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The Alejandro Escovedo Band Takes Its ‘Burn Something Beautiful’ Tour to the West Coast

Escovedo and Jesse Malin to Play Federal Underground


Alejandro Escovedo has had an interesting career. He may come from the famous musical Escovedo family, but he’s punk rock through and through.

He’s worked with East Coast punker Jesse Malin for years, and the two of musicians — seemingly from different parts of the world — take the time to tour around and make music for music’s sake. Check out Escovedo’s website

Escovedo hails from a Mexican-American family via Texas, and Malin is a punk rocker from New York. But somehow the friendship and the music-making works. On Tuesday, Escovedo and Malin will play the Federal Underground in Long Beach. 

Escovedo and Malin’s tour launched February 16. In tow are a range of great musicians. The Alejandro Escovedo Band is comprised of Jason Victor on guitar, Shawn Peters on drums and Aaron McClellan on bass.

Throughout his career, Escovedo has worked with many people and has earned many distinctions including Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Performing in 2006.

His latest album, Burn Something Beautiful, which was released last October, highlights his talent. His musical gifts are revealed across a lifetime spent to faith in the hard work of life and music and its possibilities.

Escovedo and Malin play the Federal Underground in Long Beach on Tuesday. For tickets and more tour information go here.

Ross The Boss Friedman: Dictators ‘Amazed’ By Influence on Young Bands – California Rocker Interview

The Dictators NYC Perform at Viper Room Nov. 11

Ross the Boss Friedman, founder of The Dictators talks new music, tour and music biz with California Rocker editor Donna Balancia

CR: What kind of influence did The Dictators have on music, Ross?

RTB: The Dictators influenced so many bands. Our original fans all became band guys, they went on to form bands. It’s like a family tree: Monster Magnet, Stone Temple Pilots, Turbonegro, Helicopters and Nomads, all these bands were mentored by us. When you’re hearing songs and you hear the riffs you know our influence.

Ross The Boss Friedman says Dictators NYC are busy - Photo courtesy Dictators NYC

Ross The Boss Friedman says Dictators NYC are busy – Photo courtesy Dictators NYC

CR: What’s the legacy of The Dictators?

RTB: You know we were too punk for metal and too metal for punk. It makes us feel amazing that people go to school on us. A good percentage of the people who come to see us are band guys.

CR: How is the band doing these days?

RTB: Really, we’re better than ever. We just did a tour. And I was in Europe with the new Ross the Boss Band. The Dictators NYC did 21 shows in 22 days in Europe recently.

The Dictators NYC are legendary around the world - Photo courtesy of Dictators NYC

The Dictators NYC are legendary around the world – Photo courtesy of Dictators NYC

CR: Why the new name?

RTB: I renamed them Dictators NYC as a matter of respect. I insisted on it. We want to let everyone know it isn’t the original lineup. Daniel Rey, the Ramones producer and Dean Rispler on bass. We wanted to have some sort of closure and respect for the old lineup.

CR: Why do you like California?

RTB: I’ve always enjoyed California, it’s really spread out, I love California. I like Northern California and I like the San Diego area.  My sister lives there. As far as New York, I’m Giants, Mets, Rangers and Knicks. There are tons of transplanted New Yorkers in Califiornia. They’ll say, ‘Hey Ross I went to Dewitt Clinton High School!’ It’s a small world, it’s big, but it’s small.

RTB: In California, we’ve been made to feel very welcome over the years. The fans are great everywhere. I’ve been in the music business since 1975, I’ve made 31 records. The new “Ross The Boss Band” has been doing well.

supply-and-demand-dictatorsCR: What’s the key to success?

RTB: I’ve been playing professionally for a long time and every time it amazes me — If you play your heart out you can’t lose, people pick up on that. The Dictators play 150 percent; we don’t care if there’s 10 people or 10,000 people there.

CR: Anything new?

RTB: We’ve written a new song and it’s a single called ‘Supply and Demand,’ a story about the new band. The demand is there and we’re gonna supply it.  Dean produced it, he plays bass, he played with a lot of bands like Murphy’s Law. We have this new single, and we’re working on new music.  And with my new band we’re working on a new CD, we don’t have working title yet.

CR: What are you guys like in concert as Dictators NYC?

RTB: The band generally performs all its hits, including “Next Big Thing,” “Weekend,” “Tree Tub Man,” “I Stand Tall,” “Stay With Me,” “Let’s Twist.” You gotta give the people what they want.

