessed. Some of you may recognize bassist Wade Walston from his turn as the infamous Joe Schmoe in the 1983 classic punk movie Suburbia. (Remember the kid who was afraid to get the TR burn?) Guitarist Kerry Martinez is largely recognized, in the Bombs and throughout his many bands prior, as one of the best guitarists burning up the circuit today. The Bombs are legends in their own time.

Their career has been marked by various hassles with authority, women, booze... you name it, they've done it. Again and again. Yet somehow they manage to blow away every crowd they play in front of night after night.

These past few years have presented the Bombs with even tougher challenges than they have ever faced. In July of 2000, longtime guitarist Chuck Briggs passed away. Drummer Chip Hanna left the band in 2001 after suffering the loss of his daughter. He now plays drums with One Man Army. Guitarist Johnny 2Bags recently left the band to join up with Social Distortion, replacing the late Dennis Danell. The Bombs have been through a lot, but they have soldiered on. With a new line-up, a tour, and their fourth album on Hellcat in the works, these guys leave no doubt of their dedication to bringing kick-ass rock and roll to the starving masses.

In the time I've spent with this band, I've gathered enough of my own stories to make Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not jealous. But seeing as Kerry and Wade are two very gifted storytellers, I thought you'd like to hear it directly from the devils themselves. This interview hails from back in '98 when we met up with them on a warm summer day during the circus of the Warped Tour in Northampton, Massachussets.

Kerry: We just slept in the parking lot the other night. Me and Wade. We were so exhausted and there were so many fucking people in our van. I pulled up and I was seeing midgets and all kinds of shit from being up so goddamn late. You know, like Pee-Wee Herman when he starts seeing those signs all fucked up... I was so out of my tree because I'd been up for days. Wade had been up with me because we do most of the driving. We got out of the van and just went ttthhhud out into the parking lot.

Wade: Onto the asphalt. Some workers put cones around us so they wouldn't run over us.

Kerry: They were like, 'Fuck, we didn't know whether to wake you guys up, because vans were almost running you over and we figured you guys needed to sleep. So we put the cones around you and that way nobody would run you over'.

So, has everything been going okay with this tour?

Wade: Everything's been going fine. I think that we're really looking forward to going back to clubs and venues. It's a lot more personal, and we like it. We get to sleep in later and we get to show up later. We're fairly dysfunctional, so it's pretty hard for us to get anywhere in a timely manner. We're having a good time, though.

Have you been over to Europe yet?

Kerry: No, no. We haven't even been to Canada. We have villains in the band, too many convicted felons, so we can't go to Canada. Nobody has ever wanted to take us to Europe.

Would you have a problem getting over to Europe if they do?

Wade: No, they won't let us into Canada, but I don't think Europe will be a problem.

Damn Canadians. So tell us some stories.

Kerry: Band stories?

Wade: You want chick stories?

Sure.

Kerry: Oh my god, incriminating stuff. You know what? I'll tell you a sound man story. We were playing this benefit for AIDS out in the desert somewhere in California. I guess the sound guy was being a prick to all the bands. When we played, he didn't have the main speakers on for the vocals.

So we're playing and Duane's sitting there singing and no one can hear the words. They're kind of freaking out so Duane takes all the monitors and he turns them out towards the crowd. The sound guy gets all pissed off. Duane's kind of reckless with the microphones and stuff. You know, it's punk rock... what you see is what you get. If you're going to book us, you better know what you're in for. We weren't getting paid, it was a benefit thing. We drove four hours out in the middle of nowhere, you know, because we're down for that kind of stuff. So he's sitting there singing and the sound guy just gets pissed off because Duane turned the monitors around and he's thrashing the mics around. The sound guy runs up on stage and starts taking the mics down and then he goes to grab Duane's mic and he pushes Duane out of the way. And then Duane fucking socked him. Within seconds, there was thirty people on the stage, man, just a sock-o-rama, like dominoes! We just kept playing. It was so great.

The sound guy took all his microphones after Duane beat his ass. Then Duane climbed up these big speakers on the scaffolding. The sound guy was shaking them, trying to knock Duane down to the ground, it was fucking insane. Then after we were done, everybody rushes over to our van - 'Fuck, man! That was so rad! That sound guy was a fucking asshole! You were lucky that you did that because I was going to do it!' But, I mean, you know.

Wade: We don't get along with sound men too well. There was an incident about a week ago in Memphis. We almost beat up the sound man there, too. Kerry, tell her about the time when that little girl who wore the strap-on slit her wrist...


Duane Peters

What?!

Kerry: It's a long story, too, because it goes into ghosts and everything else. This one's fucked up.

