Monday, July 4, 2011

EXECUTIONER Anthology CD Out Soon! Executioners gigs and stories.

Coming this July, the EXECUTIONER anthology disc. The entire 1982 recorded output, painstakingly restored and remastered on one convenient compact disc or digital download! Comes housed in a foldout poster with extensive liner notes. 

1. Fix Me
2. Hellbound
3. Why War?
4. Pack Of Lies
5. Kraft
6. Marked To Die
7. Crime Through Corruption
8. St. James Park
9. Love at First Sight
10. The Only Way
11. I Miss You
12. Flatlands
13. Cease Fire
14. The Bum
15. 1984
16. We Don't Need It
17. Bible Bangers
18. Obliteration
19. Nagasaki
20. State Executioner
21. War Machine
22. All The Dead
23. 1984 - Growing Pains
24. Love At First Sight - Growing Pains
25. Fix Me - Growing Pains
26. Marked To Die - Growing Pains
27. The Bum - Growing Pains
28.The Only Way - Growing Pains
29. Fade With The Dawn

Tracks 1-2, 4, 6-7, 9, 12, 14-15, 19, 29 1982 Sights & Sounds
Tracks 23-28 Taken from the 'Growing Pains' Cassette
Tracks 10-11, 13, 16-17, 21-22 'Growing Pains' Demo Session 1982.
Tracks 5, 18 Recorded live on Broadway 6/27/83
Track 20 Recorded Live at The Fillmore House 11/23/82
Tracks 3 & 8 Recorded in Salem 2008


Executioner Gigs

First Gig: Benefit for Ripper magazine (first SF Punk magazine; Tim Tonooka, editor in chief). Bad Posture, MAD, Ribzy, Grim Reality, Executioner, at the On Broadway, SF. August 31, 1982.
Crucifix, Social Unrest, 5’th Column, Intensified Chaos, Executioner at New Method Industry, Emeryville. September 24, 1982.
Los Olvidados, Bad Posture, UXB, Fang, Intensified Chaos, Executioner at the Tool & Die, SF. October 22, 1982.
Red Kross, Rebel Truth, PLH, Executioner at the Tool & Die, SF. February 18, 1983.
Crucifix, Social Unrest, PLH, Trial, Executioner at the Tool & Die, SF. March 18, 1983.
Social Distortion, Ribzy, Faction, Grim Reality, Living Abortions, Executioner at the American Legion Hall, Campbell. June 5, 1983.
Executioner at Agnews State Mental Hospital. June 28, 1983.
Dead Kennedys, Executioner, others at the On Broadway, SF. Summer 1983.
Bad Brains, Executioner, others at the On Broadway, SF. Summer 1983.
Executioner: Birthday Party for manager Danny Rodriguez, Campbell. Summer 1983.
Executioner, Ribzy, others at the Tool & Die, SF. Autumn 1983 (recorded).
Executioner: Birthday Party at the Nauckhoff’s residence, Campbell. Late 1983.
Lemon Fresh Pledge of Defiance, Mistaken Identity, Grim Reality, Ribzy, Executioner, Unknown Paint Warehouse, Sunnyvale. November 12, 1983. (Murray Bowles photo-documented event (Last show with original lineup).
Practice session at Mike and Gina’s (Charles Norman, Johnny Genocide, Dave Boston, Flame, Brian Heffron, Darrin Phipps: Johnny B. Goode unplugged ).


