Justin Maurer has been the leader of Clorox Girls for about a decade, has narrowly escaped organ theft in Turkey on at least one occasion, and has a book of fiction coming out this spring. Dan Collins and Daniel Clodfelter catch up with him in Long Beach at the Pike—the bar on 4th Street, NOT the lame outdoor tourist mall also called the Pike, which the Dans found out after much confusion spent stumbling through an Islands restaurant across from P.F. Chang’s. This month the Clorox Girls will play their first L.A. show in two years.
You almost went to prison once for exposing yourself to a minor.
Justin Maurer (guitar/vocals): It was in Redmond, Washington, kind of the conservative area of Seattle. They called the police, they came, and when they came out and told me to stop, I put one of those orange roadside cones in front of me! They tried to charge me with a felony for exposing myself to a minor 14 years old or younger, and it was just being naked for playing a show. I didn’t know there was a 14-year-old girl in the audience! It was her mom who pressed charges. I had to go to court. My public defender was pregnant and didn’t come to maybe 75 percent of my trials. It took over a year. They reduced the charge to a gross misdemeanor. I ended up having to pay shitloads of money and do community service.
That sounds Clorox-esque—musically, you tend to balance between serious danger and lighthearted fun. Are you guys more like a Dario Argento film where a shark fights a zombie? Or are you more like a kitten sunning himself on a windowsill?
Justin Maurer: I think it’s more like The Warriors. We’ve been trying to get back to Coney Island for almost ten years now, and we still haven’t made it back.
You did a zombie music video a couple years ago. Who directed that?
Justin Maurer: Brady Hall, the Jerkbeast guy. He did another movie called Butt Cutter, which starred two of the guys from Holy Ghost Revival, who we’re really good friends with. And we loved Jerkbeast so much that we asked him to do a video. And he did.
You guys have covered Holy Ghost Revival and you’ve toured with them. You seem to be kindred spirits.
Justin Maurer: We grew up together—Conor, the singer. At a time when the jocks at my high school were just into Dre and Eminem, Conor was the kind of guy wearing lipstick to high school and listening to Alice Cooper. I always thought Conor was one of the most amazing songwriters of all time. They did that song ‘Flowers of Evil,’ but it was kind of a lo-fi recording. They kind of never did it justice. And you know how bands hate it when the crowd requests the same song over and over? They stopped playing it. And finally I asked Conor if we could cover it, and he came down and played piano on half the album and sang backing vocals. I feel so honored to have had anything to do with them period, because they’re one of the greatest bands of all time.
You moved to London to manage Holy Ghost Revival and just came back from being in England for two years. How do you keep a band like the Clorox Girls together while living abroad?
Justin Maurer: Well, it was in definite hiatus for a while. I found out I was going to be here for a while, and we decided to play a couple shows. Richie’s on drums and Daniel moved to London, but couldn’t come back because of his credit card bills, so Tommy from the Rough Kids is playing bass.
While there, you joined a band with Chris Brief called Suspect Parts. What was it like playing shows with that band in England and Europe?
Justin Maurer: It was good! In mainland Europe, folks literally give you the shirts off their backs. You go and play and they give you dinner, as much beer as you can drink all night, a place to stay, breakfast, and it’s just assumed. I was living in Spain and Chris was in Germany, and during the Briefs’ last tour Chris came up to me and said, ‘We should be in a band.’ And we did a couple tours and a couple 7”, but it was difficult because Chris was in Berlin, I was in London. We’d wait three months and tour for a week, and wait three months and tour for a week. I really missed tour! I had withdrawal. And in England right now, the music scene is so dire and depressing and disappointing. It’s all about haircuts and not about the music. It’s all laptops and drum machines—things that could be alright if people were innovative! But if you think about it, the Libertines were the last exciting thing to happen over there. The kids aren’t starting garage bands. I’m so stoked to be spending some time in America.
When you were a kid, you used to light fireworks out of your butt! Do you wish you had a ghostly proctologist friend to help soothe your wounds?