Alright, lookit man... We were on tour and for some reason we always have the weirdest luck. The weirdest things happen to us in New Orleans. Okay, we roll into town, our van is on its last leg. It's fucked up, blew our engine. We're like four days into the tour. We didn't really have that much money, we were pitching pennies. We were going to go stand in the soup line, seriously, we were fucking busted. Anyway, we're at this guy's house -- our booking agent lived out there at the time. We're over at his house and I don't know where the hell these girls came from.

Wade: These three girls came over, and one was a witch, all gothed-out with pentagrams tattooed on her. The other one was this little Peter Pan looking girl with green hair that wore a strap-on dildo wherever she went.

Kerry: Right. She thought she was a guy.

Outside of her clothing or inside?

Kerry: No, inside, tucked in like she had a regular...

Did she tell you this, or...?

Wade: No, she whipped it out.

Kerry: Okay, check it out, this is what happened. I didn't know what was going on. I was sitting there, right, and these three girls come rolling in. I knew one of them from the last time we were in town. They come in there and they're sitting there and there's a big girl, Peter Pan with the green hair, and this girl that was a witch with a black dress. They're getting all crazy, you know, 'hey you wanna see my tattoo?' She's taking off her top and stuff. The other two were getting hot and bothered and she's all, 'hey, do you wanna see us fuck?'

So Peter Pan pulls down her pants and pulls out this big strap-on dick. The big girl starts sucking on it. About this time I figure -- hey, I'm going to go into the kitchen, grab my soda, and watch the show. I didn't know what was up, but later on I caught the vibe...

Wade: There was a full love triangle going on, jealousy.

Kerry: The witch and Peter Pan had a relationship and Peter Pan was getting jealous of the big girl and the witch. We don't know their names so I'll just say the big girl and the witch and Peter Pan.

Wade: This chick offered us food. They told us they were going to take us to her house and they were going to cook us this home cooked meal. So we're like, yeah, free food. We get over there and all they had was hotdogs and creamed corn.

Kerry: I don't know what happened, but they got into a fight and they split in a bad mood. Duane and Wade went over there to eat because they offered them free food. When they went over there, there was all kinds of drama, Peter Pan freaked out...

Wade: She slit her wrists.

Kerry: No, not then, before we played.

Wade: Oh, yeah. She stole her car.

Kerry: Peter Pan stole the witch's car and went off hauling ass down the road, burning rubber. Then I see her at the club, and she's just shitfaced. She's asking me, have you seen my girlfriend (the witch)? I'm like no, and she kept on bugging the hell out of me every ten minutes. Finally I told her, 'the last time I saw her was with you. Get away from me, you stink. If I see her, I'll take her to you, okay?' Then I left. I went back to our booking agent's house. Wade and Duane went to the girl's house and...

Wade: When I got there she had slit her wrist because she was all fucked up over her girlfriend.

Kerry: She tried to kill herself with heroin too, didn't she try to OD?

Wade: No, she was just all fucked up on heroin.

Wait, whose house was she at?

Wade: She was at the witch's house.

Kerry: The witch and Peter Pan I think lived together.

Wade: I just wanted to get over there because they said that they would both suck my dick at the same time. So I was all, yeah. And plus free food but all they had was hotdogs and creamed corn. I looked at her wrist and it was just superficial. She wasn't dying or anything, she was just bleeding a lot. So I said fuck it. And then her dad came to the door.

Kerry: Didn't the cops come too?

Wade: Yeah. Her dad and her mom came to the door, pounding on the door going, 'hey, where's (Peter Pan)?' I go, 'who?'

'Where's this (Peter Pan) girl?' And I go, 'oh, you mean the girl that slit her wrists?' And then they started getting crazy... It was wild. I told them, 'you know what? Take your daughter and get the hell out of here.' Then they said the cops were coming and we don't like cops so we split.

Kerry: So while this was going on, I'm at this other house with our merch guy, Kevin. There's no furniture in the house because the guy just moved in there. We set up camp on the ground and we're getting ready to sleep. We're laying down and all of a sudden -- you know how you can feel someone walking around you?

Yeah.

Kerry: Like weight on the floorboards? It felt like someone was playing fucking hopscotch right there. Seriously. I was like, 'what the fuck is that?' Am I drunk or am I tired or what's up? Is this really going on?

Kevin's like, 'Yeah, what the fuck is that?' I go, 'Oh well, we're in the right place for ghosts', you know, I made a stupid joke about it and went to sleep. We're sleeping and the next thing I know, you know how all the houses are off the ground in Louisiana? It sounds like somebody's underneath the fucking floor with a hammer going -- Bam! Bam! Bam! Right underneath our heads! We both jump up, freaking out. I'm going, 'I don't know, man, did you hear that?' He's like 'Yeah, I heard it!' 'I'm not losing my mind, am I?' 'No, I heard it.' So we went back to sleep but we're all, you know, strange.