Agnews State Mental Hospital, Santa Clara, CA., June 21st 1983:
Agnews State Mental Hospital had been around since the late 19’th century, and was essentially a ‘city within a city’ for the mentally ill as well as the emotionally and developmentally disabled. When the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 struck, some of the walls of this ‘sealed city’ came down, and a significant number of inmates just wandered off into the community at large. It took them literally months to round up the wandering loonies and put them back into the structurally repaired sanitarium. Not all ex-inmates were recovered. Some just simply ‘re-integrated’ back into the surrounding community, and no one was the wiser. So… it was almost as a symbolic homecoming for these wandering crazies when we were given this gig.
This performance was to be in the same vein as the early SF punk band CRIME playing San Quentin Prison nearly a half a decade before; but a little safer in terms of overall risk to the band. In the typed and mailed memo that Executioner received, we were given the rundown; developmentally disabled individuals (Down’s Syndrome, etc.) who had been under treatment for their condition, and had also been taught and counseled how to take charge of their own affairs (to a greater or lesser degree) were periodically released en masse back into the community. These releases were commemorated with a proper ‘Prom’. The theme of this particular prom was ‘A Night in Tropical Paradise’. Suggested attire for the band included brightly colored floral Hawaiian shirts. I’m sure that some festive ‘Robinson Crusoe’ straw hats with the frayed brims would not have been unwelcome either. Even the suggested length of the set was clearly stipulated. In Executioner’s dealings with the management of the event, it was often emphasized to the event staff that this was a hardcore/metal crossover band. The management seemed unconcerned. They explained that loud, fast, exciting music would be just the thing to whip up their audience into a delightfully whimsical frenzy and that a festive mood would prevail, no matter what type of music Executioner chose to play. Well… we did try to warn them…
Upon our arrival at the asylum gates (in our normal, ‘non-tropical’ attire), we were directed to the loading dock at the back of the combination auditorium/cafeteria where we loaded in the amps, and other gear. While loading in, two very business-like and matronly women introduced themselves as the ‘event coordinators’, and in a very friendly and enthusiastic way informed us again of the theme of the prom and their expectations for Executioner’s performance that evening. After setup and a brief sound check, Burks and Boston elected me as ‘MC’ for the evening, and requested that I announce the beginning of the show to the audience. I took the microphone from Burks, walked up to the edge of the stage, looked out over a seething sea of mongoloids, and in my best smarmy Las Vegas voice began…
“Hey ! How’s everybody doing out there tonight ? [they all begin shouting and babbling at high volume] All RIGHT !!!personally welcome you to ‘A Night in Tropical Paradise’ ! …and now, to take you to that Paradise, ladies and gentlemen, will you PLEASE welcome: E X E C U T I O N E R !!!!” Well, I’m here to
I handed the microphone back to Burks while the band launched into the harsh vamping instrumental intro of the song ‘Executioner’. After 8 bars, the plan was to have Burks leap in with his shrill and devastating buzzsaw vocals to launch into the full power and glory that was the ‘Executioner sound’ for the rest of the set. That was the plan, anyway…
Then there was the matter of the microphone itself…
The microphone was part of an ancient, light-duty PA system that was vintage 1950s/1960s and intended for things like having the school principal announce “Friday’s lunch will consist of ‘Pigs in a Blanket’, Tater Tots and a special mystery dessert !”, to roaring applause. That was the full extent of everyone’s expectations for the microphone; until Executioner showed up…
…upon reaching the 8’th bar of the song, Burks leaps to the front of the stage, microphone in hand and with a very gymnastic whiplash flourish, shouts “Yeeeeee-AH !!!” (his rebel-yell/war-cry that normally began this particular song) . These were the last human words that this microphone would ever transmit. The pleasantly colored brown and green plaid cloth-covered cable ripped right out of the back of the microphone as a consequence of the whiplash maneuver , and now there were to be no more vocals from here on in. Burks, being a sharp lad, realized that he would be forced to mime the entire set ! We all immediately realized that things were off to an unexpectedly bad start, but there was nothing to do but to soldier on…
Parallel with this ugly development was the sudden rush of the crowd to the front of the stage once the music started; in particular, Boston’s thundering drums, the Norman/Means 2-guitar attack, and Fraenza’s malevolent bass. The members of the audience were absolutely piled against the stage and were reaching out towards the band. We were all pretty flattered at such an enthusiastic response, and our egos were swelling by the second until we realized exactly why they had rushed to the stage, hands outstretched…
Live bands rarely played here, so the stage was rarely used for purposes of live performance. The real reason that the inmates had rushed the stage was not to reach out to these ersatz ‘rock stars’, but to reach just beyond the foot-lights (which were very rarely used) to stare at their own hands ! They actually couldn’t give a shit about the band !
As the set finally concluded, poor Burks was exhausted from having to be overly athletic for the whole set to compensate for the lack of audible vocals, and all of that extra ‘body-English’ had brought him near to the point of total collapse. The whole night had been stiflingly hot, and Boston and I decided to go get something to drink, which meant entering the crowd (which we were both curious to do anyway, for obvious reasons). Making our way across the dance-floor, we were abruptly encountered by one of the inmates, who seemed very alert and had a particular air of mischief about him. He announced to Boston and I “Hi ! My name is BOB !” and stuck out his hand, offering it (apparently) for a handshake. As soon as Boston or I would extend our own hand to complete the handshake, ‘Bob’ would abruptly withdraw his own hand and with a maniacal laugh, run off and disappear into the thick crowd. He would do this, periodically, to Boston and I, for the rest of the evening, and we were only too happy to indulge this harmless little peccadillo, which seemed to amuse ‘Bob’ greatly… It seemed to be sort of symbolic of an evening in which a State Mental Hospital unleashed some epic whoop-ass on Executioner, when we thought that we would be the dominant force that night !
Happily, the rather staid event coordinator ladies came up to us afterward and declared the prom, and in particular our performance, a roaring success based on the audience’s enthusiastic reaction.