Justin Maurer: Every once in a while. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced being on tour where you end up just shitting blood—it happened to me so many times. I had to call the doctor in Sweden one time and this guy had to translate. You know, ‘What is the problem?’ And I literally had to say, ‘Shitting blood.’ ‘What color is it?’ ‘Bright red.’ ‘Oh, that’s okay. If it was dark brown, you’d have internal bleeding. But since it’s bright red, you just need to eat more vegetables and fiber.’
Good medical advice for our readers! You’ve also been deliberately poisoned once.
Justin Maurer: I was drugged in Istanbul. There was this barbeque where they’d make these sandwiches for 50 cents, and I was hanging out there and everybody was all, ‘My friend! Where you from, my friend?’ And I’d be like, ‘America.’ And this guy goes, ‘Sacramento Kings! We have a Turkish player. NBA! NBA! Where are you from?’ And I said Seattle, and he goes, ‘Seattle Supersonics! Sacramento Kings! If you ever need a cheap flight, talk to me! I’m the Kings!’ So we were looking for a flight from Istanbul to Rome, and we couldn’t find a cheap flight. So we ran into this guy, and he took us into a rug shop where this guy was talking about how Romanian hookers in Turkey were so much cheaper than the prostitutes in Las Vegas. And he was smoking hash really openly, and in Turkey you can go to jail for life for even having a joint on you. And so he must have been dodgy in some way. So we had some cups of tea in these big glasses and after about the second glass, I started getting really woozy. And I washed my face off with water and realized it was the date rape drug, and that he’d spiked our drinks. And we managed to get out of there, but I was passed out for about fourteen hours straight. I shit myself. I puked. And I don’t know what he wanted—if he was going to steal my liver or passport, or kidnap me, or whatever.
Were you on tour?
Justin Maurer: No, me and a friend decided to go to Istanbul. It was great! You just have to watch yourself. The craziest thing I saw in Istanbul was an ad in Cosmo magazine of this really busty American woman. And this little boy had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt on and one of those laser guns—‘Bew bew bew bew!’—holding hands with this fully veiled mom in front of this Cosmo ad. And it was really the clash of civilization. You saw it happen right in front of your face. And you—you’re the walking Cosmo magazine! You’re just a tall, white, imperialist, blonde-hair … ‘Who the fuck are you to come here and tell us how to live?’
Which Ninja Turtle is the most offensive to Islamic culture?
Justin Maurer: Probably Michelangelo, just because …
Because they associate him with the Vatican’s ceiling? If the Ninja Turtles are Catholic, what’s the Islamic equivalent of Shredder?
Justin Maurer: The Supreme Ruler of Iran. He’s the equivalent of the Pope, I think. The new leader of Hamas can be Splinter. You can pretend I know his name.
If you’re imperialist Americans, why did you name your 2007 album J’aime Les Filles?
Justin Maurer: Honestly, it was kind of a reactionary thing. We were doing a record on BYO, who were known for being kind of tattoo/skater/macho punk rock. And we were like, ‘Let’s do a French POP ALBUM!’ And we were really into Jacques Dutronc, and we did a cover of this French pop singer Lio—‘Les Banana Split.’ And we were listening to a lot of Starshooter and old French punk. At the time, Richie came to Portland, and we were sleeping on the bassist Daniel’s girlfriend’s apartment’s floor, and the only thing that would cheer us up was listening to French pop. At the time I was so depressed and had such a chip on my shoulder, and listening to Les Calamités was the only thing that would cheer me up. And we were about to do a record on BYO, and I felt like we had to be macho, and I thought we should go the other way and do what we do best, but slightly gay. And we did, and the album did sound pretty gay—in good and bad ways!
That record was produced by Pat Kearns, who also did the Exploding Hearts. It was a little more polished than your old stuff. Where do you see your next album going?