Dictators NYC

The Dictators with Handsome Dick Manitoba continue to draw crowds – Photo courtesy Dictators NYC

CR: How has the music business changed since the 1970s?

RTB: Music has become an impossibility. You’ve gotta play live. People have to come see you live. Certainly the money end has been stolen by the record industry. If you don’t have a live thing, forget it. Every single night you have to play your ass off. A lot of young bands are. You can make money at the gate, on merch, you can sell your stuff. You have to be hands-on. You have to be willing to expect the word ‘No’ as an answer from a lot of people.”

CR: How was it for you guys when you started out?

RTB: When we first came on, they said, ‘Whoever signed these guys should be shot. What is this wrestling hamburgers, cars and girls, what is this insanity? Why the leather jackets?’  Then all of a sudden they said it was ‘Punk Rock.’ Then The Ramones came out. All of a sudden, it was ‘The Dictators influenced us.’ MC5, Flamin Groovies, Iggy and the Stooges all had their roots in punk.

CR: What’s gonna happen on Nov. 11?

RTB: We’re gonna play a mind-blowing show, you’re gonna be happy as shit and you’re gonna hear the best.


The Dictators NYC “Supply and Demand” in Barcelona

Video courtesy of BilligPeopleBooking
Joey Ramone Joins The Dictators for ‘The Kids Are Alright’

Video courtesy of Harold Kramer

Vince Conrad Productions Strikes Hidden Gold with Remastered Punk Hits

Vince Conrad

Vince Conrad: Polishing off some classic gems with EP Vince Conrad, a collection of remastered punk rock favorites

Music by The Aliens, Smart Pills and American Bad Taste Top the Charts

By DONNA BALANCIA – Veteran Punk Rocker Vince Conrad has released some long-buried hidden gems to music lovers.

He remastered classic hit tunes from bands The Smart Pills, The Aliens and American Bad Taste and they are now available to the public.

The Aliens were well-known in New York in the late 1970s early punk rock scene but the band’s catchy songs were lost over the years.

Through Vince Conrad Productions, Vince is re-releasing punk rock classics like “He Hangs Around With a Bimbo,” “Sticky People,” and “Blank Samaritan,” which is good news for punk lovers.

And while doing so, his company, Vince Conrad Productions, has developed a recording, promotion and distribution model that others can follow.

The Aliens

“I wanted to get the songs out there because they’re great songs,” Vince said. “But also I want to show people that you don’t need a record company to come knocking on your door. Today, you can control the whole recording, promotion and distribution process yourself.”

New Label

Vince Conrad Productions is a new punk rock record label and publishing  and production company based in Los Angeles. All of the music on the VCP website has been unreleased to the general public. And he’s got a lot of interesting songs to hear.

Conrad’s New York band, The Aliens, and Hollywood-based bands, The Smart Pills and American Bad Taste were well known to the punk rockers of the late-1970s and early 1980s. Conrad has re-issued CD’s for each of the three bands, as well as, as a solo EP of early punk rock songs previously never recorded entitled simply, Vince Conrad EP.  The EP is ranked No. 3 in the LA Punk Rock chart on Reverbnation.

“These are songs that people loved,” Vince told California Rocker in an exclusive interview. “They were recorded in the day on a casette recorder and I’ve painstakingly remastered them. They really hold up.”

The Vince Conrad EP has achieved other benchmarks on the Reverbnation site, hitting the charts in the national and regional arenas.

The Smart Pills - Photo for California Rocker

The Smart Pills

Remastered Punk

Vince doesn’t wear the same spiky hair or pins through his earlobe (OK, not as often anyway), but he’s making new music, and he’s reviving the punk classics.

“My bands played with a lot of famous bands during the early punk scene in New York and Los Angeles,” Vince said.

“But the thing is if you didn’t get signed by a record label, no one would ever get to hear your music,” Vince said. “So many great bands didn’t get signed so they didn’t get heard, like Lance Loud and the Mumps, the Mau Maus, the Skulls and a lot of others.

“The Internet has really enabled artists to promote and distribute their music and get it heard,” Vince said. “What we’re doing is we’ve created a whole new recording industry model that puts the whole process back in the hands of the artists.”

Vince Conrad Productions offers CDs and a wide range of downloads from the Aliens, the Smart Pills, American Bad Taste and the new Vince Conrad EP.


The Aliens

The Music

During 1976 the Aliens, based in New York’s Chelsea Hotel, regularly played Max’s Kansas City, CBGB’s, Club 82 and other punk rock venues in New York’s early punk rock scene.