On Broadway, SF with Dead Kennedys and Bad Brains (2 separate, but closely scheduled gigs: Summer 1983):
When Punk Rock began in the mid-1970s, part of its charm was the ‘tear all of this old, bloated shit down and start again’ ethos. That meant ‘no fucking celebrities, no stars, we’re all equals: period !’. With the advent of hardcore (which the SF scene will tell you, started with the sudden rise of the Dead Kennedys, at least as far as the Bay Area is concerned), the ‘star system’ was back with a vengeance, as if it were only taking a wee nap in Hollywood the whole time. In most of the smaller gigs of the early 1980s, any of the bands who showed up to play at a given venue could have ‘headlined’ (for the most part). It was often decided by coin toss, or some other random means. That’s how egalitarian things were at the time. Every band prided itself on its rough, dirty street-level sound. Too much musicianship was frowned upon as getting dangerously close to the dreaded excesses of the Metal and Prog-Rock genres of the time. Too many notes in a solo might get your ass kicked after the show by boot-boys who would crush any apparent poseur or pseudo-scenester. This was to change, however, once promoters realized that certain bands and their growing following could fill a hall, while others were destined for nothing more than exile in their garage practice space, languishing in obscurity. Welcome to the On Broadway, 1983 !
The On Broadway (now ‘Broadway Studios’) was directly above the epicenter of SF Punk Rock, which is to say the ‘Mabuhay Gardens’ (run at that time by Dirk Dirksen and Ness Aquino). The On Broadway was once a gorgeous and proper theatre for light entertainment, etc., complete with velvet stage curtain and all of the other lavish trimmings that one would expect for a small-to-medium sized theatre from San Francisco’s heyday; many decades before the 1980s. On the west side of the Mabuhay/On Broadway building stood an alley where a 2-story daunting steel staircase lead to the On Broadway backstage area for loading in gear. In fact, if I earned a beer for every Marshall cabinet and amp I’ve ever had to wrestle up those fuckers, I’d need a new liver and kidneys by now (fair warning to any sap who thinks that being the manager of a Punk Rock band is strictly a ‘back office’ affair with a secretary, a FAX machine, a comfy chair upholstered in diamond tuck and a water cooler).
At load in and set up, we were to face the resident ogre of the establishment for our sound check; a cranky, worn out hippie soundman who pretty much hated all varieties of Punk Rock. During sound check at the On Broadway, a typical exchange with the sound guy went something like this: Charles would say something like “Could we have a little more guitar in the monitors, please ?” This simple request would enrage him nearly to the point of planning which one of us he was going to shank first with any broken beer bottle nearest to hand. Sound check needed to happen in about 60 seconds (without any troublesome requests), or he would sabotage your sound into a muddy and undifferentiated sonic mucous that even the Melvins would find distasteful. After several requests on our part, he would finally relent. “Alright ! Alright ! You fuckers are gonna sound just like Led Zeppelin when I get through with you !” he would sneer at some point during the proceedings. So, after that ordeal was over, Boston would leave the guy baffled as to proper microphone placement for each of his percussion elements. We’d leave to procure food and booze, while the sound guy would be left tinkering and working his ‘magic’ on our behalf, but unimpeded by our ‘constant interference’. I mean, shit, we’re only the musicians. What the hell would we know about sound ?!?!
Upon returning from whatever hell-hole we’d had dinner at in SF’s North Beach, we’d be ready to do the show. We’d be told by the stage hand “You guys go on in 15 minutes.” This often meant a panic for Bill Fraenza (during these early days he had a bit of anxiety in front of larger crowds; he’s since become a very seasoned performer through a long succession of bands, and is now completely devoid of stage fright). Bill would come over to Boston and I and say “I need a 40 ouncer of Bud, or I’m not gonna play !” This meant that Boston and I would have to run across the street to the liquor store that was run by angry and suspicious Persians, and ‘run the gauntlet’. The Persian proprietors probably had come over from Iran in the mid-1970s with master’s degrees in medicine and law, and now, in this so-called ‘land of opportunity’, they were reduced to selling Muscatel and Night Train to derelicts as well as clove cigarettes and Budweiser to stegosaurus-mohawked punk rockers. So as to preserve the little nest egg that was their store’s inventory, they had a strict and inflexible policy of only 2 punks in the store at the same time. This was meant to curtail any thievery on our part, which many punks would engage in any way as a matter of honor and craft. Needless to say: you didn’t just ‘pop into the liquor store’ for a quick beer before the show.
Once we hurried back inside the club, there was only enough time to write out a single set list, which was kept just in front of Boston’s drum riser. I would usually conceal myself behind Boston’s drum kit during the set, prepared to leap out and plug a suddenly unplugged guitar back in, or make sure that the lads had enough to drink while onstage, etc. This unfortunate single set list arrangement meant that I was to call out each new song in the set at the top of my lungs, so that everybody in the band knew what the fuck to play next. The show began, and in pretty short order, I saw Jello Biafra’s head at front-center stage with a big smile on his face worthy of Howdy-Doody. He seemed to really appreciate our sound. The set went very well, and we went offstage in about a half an hour. Everyone was exhausted, especially with the summer heat, and we tore everything down as quickly as possible to prepare the stage for the next band, and to secure our gear until load out (so no one could rip us off). Jello comes up to us as we’re wrangling our gear and says “You guys sounded great ! By the way, are you guys from Stockton [a nearby cow-town, known for its hicks] or something ? You guys were callin’ out the songs like you were running a square-dance !” We managed some weary laughter and promptly proceeded to get fucked up and see the rest of the show.
At the end of the evening, with the headliner at last offstage, it was that moment that every band member and band manager dreads: getting paid. At the On Broadway, this entailed going into the ‘office’, and humbly requesting your fee for musical services rendered from the management team of Dirk Dirksen and Paul Rat. As the manager, it was my job to see that we weren’t too badly raped. The Gate and Bar revenues were tallied, overhead was deducted and the remnants of the cash would be doled out to the various performers in little envelopes, each with a band’s name on it.
The tally for these 2 shows went like this:
Dead Kennedys: $1500.00
Bad Brains: $1250.00
Executioner: $40.00
After playing your heart out and maybe being able to pay for your dinner that evening from your meager wages, it was time to lug all of your shit down the widow-maker back stairs. As you pulled away in your truck full of gear, you would see the bright pink neon of the numerous North Beach strip clubs washing down on the drunks stumbling by the barkers and busty babes, all the while knowing that you were closer to the bum end of the scale, than having your name in neon lights any time soon. Such is the harsh reality of the ‘Rock and Roll’ dream…

