THE GERMS: STAY OUT OF THE SUN!
Interview by Dan Collins.
So Shane has been singing with the reformed Germs for like three or four years now.
Don Bolles (drums): What’s funny is that we just figured out that this new version has been together longer than the old one was.
I think you’re right! Is Shane the permanent Darby Crash, or are you permitted to have any other people channel the spirit of Darby Crash?
Lorna Doom (bass): He’s not Darby Crash. He’s Shane West.
Shane West (vocals): I’m the last.
D: We don’t plan on it. Of course, we didn’t plan on this, either. It just sort of happened. Suddenly there was this guy there who knew how to do the thing. And then Pat was thinking about it because the movie people got him to teach the people how to be the Germs. And then I helped Pat be the Germs again.
What happened to having the band fronted by the reincarnation of Darby Crash in his ten-year-old cousin?
L: No, there’ll be no other replacement for Shane.
S: That is one-hundred percent Don Bolles, and every time it’s spoken of it’s Don, and every time Don says it, he’s not speaking with accuracy. In a way, he’s correct that she has talent, and she’s a wonderful person.
D: Her being ten and all made it so that she was really busy with grade school and stuff.
S: She’s already fifteen now. But she should have her own band. And she’ll have an amazing band.
Lorna, where have you been for the last twenty-five years?
L: I’ve been waiting for Shane to be born, and for things to finally come around to the right stage to resume the throne.
Any beauty secrets for those of us who want to transition from sweet young thangs to gorgeous sex-dowagers like yourself?
L: Stay out of the sun!
I just watched my screener copy of What We Do Is Secret a few days ago. It was a pretty funny movie in so many ways—though of course sad, too. When you guys watched it, were there a lot of tears, or more laughter?
L: It’s both!
But you know when you’re watching that the end is coming?
L: It always eventually does, but it was quite a shock when it actually happened.
S: It was all those emotions at once. But with distance—as time goes by—more laughter. At the beginning, more tears. My mom watched it, and she called me, and I had to stop her from crying. It was hard—there were drugs and dying and all this stuff, and my mom was so affected.
Do you think Shane pulled off his Darby Crash enough to make it moving?
L: Shane is unbelievable. Yes. It was such a spot-on performance. Darby would be so proud of his portrayal in the movie.
What other actors in the movie do you think deserve any praise?
S: J.P. Manoux who played Rodney. Rodney on the ROQ. Sebastian Roche who played Kickboy. I thought they nailed it. Those are my favorites. And also the guy who brings the drugs at the end: “I have no idea what this is!” He’s a very fine actor.
What do you think Darby would say if he were here right now and could see the reformed Germs playing together with a Hollywood actor performing in his role?
S: I think if he could see it, he’d like it. But he’d rather do it. Any time an original singer could do it, he’d be like, ‘Fuck that guy, I want to do it!’ Darby, I think, with the movie coming out and the band playing, would be rolling over in his grave—in a happy way. I think he’d be tickled pink.
Do you think he’d call it a cover band?
L: Oh, he would call it a cover band! But yes, wherever he is, he is smiling down on both the movie as well as our reforming of the band.
Who do you think is better—the reformed Germs or the reformed Sex Pistols?
D: Definitely the Germs.
S: Yes. I’ll put that out there. We’re tighter.
Do you think the Germs were more influential in the long term?
D: Well, the Sex Pistols ushered in that entire trend. I don’t think we did that. We’re some other thing. I think we were lucky to have that trend to ride around on for a little while. And we were lucky that what we did resembled what was punk. Because it had to be a little something besides a guy cutting himself. You know, that had already been done.
Maybe this isn’t a good thing, but certainly hardcore punk seemed to evolve from the South Bay scene, which kind of evolved from the Germs. Do you agree with those who ‘blame’ hardcore on the Germs?