The next day everybody was gone and I had to wait for Mike to get his phone installed. I kept on smelling this weird smell like dog farts. I kept on thinking I had stepped in cat shit. He didn't have any pets and I was looking around like, what the fuck?

Wade: Dog farts?

Kerry: Yeah. So, all of our gear was in the living room because our van was broken. I had my box on this table, one of the only pieces of furniture that was in this house. And I see it get knocked off. The box is really heavy and I see it get knocked off and go rolling across the floor! Again, I'm like what the fuck? There's two guys out in front doing some gardening and I ask them, 'hey, man, what's up with this house? There's some fucking weird shit going on in this house!' They're all, 'I don't know man, we think there's some spooks in there!' I'm like 'What?' They go, 'I don't know, we just heard some stuff.'

Alright. So I'm sitting there. The phone guy comes and then our booking agent shows up and I'm like, 'man, what the fuck is with your house? This happened last night and this happened this morning.' He goes, 'Well, didn't I tell you?' 'No, tell me what?' 'Well, the reason why I moved here is because I got a really killer deal. See, there was this man who was about seventy-five years old. He didn't have any family or anything and he had this dog. He died in the back room right there and he was there for three weeks before they found him. His dog was hungry and starving, so it ate the lower half of his body.'

Oh my god.

Kerry: So I go, 'THANKS for telling me that, you fucking dick!' I couldn't believe it, it freaked me out.

Wade: Man, it was something like from the Twilight Zone. Every time we go to New Orleans we have such bad voodoo there.

Kerry: On top of it, check this out! I forgot about this. Our van was broke and our merch guy knew this guy Carl who worked at Marie Laveau's voodoo shop. Me and Wade went to this club and we hooked up with this girl Debrah. She does all the promotions and booking out in that area. She was having this gig and she got it on the radio that they were having a benefit for the U.S. Bombs because our van broke down. It was going to be at this guy Carl's house, he has this huge basement. Everybody knows about it. We're sitting there at our booking agents house, and Carl is on his way to pick us up in his truck and on the way to pick us up, he fucking totals his truck.

Wade: Rolls it.

Kerry: Rolls it, ends up in the hospital. We get a call and we were just going, oh my god. What fucking can possibly... Starts out with these three lesbian girls with a strap-on, later on a suicide attempt, ghosts... It was fucking amazing.

Wade: We got the hell out of there.

Kerry: Yeah, not looking back. It was heavy.

I have another ghost story, actually, about Tim from Rancid's house. They have this really cool old house that they got. They said they think they have a couple of ghosts there. One night I was there hanging out and I stayed the night. I slept in my friend Cris' room. I didn't know Cris had been gone for a few weeks. I guess she has this wind-up alarm clock that you have to wind up every day, otherwise it runs dead. So I'm sleeping and I don't know what time it was, but the alarm clock starts going off in the middle of the night. It's all dark and I'm like, huh?! I find it and I turn it off. Okay, whatever, I'm kind of freaking out a little bit because they told me there were ghosts in the house.

So you're paranoid to begin with.

Kerry: Yeah, Louisiana and now this. I opened the door because the light in the kitchen was on. I don't know, scared of the dark. If something was going to happen, I wanted to see it. I didn't want something in the dark grabbing my fucking leg. I'm kind of looking around and I'm falling asleep and I kept on waking up and falling asleep. I remember I woke up and I saw this weird green-grey fog thing in the corner.

Wade: You always get the ghosts, man.

Kerry: And I'm like, what is that? Okay, my mind's playing tricks on me. I go to sleep. I wake up the next day and there's this chair ten feet away from where I was sleeping, perfectly positioned as if someone was sitting in that chair looking at me while I'm asleep. I thought they were fucking with me because they told me there were ghosts. So I'm all, 'Brad, were you fucking with me last night, man?' He's like, 'What are you talking about?' 'Somebody put that... that chair was not there last night!' Then I told them about the alarm clock, too, and Cris goes, 'You know what? I have to wind that clock up every day otherwise it goes dead and I've been gone for two weeks'.

That's some spooky shit. So, do you have anything else you want to tell people?

Kerry: You know, besides ghost stories?

No, it's cool. We need a campfire right here, it would be perfect. Marshmallows.

Wade: I need a nap.

Kerry: I just want to say thanks to Tim and Lars from Rancid for helping us out and to everybody at Hellcat Records.

 

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