The Aliens played among such contemporaries as the Ramones, the Heartbreakers, Blondie, Wayne County, Mink Deville, the Mumps, and the Fast.

Vince’s partners in the bands were Holiday Ian and Git Smart, who would become members of American Bad Taste and The Smart Pills.

In 1979, the Smart Pills moved from New York to Hollywood and performed at the Masque, Club 88, Gazzarri’s, the Troubadour, Kings Palace, the Hong Kong Café and others.

The Smart Pills were on the bill with such contemporaries as the Germs, the Bags, FEAR, the Weirdos, the Mau Maus, Black Flag and the Plugz.

Many of the most beloved bands whose names have become synonymous with punk in the late 1970s and early ’80s had hard times, preventing them from enjoying the fruits of their hard work, Vince said.

The Smart Pills CD

The Smart Pills CD

“A lot of the bands, including my band the Smart Pills, broke up before they could get signed,” he said. “With the Smart Pills, we were being pursued by Casablanca and Warner Bros., but we lost our frontman. I then scrambled to get Ian and we formed American Bad Taste.”

American Bad Taste recorded four songs for Casablanca, then went out and took the Midwest by storm, bringing their music to America’s heartland before returning to Hollywood in 1981.

The collection Vince offers is a genuine effort to bring to a new generation of listeners some classic songs.

“Basically the songs were all on cassettes and reel-to-reel stored away in my trunks over the years,” Vince said. “You know when you’re on the road a lot you get used to having everything in a trunk. I always wanted to revive and re-master these songs and fortunately, now they’re available.”

The CDs and downloads are being sold through Vince Conrad Productions and are only available through the website at



Two Tens Reveal All in The California Rocker Interview: The Massive Hair and Why Ella Didn’t Like the Hat

The Two Tens’ Adam Bones and Rikki Styxx tell California Rocker’s Donna Balancia their Most Random Thoughts.

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens’ Rikki Styxx – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: Who is your inspiration? Who are some of the bands that you two both enjoy?

AB: General inspiration can come from anything or anyone. Bands that we both like are The Hives, Ramones, Descendents, The Sonics, The Queers and a ton more. We have similar taste in music.

DB: I hear a lot of Ramones in your verses and in your tunes. did the Ramones play a part in your inspiration?

AB: Ramones are probably the biggest influence on our music. I’m kind of a Ramones fanatic and apparently it shows in some of our songs. 

DB: How did you guys get the Hi-Fi Rockfest gig? 

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

RS: We’ve known Derek O’Brien since we formed the band.  We rehearse at his studio and he’s seen us play live.  When we heard about the line-up, we kind of had to twist a few arms but we are so grateful to be a part of this show.

AB: We’re really excited to be on such a great bill and to be associated with the bands and the fest in general. 

DB: What’s the biggest gig you’ve played so far? 

RS: Probably The Sonics at the Regent.  I got to sit in with The Sonics for a song.  The drummer has a thing for me (we are married). Ha!

DB: If you were an article of clothing what would you be?  

RS: I would be my bright purple bra!

AB: A leather jacket.

Rikki Styxx of The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Rikki Styxx of The Two Tens – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: Why do you feel you can’t win? Do you think that “I Can’t Win” is a reflection of how people feel today?

AB: Nah, it’s more of an introspective song. At the time I wrote the song, I just felt like nothing was going to work out. 

DB: How do you clap your hands on that song if you guys are playing instruments?

AB: We have special powers.

DB: Rikki, did you take drum lessons? How did you get to be a punk-rock style drummer? 

RS: I bought I drum set before I even knew how to set one up.  I was taught by punk rock and headphones up until five years ago when I started taking online lessons with Mike Johnston and attending his camps in the summer. As of five years ago, all I really played was punk because that was my biggest influence but I have ventured out into other genres. My energy on the kit is definitely my punk rock roots.

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens play Redwood Bar – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: What kind of technology do you use to create such a big sound?

AB: I split my guitar signal to a guitar and a bass amp. So it sounds much fuller than most people expect. I think people think that it’s just drums and a guitar amp which sounds pretty thin. But we knew better. And Rikki really knows how to thump away on those drums which rounds out our big sound. 

DB: How does Adam manage to sound like two people when he is only one, vocal-wise.

AB: Remember those special powers I mentioned 😉

DB: How do you manage to re-create the sound on your CD when you are actually performing?  

AB: We actually went into the studio with the mindset that we’d record our songs the way we play them live. We put in some overdubs and leads and whatnot, but basically the recordings sound like our live performance.