[Note: the entire live Executioner set from the On Broadway Dead Kennedys show has been recorded directly from the mixing board and will be a future release]. 

For the Bad Brains show at the On Broadway, all of the above still held true with the addition of a couple of small but significant events:

After Executioner left the stage in their opening slot for the evening, Dave Boston wanted to get the fuck out of there until the headliner, Bad Brains, went on. We walked out on the supporting band (whoever that may have been), pushed our way down the interior stairs and spilled out onto the chaos that is Broadway, SF running at full tilt on a summer Saturday night. Broadway consisted of certain ‘primal elements’ that made up this 3 block strip: the 4 ‘T’s: namely: Tricksters, Tramps, Tits and Trouble. Boston tells me “Man, I want a beer, but I don’t wanna go back to those cranky Persian fuckers at the liquor store across the street, and then have to down the same beer in a dark alley like some criminal. I wanna drink a civilized beer like an adult in a place that has some fucking ATMOSPHERE !” I remind him that such an undertaking would involve having a proper I.D., and that he being 16 or 17 years old at that moment, it wasn’t too damn likely for tonight ! Suddenly, he gets a smile on his face like a man who’s just been given a day-pass to a Nevada Cat-House, while dipping his fingers into one of his shirt pockets. Out leaps some other person’s California Drivers License (I can’t recall who it even belonged to) between his fingers, that just happens to be over 21. I ask him “Where in the fuck did you get THAT ?!?! It’s not even YOU !” He waved me off with a wagging index finger and pointed to the Strip, as if to say ‘You just pick the place. Don’t hand me any more bullshit !’ Grumbling, I concede “Alright, alright… I know a place where they probably won’t throw us out right away. Come onnnnn…” …and so we shuffled westward down Broadway, took a right on Columbus and another quick right onto Grant Ave.

