California Rocker

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The Stitches, The Talented SoCal Punk Band that Out-Punks all the Rest: The California Rocker Q and A

The Stitches at The Viper Room - Photo Donna Balancia

The Stitches at The Viper Room – Photo Donna Balancia


The Stitches are one of the best loved and most appreciated punk bands in Southern California.  The longtime punkers Michael Lohrman, Johnny Witmer, Pete “Action Man'” Archer and Craig “Skibs” Barker recently opened for The Dictators NYC at The Viper Room and stole the show. Johnny Witmer of The Stitches answered the important questions for

CR: What is the best gig — or two — The Stitches ever played?

JW: So many good ones. I’d have to say in the early days (the mid-90s) at The Purple Onion in SF, and that show we did in London in 2013. The two shows we opened for Green Day were pretty interesting…

CR: Did The Stitches ever tour?

JW: Yes we did, and still do. We’ve been to Europe four times, and to to various parts of the country a many times as well.

The Stitches one of LA's most well loved punk bands - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Stitches one of LA’s most well loved punk bands – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


CR: Do you have any new music being recorded?

JW: We’ve had a new LP musically written for about 10 years now, but are still waiting for lyrics to be written. We will have a our Singles Collection LP (all of our rare 7-inch recordings, 1994-2010) released on Burger Records in 2017.

CR: What are the top selling records released by The Stitches

JW: 8×12 is probably our most famous record. We released it ourselves with no distribution, but still did really well. Twelve Imaginary Inches probably sold the most when it was released as TKO records had a good team back then.

The Stitches - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Stitches – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


CR: Any significant band changes?

JW: Not really. We’ve been the same members since 1994 except for drummers. Our second drummer, Skibs, is now our fourth drummer, and he’s been with us this time since the 2003 or so. We recently added Jim Kaa (from The Crowd) on second guitar last year (so Mike’s not the oldest guy in the band anymore)…

CR: Who writes the music?

JW: The Action Man, or myself usually write the music. Mike usually writes the lyrics.

The Stitches - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Stitches – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia


CR: What are the topics you discuss in your music?

JW: It used to be about drugs, and prostitutes, but now 2 guys are sober, and 4 guys are married…

CR: Any upcoming gigs?

JW: We’re booking for 2017 now. We’ll play some local gigs, plus we’ll be in the Midwest, Texas, SF and the NW. Hopefully Europe again soon as well.

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

Black Waat3r Breaks Down The Sound ‘Barriers’ At The Viper Room for Night of Soul Satisfaction

Innovative Crossover Performances Inspire at Viper Room

Black Waat3r at the Viper Room by Donna Balancia

Black Waat3r at the Viper Room – Photo by Donna Balancia


Black Waat3r headlined an innovative bill of bands at the Viper Room that broke down sound “barriers.”

Ace performers Black Waat3r, Emi Secrest, Tomi Townsend, Eddie Cole, Honey Larochelle and Felice Lazae smashed stereotypes for a night of Soul Satisfaction.  A diverse audience enjoyed a night of heartfelt music.

Black Waat3r Rocks

Headliner Blackwaat3r played original songs to rock covers of classics like “We Are The Champions,” and “Come Together,” and seems to enjoy taking its chances outside the box.

Black Waat3r is the crossover brainchild of Erick Walls and Stevie Notes, the bass player is Matt Kirkwood and the drummer is  David Myers Jr.  Black Waat3r is pure alternative and fun, with powerful tunes, cool covers and audience appeal that crosses new musical boundaries.

Black Waat3r at the Viper Room by Donna Balancia

Black Waat3r at the Viper Room by Donna Balancia

Musical Talent

But what’s interesting is Erick and Stevie are well known for their R and B prowess, with awards and nominations that put them in an elite category.

“I consider Black Waat3r to be alternative-rock,” said Erick, known for his work with Aloe Blacc, Beyonce and many other top performers. “We call our Black Waat3r style ‘Nu Blues.'”

Erick is an accomplished and GRAMMY-nominated musician who keeps his bright light on the down low. In addition to his reputation as a side man to all the top names in R and B, he is active in his church, and works with some of the finest gospel singers too.

As for Stevie, the performance is the thing. His voice hits all the right notes — no pun intended — and his stage presence is cool and welcoming as he makes eye contact with all the audience members.  Notes also has training in soul, blues and R and B, but for Notes, Black Waat3r is a unique project and an opportunity to sing rock songs.

“I’ve known Stevie for years,” Erick said. “We originally met through a mutual industry friend. We’ve both worked in the same circles.”


Spiking Vibes

“The vibes were spiking high through our celebration of creativity,” said Jaclyn Strong, who booked the bands at The Viper Room through her company The Codega. “It was a unifying event that broke barriers and each artist brought their own soul factor through diverse performances.”