D: It’s funny because it evolved from the people who liked what we did, but it was bound to match their media-exaggerated violence approach to punk rock. They didn’t know from punk rock. They weren’t the kind of people like the original punk rockers, who were the guys who were wearing the skinny ties and the sunglasses and looked like Jesus and Mary Chain people! You know—like Beatles people? They were record collectors. These were the people who first had punk rock. And they brought the singles back from England. And their friends might start a band here. You know, these guys first brought punk rock around. And they were looking for it. They would look for it through records and Melody Maker and New Music Express and Sniffin’ Glue and all that—that would crawl over here with people. So these people were actually seeking it. And by this time, all the intellectual fan base were already in it, and there were all these media reports, and the media reports were scoffed at by everyone who knew anything about punk rock. But at the time, that was a really small percentage of people. So these people—these high school people in the South Bay and Orange County—when they came to punk rock, they weren’t looking for anything. They came across punk rock as this other thing that already existed. They saw on TV this thing that they’d sort of heard about maybe from someone else by this time. And it was like—’What, I can just go and beat people up, and then I’m cool? Whoa, that’s kind of what I like to do anyway ‘cause I’m a dumb jock!’ So there was a huge influx of that. And they weren’t really about the music, but they needed to have the bands and music. And with the DIY thing, of course—that’s easy to take everywhere and to pass on because everyone wants to just do this stupid thing to themselves. And so they did that. Unfortunately, their idea of the music was just so they could have a friggin’ mosh pit and beat people up. Or just to have some kind of thing that involved beating people up and then being thought of as cool.
But I feel you and maybe Pat as well evolved into better trends…
D: No no no—that wasn’t what it was at all. What it was is that they took the music, and being sort of punk rockers in their way, they said, ‘Well, I can’t learn to play this shit. It’s fucking hard! What if we just take some of the beats out, you know?’ Oom-pah-oom-pah-oom-pah-oom-pah! And shout fucking lyrics over it, you know?’ That’s what they’re pretty much doing. We had all these subtleties in there. I never did that ‘forbidden’ beat, except a couple times backwards, you know, in a couple choruses. And that’s it. That ended up being hardcore, and I take no responsibility for that. Or the progressive hardcore that came from that shitty version of it because it wasn’t that good! It came from a really bad copy of what we were doing. It’s weird. What we were doing was good the way we did it. I don’t think what we were doing really translates that well into the stuff these guys were willing to do.
I noticed on stage that you had double bass drums.
D: I didn’t!
I could have sworn I saw them.
D: Well, I do now! I didn’t then. I always do now. I was dead set against it back in those days. It seemed like single-kick music to me at the time.
How was your reception at various Warped-Tour type activities?
S: That was great! We were on the Old School Punk Rock stage. So we were playing with people like M.I.A., Agent Orange, TSOL… Mike Watt, who was one of my favorites. The only hippie punk rock guy I know who plays like a fucking genius. And one of the nicest guys in the world. The crowd that showed up for the shows was great.
D: That was an L.A. thing, and it was insane. Maybe because we used the color blue in our logo, and it’s a Dodgers thing—I dunno!
Do you think it’s weird when you see people in the audience who weren’t even born when the Germs ended? People who born in, like, 1985, slam-dancing to the Germs?
D: No, that’s just a lot of the people I know now. So it’s the other people who are weird.
A couple of years ago I got to see you and Pat get together on stage for the Celebrity Skin reunion. Which was more fun—reuniting that band, or reuniting three fourths of the Germs?
D: I think they were both really great! I think Celebrity Skin shows were really amazing. A lot of people who don’t know anything about anything really like that show.
At Sunset Junction, I talked to a lot of people who were impressed by the Germs performance who, you know—went there expecting to deride it.
D: A lot of people do, but no one can after they see us do a couple of things. They realize that we’re up there being every fucking bit of it. Even the actor. He used to act like Darby a little more. Now that he’s fallen into the role—what he does is exactly what Darby did, except he does it better, which is what the singer in the Germs is supposed to do. So that’s what he’s doing. And if it’s like Darby, well, he’s got the tattoos and he looks a little like him, and he studied him for years so he could do this stupid movie. And he does a really good job. He sings way better!
Do you think in thirty years there’ll be a documentary about this time in the Germs’ career?
L: Of now? Of Circle Two? That remains to be seen.
S: The only way that would happen would be if I fucking killed myself on stage, and that ain’t gonna happen!