There, on the corner of Grant Ave.& Fresno Street (the hell-hole California city of Fresno certainly being an ill omen for this evening), stood a derelict old place that had been there since the 19th century, when this was all part of the City of Sin known as the Barbary Coast (named after the African Coast of a century or two before where real pirates plied their trade in great numbers. The original Barbary Coast was eventually burned to the ground, almost in its entirety, supposedly by ‘accident’ (but really ‘on purpose’, by disgruntled, city-minded folk)). The official name of the bar was simply ‘The Saloon’ (and it still stands there today on the selfsame spot, open for business). One actually entered into this fine establishment through the corner of the building where there should have been a door. There wasn’t a door (to the naked eye) that I could detect. The place was packed with loud drinking yahoos who were spilling out onto the curb like something you’d see on ‘Bonanza’ after a cattle drive, when everyone would spend their money on whiskey and women, then wake up the next morning in a Mexican jail with no recollection of the previous evening’s festivities in any useful detail; especially that new tattoo that they just woke up with…

It seemed a most suitable spot indeed for Boston’s official ‘Baptism by Beer’. I motioned for him to him to go in, and his eyes became as big as saucers. This place was about as wild a drinking locale as one could have hoped for. We wedged our way in, past the seemingly endless wall of old, burly, bearded men swinging their beer mugs around, sloshing everybody, and at last, bellied up to the bar. The bartender, another burly, bearded guy, asks me “What’ll it be?” I realize that I don’t even know what the hell Boston wants to drink, and I can’t drink (even though I’m about 26 years old during this period) because I have to do manager-type shit for Executioner, like get our asses paid tonight ! So I lean over to Boston and say “Whaddya want ?”. “Beer ! ” replies Boston. I roll my eyes and swivel back to the barkeep and say “Give my friend here your finest beer on tap.”. “Pabst Blue Ribbon OK ?” inquires the bartender. “Oh, it sure is !” I reply with a half-hearted smile, wondering how many more seconds it’ll be until the axe falls on both of us as we’re trampled to death by the work boots of the angry natives who’ve at last detected our unwelcome intrusion into their sanctum sanctorum. The barkeep stabs his index finger in Boston’s direction and asks me “He 21 ?”. I give Boston the look of ’well, here we go, straight to Hell’. Boston, however, calmly extracts the fake I.D. and offers it to the bartender like he’s been doing it for years; calm, cool and collected like an experienced diplomat. The bartender starts giving the I.D. the ‘hairy eyeball’; scrutinizing every detail. After some deep analysis, the bartender looks up at Boston and says “6 feet tall, huh ?”. Boston hops off of his barstool and stands erect with a big smile on his face, stretching himself out to his full height like a soldier in front of his drill sergeant; ready for inspection. The bartender remarks ‘Damn, that kid is TALL !”. I reply impatiently, “Yeah; it’s glandular; runs in the family… Can we get a BEER here, PLEASE ?!?!” (wanting to just get this suspenseful ordeal over with). The bartender flips the fake I.D. back onto the bar in front of Boston’s bar stool with a scowl, and turns to pull the tap on a fresh mug of PBR for our boy. Boston gives me a look like ‘See ? Everything is under control.’, just a smilin’ like it was all proceeding according to his master plan. The bartender returns, pops the beer in front of Boston and says to me “That’ll be 2 bucks.”. I hand him a 5 and tell him to keep the change. The bartender loves me again. I look over at Boston, who is just taking his first sip. An expression creeps over his face akin to a man who is slowly easing himself into a pair of new mink-lined underpants: pure and sublime enjoyment. He nods at me with an ‘everything has met or exceeded my expectations’ kind of look. I’m slightly relieved that the worst seems to be over...

We stay for another beer, before I inform Boston that we’d better get back if we want to see Bad Brains. He slams the last of his second beer down, and we exit the bar while saluting the barkeep. “Come back any time” the bartender shouts, smiling (we ended up paying him $10.00 for two $2.00 beers, just to keep the peace). “Not bloody likely.” I mutter under my breath, as I drag Boston out of the bar and back onto the madhouse that is the Broadway thoroughfare once more.