Justin Maurer: It’s going back to old L.A. punk, to the Crowd and the Gears. And to Fullerton—Adolescents, Angry Samoans, early Social Distortion. I dunno—I wanted to do a pop album, but now I want to do a punk album, really bad!
Speaking of old L.A. punk, don’t you and Don Bolles from the Germs go back?
Justin Maurer: He had a crush on our first bass player, Jeanique. And at the time she was about 19. We were playing with the Stitches at Juvee, and it was one of our first shows ever in Los Angeles. And it was such a great show. We met Janet Housden from Redd Kross—she interviewed the band who was wielding the chain and the dog masks in your last issue—and we were stoked! And Don Bolles comes up and asks, ‘What’s up with the “Clorox Fox?”’ And Jeanique was my girlfriend at the time—not to mention she was 19! And he was playing in that goth band where the guy hung himself …
Justin Maurer: He was hanging out with a bunch of really big-boobed 15-year-old goth girls wearing corsets and the goth boots. And he was like, ‘I came to watch your band. Come and watch my band.’ And we walked across the street to the Garage, and the singer was so strung out. They set up all these stacked Marshall amps, about a thousand pedals, and it was about 40 minutes of him trying to get it to work and Don Bolles shrugging his shoulders. And we told him we wanted to hang out the next morning and have champagne breakfast with him, but we were just kind of kidding. But he called us the next morning and asked if we were coming, and we said no, we had to go to a show in San Francisco. And he gets all silent for a second and goes, ‘I live near Dodger Stadium. There’s no food around here at all. I thought you guys were going to come here.’ And I sincerely felt bad! And the drummer and I wanted to go over—we thought maybe we could find some Germs 45s that we could have or something—but Jeanique was so creeped out that we just ended up going to San Francisco and leaving Don Bolles at his apartment near Dodger Stadium without any champagne, nor breakfast—ha ha! But I have a Germs tattoo, and I was too embarrassed to show him.
Why do all the Clorox Girls have an ‘M’ tattoo on their wrists?
Justin Maurer: It’s kind of tongue-in-cheek, but I was in a political science class and the key to success is the triple Ms: money plus media equals momentum! It’s the key to success for any American political campaign. So in a band, it’s the same, and I was really into it. ‘Look, you have the money, right?!? You fucking tour your ass off, you put out a record. And then you have the media. You get a couple interviews’—like hey, right now—‘and then after they print the interview, then you get momentum! And that makes you more money, and then you get more media and get more momentum!’ But we didn’t have any money in our equation. We only had double Ms—we never had triple Ms. If we had any money for a second, we just made the wrong decisions. But now I’m older and wiser, and Clorox Girls are back, and we’re going to DO it. Triple Ms!
Your next thing is coming out on Burger Records—a cassette release of old Clorox Girls demos.
Justin Maurer: Yep! It’s the first couple of 7” and then a bunch of weird demos. They’re actually mastering it, so hopefully it’ll sound alright. It’s kind of a craze, the cassette thing, isn’t it?
Ever since Bad Brains.
Justin Maurer: I’m really stoked. The guys are really nice guys. I haven’t been to Fullerton yet, the home of Fender and Agent Orange, Social Distortion and Burger Records! But I have to go down there.
We just found out that Thee Makeout Party! broke up! How can we bribe them to stay together?
Justin Maurer: Work in some oral sex? I dunno! L.A. RECORD should sponsor a Makeout Party trip to Disneyland.
Maybe we could give them hand jobs while wearing the Mickey gloves?
Justin Maurer: Just put them on the Small World ride over and over until they agree to keep playing!
THE CLOROX GIRLS WITH THE RED ONIONS, GESTAPO KHAZI, THE IMPEDIMENTS AND WOAH HUNX ON SAT., FEB. 13, AT THE 5 STAR BAR, 267 S. MAIN ST., DOWNTOWN. 8 PM / $12 / 21+. VISIT CLOROX GIRLS AT CLOROXGIRLS.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/CLOROXGIRLS.