When the Arizona Republic ran their feature on the Kirkwood reunion last summer, they asked a handful of Phoenix luminaries for a list of their favorite local "influences," to be printed alongside the feature. I was included in the cattle-call, which included business entrepreneurs and broadcast celebrities as well as my fellow musicians. Naturally, I submitted a little more than just a list -- it was a perfect opportunity to add a little historic context, giving a little extra credit where it's due at the same time. Though the article itself made it online, as did the rest of the sidebar, I never saw anything by me, except in the the print edition. Whatever; I still have my copy:
Too often, a list of "influences" is just a bunch of artists somebody likes. This time, I've chosen to avoid the usual suspects (Hazelwood, Cooper, Tubes, et. al.) and attempt to rescue from the dustbin a handful of obscure Phoenicians who had an actual influence on me. If you've never heard of 'em, that just underscores how badly they need some ink.
1. Mike Condello Mike "Commodore" Condello was my first personal hero. His two "Mini Albums" released under the aegis of the Wallace And Ladmo show were my prized possessions as a kid. It took me months to save up enough allowance and visit the old Ladmo Drive-In for my copies (which I still have). Suffice to say, I knew Condello's take-offs on Sergeant Pepper and Jimi Hendrix long before I discovered the originals.
2. Dolan Ellis Back when we were teens, "Arizona's Official Balladeer" was a rich source of derision for my friends and I. To my by-then thoroughly Beatle/Hendrix saturated ears, Ellis' super-straight country crooning was profoundly kitschy. But Dolan's outlasted 'em all. He's still hanging in there.
3. Jack Knetzger Back before there was a Meat Puppets, my first musical mentor and I had a band called the Atomic Bomb Club. Perhaps if Jack hadn't been so determined to complete his college education and find a "real" job, Nirvana might have covered three of his songs instead. But he's also still going strong -- his web site at http://www.knetzcomics.com/ features several albums worth of free downloadable tracks, as well as a generous selection of old Bomb Club recordings (many of which feature guest performances by both Kirkwood brothers).
4. John Vivier The original renaissance man of the Phoenix punk scene. I first heard about him when his group the Heavy Metal Frogs played a stealth lunchtime gig at my high school. This was before the days of punk, but the group's psychotic performance earned them an escort off campus just the same. By the time I got to know him a couple years later, John was a member of most every cool band in town (Feederz, Liars, Cicadas, Killer Pussy, International Language). Hard living caught up with him in 1983. To this day, I'd like to smack him.
5. Don Bolles When one of your local heroes joins your favorite band (the Germs), there's only one word for it. Out here in Goldwater Country, we call it "pride."
6. David Wiley Even after he moved to Los Angeles, first with the Consumerz and later singing for the Human Hands, David and I maintained a correspondence. Once the Meat Puppets got on its feet, David got us our first gigs on the west coast, and made for us the crucial introductions. If anyone is said to have "discovered" the Meat Puppets, David is the man.
7 & 8. George Dillon & Bill Bored No mere bedroom noodlers, these boys helped break the Phoenix club scene open to local punk bands. Not only did they get their hands dirty, dealing with the local club owners, but they carried water for the rest of us. You can bet if Bill's popular new wave outfit The Nervous or George's uptown art/noise crew International Lanugage managed to con a bar into giving them a night, one of their scruffier fellow bands would also be on the bill.
9. Gary Russell When the Puppets first burst out of their little suburban practice space onto the greater Phoenix scene, the Killer Pussy's guitarist was the first to take us under his wing. His wacky sense of humor and free-form approach to performance made him an instant kindred spirit. Our early jam sessions with Gary helped us develop the improvisational spirit that left a lasting mark on our live shows.
10. Damon Bostrom With all the artistic foment occupying the local scene in the early 80s, it was only a matter of time before my brother jumped in. A classically trained composition major, his groups the Noknownames, Happy Sirens and Funston Arts Ensemble eschewed rock music for a more whimsical, cerebral approach. Combining serious musical aspirations with a loose undisciplined performing style, my brother's shows were fascinating not-to-be-missed events.