We get back to the front entrance of the On Broadway. Jennifer (Patterson, Johnny Genocide’s (‘No Alternative’, ‘KGB’, ‘Swingin’ Possums’, etc.) future wife) is working the door. On either side of her are 6 foot tall horizontal stacks of skateboards. Each of these skateboards would be surrendered by a punk before they were allowed up the stairs to see the show. Miraculously, every one of these skateboards would find its rightful owner at the end of the evening, regardless of how crazy and manic the show might have been. I don’t think they ever lost a single one. We show Jennifer our hand-stamps, tell her that we’re with Executioner and she motions us up the stairs. We stop at the bar on the second floor; the On Broadway Club, proper. I gaze over at the balcony on the south side of the club, which has a glorious view of the San Francisco skyline. There, basking in the moonlight is Dave Burks SMOKING POT with HR and the other guys from Bad Brains. It’s in that very moment that I realize managing Executioner is definitely going to shorten my lifespan: probably ending it sometime next week…

Tool & Die with Ribzy, others (late 1983):
[Note: the entire set from the performance described below was recorded straight from the mixing board (mistakes, problems, stage dialog, etc.) and will be part of a future ‘Executioner LIVE’ release.]
In some ways, the Valencia Tool & Die was the direct opposite of the On Broadway. Where the On Broadway was a spacious theatre with a full stage, theatrical lighting, full PA, etc., the Tool & Die had no real stage at all; just a corner of the room dedicated to the musical performance of the moment, and even this was of very restricted size with no elevated riser. A small closet on one wall provided the erstwhile ‘bar’ and all of this was in a cramped basement that was just over 6 and half feet tall. The entire affair was accessed through a hatch in the floor of the ground level of the building. The size of the hatch was approximately 4’ x 4’ and lead to something like a cross between stairs and a ladder. To get a full Marshall cabinet through the hatch and down the stairs without skinning your knuckles was like trying to pull a basketball out of a hippopotamus’ ass without trying to get your hands dirty. One lapse in your vigilant concentration and all was lost.
The ground/street-level floor lead from Valencia street through a quiet sort of art gallery setting where people could visit and look about at the art and graffiti on the walls. The bottom/basement story had only recently been set up for live performances within the last few years at that time (circa 1979/80) and large amounts of sand had been used to deaden the subterranean performance space so that even if a band like Crucifix was playing at full power, as long as the hatch was closed, the worst of your worries were merely the little eruptions of dust and sand puffing up around the periphery of the hatch in time to the thump of the bass cabinets. That was about it. As the performance area was part of the support structure of the building, the entire basement level was interspersed with 1’ x 1’ vertical pilings. What this resulted in, particularly for punk and hardcore performances was something that resembled a manic Pachinko game of little shaved heads trying to approach maximum velocity and power through random collision, once a ‘pit’ really got going. The enthusiastic stubble-headed 15 to 16 year old punks (Kat Hill of Ribzy and Kitty Litter used to call them ‘Burr-Heads’, since their close, yet somewhat spiked hairdos resembled cockleburs) would build such a momentum that anyone downstairs would be treated to a sort of ‘washing-machine jammed full of tennis balls’ effect as the music would oscillate between ‘Swivel’ and “Slam’ tempos in the pit, which, as I say, was studded with vertical support columns every few feet. But even with all of this going on, the cops wouldn’t suspect a thing if they were to drive or even walk by the place; so effective was the ‘sonic containment field’ of the hatch. In fact, it took over TWO YEARS for the cops to catch on at all to the reality that punk/hardcore shows were going on here several times a week.
I remember people like Mark Dagger, Spike and others who would run security on both levels, and they were very effective. Shit was not going to go down and ruin it for everyone, and so it was. All was well and conditions were perfect for our little hoe-down that night.
At any rate, we arrived during the late afternoon and shoved all of of our shit down the hole so that we could get to the beer-drinkin’ and chick-charmin’ part of our evening. Greg Oropeza and Ribzy also arrived around the same time. The relationship between Executioner and Ribzy was one of benevolent ‘cöopetition’. Heated arguments would often break out over who would headline and who would support for a given show (and both bands were often on the same bill), but when one of these 2 bands was onstage and the other was in the pit, there was nothing but pure support, because we were both San José (or South Bay) bands playing in a foreign city.