Emi Secrest - Photo by Donna Balancia

Emi Secrest – Photo by Donna Balancia

The other musicians during the soulful night featured Emi Secrest, Tomi Townsend, Honey Larochelle, Eddie Cole and Felice Lazae, all of whom entertained with remarkable talent. Each performer has a pedigree that is impressive and worthy of respect.

Emi has talent that brings to mind music from a feature film. Her songs are unique and her stage presence is impressive. Her band is equally talented. Check out her Youtube channel.

Tomi Townsend

Tomi has a compelling act as her music is “funky but chic,” and her appearance is borderline punk rock genre. She is all over the place — using the entire stage — with a super physical performance that is at once alarming and compelling.

Tomi Townsend at The Viper Room - Photo by Donna Balancia

Tomi Townsend at The Viper Room – Photo by Donna Balancia

She’s an entertainment survivor, who has written her own music, performed comedy and is someone who is super energetic. She’s an inspiration and she’s on the way up!  Check out her Reverbnation page.

The adorable Honey Larochelle, resplendent in her pulled-together hip-hop, miniskirt look — is fun to watch and her voice is clear and strong. Her style is reggae-hip-hop-soul, if there is such a thing, and she’s a performer with a diverse range. Among her songs for the evening were “You Giving Me Life,” which you can see on her Facebook page. 

The evening was complete with D.J. Miss Bliss spinning the discs, the talented Felice Lazae, and Eddie Cole on the bill.  Cole is on his way to Lollapalooza. Hear his music on his Soundcloud account.

DJ Miss Bliss - Photo by Donna Balancia

DJ Miss Bliss – Photo by Donna Balancia


Black Waat3r Set List

Water For Fire
Money or Love
Come Together
I Believe I Can Fly
Sweet Nothings
Gotta Gun
We Are the Champions


The Delta Riggs Rock The Viper Room; Band From Down Under Is Out on Top

The Delta Riggs - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Delta Riggs – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Aussie Faves Impress Packed House on Strip

By DONNA BALANCIA – The Delta Riggs put on a rockin’ showcase at The Viper Room before a thick crowd of die-hard devotees and American fans blown away by the U.S. bow of this exciting band.

This famous Australian group with its devoted following down under, brought its real rock and roll to The Viper Room with a tight show that was reminicent of old school punk only with catchy songs.

“I love them,” said Pip, a beautiful Australian fan who came up to the Sunset Strip from the other side of Los Angeles when she heard her favorite band would be playing the U.S.  “They’re huge in Australia, they’re used to playing in front of thousands of people, we love them.”

The Delta Riggs' Elliott Hammond - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Delta Riggs’ Elliott Hammond – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

Front man Elliott Hammond is like a cross between Rod Stewart and an upbeat Sid Vicious, tearing up the stage, alternately leaping in the air and falling to his knees.  With a lean appearance, spiky hair and a gravelly voice, Hammond’s physicality shows true passion and a talent to keep the crowd spellbound.

Drummer Simon McConnell is tight, keeping the band on a furious pace, occasionally taking the lead on several of the band’s poignant and fast-paced tunes.

His role is brought to the forefront in combination with the driving basslines of Michael Tramonte.  Alex Markwell and Jesse Pattinson lend a large sound to this band with retro-style guitars blazing.

The Delta Riggs - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Delta Riggs – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The band’s current album, Dipz Zebazios, is a fun collection of the guys’ thoughts on the world that most can relate to — and it’s a wild ride.  Their first album, called Hex.Lover.Killer, was nominated for an Australian Music Prize.

The songs are great but the performance is the thing for The Delta Riggs, as Hammond changes pace like one changes hats.  He multi-tasks, jumping from vocals keyboards and then grabs the harmonica when called upon.

And, yes, Hammond actually does change hats as well, altering his persona during the evening, showing a range from down and dirty, micstand-hurling punker to fedora-sporting well-heel.


Elliott Hammond and his harmonica – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The ensemble is eye-catching as they’re a cute bunch of guys and they may be a little more experienced than their young, long-haired appearance may present.

Besides their impressive stage presence, The Delta Riggs boast thousands of fans on social media, mainly in Australia, but that is about to change. The Delta Riggs have traveled the world touring with some superstar bands and recently opened for The Foo Fighters on the Foos’ Australian tour.

A good-natured group of guys, they’ve retained friendships and alliances along the way — Chris Shifflet of the Foo Fighters and Jesse Hughes from Eagles of Death Metal were on hand to support the band’s Viper Room showcase.

The Delta Riggs don't need to ask why - Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia

The Delta Riggs don’t need to ask why – Photo © 2016 Donna Balancia



It’s Over; The Record’s Flawed; Beehive; Surgery of Love; Bobby’s Flowers; Never Seen This Before; Telescope House; Supersonic Casualties; Rah Rah Radio; From My Mould


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