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: How did you to actually meet?

AB: Our manager brought us together initially. He contacted Rikki when I needed a drummer for my solo project. We did that together for about a year.  

DB: Where did you both go to school? 

RS: I grew up in Colorado and went to school there.

AB: I grew up in Chicago and went to school there. 

DB: Adam, are you ever going to cut that hair?

AB: Probably not

DB: Why didn’t Ella like your hat?

AB: I don’t think she liked the way my hair stuck out the back. Something like that. She didn’t go into too much detail, she just said she didn’t like it. 

DB: Rikki are you wearing a wig? 

RS: No, I’m all natural baby.

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: If you could be a color, what would the color be? 

RS: I would be psychedelic red, which isn’t really red, but a combo of colors.

AB: Black or navy blue

DB: What is your dream gig?  

RS: I’m living the dream with the fact that I get to play my drums everyday but I wouldn’t turn down touring with The Foo Fighters too.

AB: To open for all my favorite dead musicians. 

DB: Do you think you two will ever add additional musicians to your band?

AB: Maybe later down the road. But it’s not really much of a consideration right now. 

The Two Tens - Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The Two Tens – Photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

DB: How do you distribute your music and how do you get the attention of fans?  

RS: We work extremely hard with coming up with content that is fun and quality.  I also think that translates online and right now that’s probably our best means to reach our audience.

DB: Where do you guys get your energy from? 

RS: Puppy dogs, pizza, and loud music.

Video courtesy of Thomas Underhill


The Dead Milkmen: Definitely Not ‘Mellow’ at The Troubadour

Dead Milkmen photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Dead Milkmen photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

It’s amazing what happens with the passage of time.

People get a bit slower, a little wiser and mellow.

Well none of that was true at the Dead Milkmen show at The Troubadour Saturday night.

The audience was still slam dancing, the sound was still deafening and the Dead Milkmen were still wild and crazy, playing old favorites like “Punk Rock Girl” and “Bitchin’ Camaro.”

The band that came to prominence through the Philadelphia pipeline in the ’80s proved they’ve still got what it takes to draw a crowd and whip them into a frenzy.



Dead Milkmen - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Dead Milkmen – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“We followed them from San Francisco,” said Justin and his wife LeAnne who came all the way from Melbourne, Australia, to catch a few Dead Milkmen shows.

“We think they’re radical,” Justin said.

And like the rest of the crowd, Justin also enjoyed the supporting band, Johnny Madcap and The Distractions, who were airborne for much of their performance.

Meanwhile, Gary from Philadelphia, a die-hard Dead Milkmen fan, said he had been looking forward to actually meeting the band members in person. He got his chance.

“I can’t believe how cool they are,” he said.

Gary purchased a limited edition poster and then had Dean Clean and the rest of the gang sign it for him outside The Troubadour. The band toured to promote Pretty Music for Pretty People.

Dead Milkmen - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Dead Milkmen – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

The West Hollywood club has had its share over the years of wild acts, but the guys at the door still were not taking any chances with this particular audience.

“These are the kind of people who really like to have a great time in the pit,” said one of the doormen. “We don’t like to take any chances — we make sure there’s no chains – no wallets on a chain — and other things aren’t allowed inside.”

It’s not that the guys at The Troubadour expect any problems, it’s just that things can get carried away when you’ve got big guys, leaner guys — and a few gals thrown in — all moshing around in the pit.

And of course when you have a guy like frontman Rodney Anonymous coaxing the audience to go crazy on command, it’s one pretty funny scene.

After the show, a sweat-soaked guy known only as Kevin, said he really enjoyed the evening after getting his fill of shoving, pushing, dancing, screaming and running around.

Dead Milkmen - photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

Dead Milkmen – photo © 2015 Donna Balancia

“Hey look I’m 42,” Kevin said. “You know, you gotta conserve your energy for a night like this. It was good clean fun. You know what I mean. I don’t think I’m gonna be waking up early tomorrow, let’s put it that way.”

Kevin did say however that he appreciated the great interference work The Troubadour staffers performed during the night.

“You know there’s always some big fat guy running around with no shirt,” Kevin said.”Then you got the guy who wants to start something. There’s always one or two. I really have to thank The Troubadour people for keeping it fun out there. Because that’s what it’s all about.”

Madcap Johnny and The Distractions were an appropriate opener and we look forward to good things from this LA-based band.  Madcap and his crew will play Punk Rock Bowling in Vegas May 22-25.

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