It was decided that Ribzy would go on first and that Executioner would headline. This allowed Greg to have his energy burst early, play his heart out and get back to beer-drinkin’ while Executioner entertained him. Ribzy played a fun but powerful set. As Ribzy moved all of their gear to one side and we began to move all of ours into position for playing, Greg grabs the house mic (which is still live) and puts his hand around my shoulder so that we can sing an impromptu version of ‘Dem Belly Full (But We Still Hungry’) a capella style. I don’t even know why this happened, but it seemed to foreshadow the rest of the evening. Greg grew impatient and wanted Executioner to entertain him damned soon, so… as Executioner finishes tuning up Greg yells into the mic

Here’s the Bar, there’s the Beer, let’s hear more EXECUTIONEEEEER !”.

Upon which, Boston clicks off a 4-count and we’re off to the races ! Charles’ power-chording blasts in and Greg can still be heard shrieking “EXECOZEEEEEEE !” over the still live house mic. I can see that the mixture of the booze and anticipation (from waiting around all day to headline) has reached a fever pitch which has resulted in an Executioner set where everything is just right. The sound is like Mötorhead and the Germs (studio Germs) have collided in this tiny place. I’ve never seen Executioner play this well, either at practice or live at a gig. Everything is going swimmingly. Suddenly, as Charles goes for some flash maneuver on ‘Hellbound’, he hits the multi-position pickup selector switch on his Les Paul to choose a different pickup for the lead, and the guitar sound completely loses all distortion. The Marshall cabinets are delivering not the buzzsaw proto-metal meets hardcore sound that’s supposed to come out, but instead, something that resembles a ukulele fighting with a banjo inside of the Grand Ole Opry while a Fender Telecaster acts as referee ! Everyone in the mayhem that is the pit looks up to see what the fuck is going on, like they’ve been horribly gypped or something. Poor Charles feels the heat of everyone’s eyes upon him, so he still continues to play, but the problem is absolutely not going away, no matter which pickup he selects. He keeps soldiering on to the end of the song, but everything just sort of peters out. Now, we’re in troubleshooting and guitar repair mode, onstage. The other members of Executioner are forced to stand idly by while Charles does surgery on his Les Paul live for the crowd. Charles has brought only 1 guitar.

After a couple of minutes of tinkering, he thinks he’s got it licked, so the set is begun again, from the top. ‘Hellbound’ starts up; the crowd and the band are at fever pitch once more. Charles goes for the power lead again, reaches for the pickup selector switch and the problem is back in all of its previous ugliness. Because beer, boredom, testosterone and adrenaline have been building up all day, this problem is turning the entire Executioner set into a complete ‘dry hump’ for both the crowd and the band .

Boston shrieks “FIX the FUCKER !!!”. Dead stop.

Charles has to do more repairs on the Les Paul, while everyone stands around.

Finally, Charles says he’s ready to give it another go. Executioner blasts through their entire set with only minimal problems and maximum effect. Everyone is so relieved that they’re getting a little giddy, and it’s now approaching 2 AM or so.

Charles leans over to Boston, there is a quick exchange between them, and Charles nods his assent. He starts playing the intro to “Purple Haze’ by Jimi Hendrix on his guitar, while Boston declaims “OK, Flame !”. As ‘Purple Haze’ was one of the riffs that Charles would play casually between songs during practices (along with “Love Me like a Reptile’ by Mötorhead, ‘Rock and Roll’ by Led Zeppelin, and a handful of others), the joke was always that I should actually sing the song some time during a live set for a couple of reasons. I had actually seen Hendrix perform live in San José in 1969/1970, and since I was old enough to have participated in the Hippie movement, it was thought I’d be the only one who had the right to sing it. Burks shouts into the mic “OK, Flame !”, echoing Boston’s sentiments. Burks hands me the mic and I proceed to belt out a nearly pitch-free monstrosity version of the song. As there are no stage monitors: I can’t even hear my own voice, except for when it is bouncing off of the back wall. It all comes to a shambling end. The evening and performances are over at last.

Time to roadie everything back to the car and pack it up for the hour-long drive south. As we wrestle all of our shit back out of the hole and stack it next to the dreaded hatch, I look over to see the following new graffiti on the Tool & Die gallery wall:

Hide your Daughters and Neuter your Wives !
Executioner is coming to your town !”

What a great and delicious epitaph…
All notes above: Raymond E. André III / ‘Flame’, 2011.

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