Tuesday, 31 December 2019

The Groovie Ghoulies Reflect On Their Low-To-Mid-Profile In This 1997 Interview With Teenage Kicks

Originally published in Teenage Kicks #2 (Fall 1997)
Interview by Devorah Ostrov

Groovie Ghoulies/The Donna's split single (1998)
Teenage Kicks' photographer Sara Brinker took this fab
photo during our interview! 
Every time I see the Groovie Ghoulies, I'm knocked out by how much FUN they are!

Lead singer/bassist Kepi is a non-stop bundle of pogoing energy. Guitarist Roach looks beautiful while tossing candy and toys to the crowd. And new drummer Panic (a Chicago native, he was formerly with the Queers, the Riverdales, and Screeching Weasel; he replaced Wendy earlier this year) keeps a fast 'n' furious beat with a big smile on his face!

Formed by Kepi nearly a decade ago, the Sacramento-based band named after a Saturday morning cartoon has developed a fanatical (and in large part teenage!) following. Their hyper poppy/punk tunes owe an obvious debt to the Ramones musically, while Kepi's hook-filled lyrics are populated by horror show heroes like Bigfoot, Pumpkinhead, King Kong, killer computers, a Beast with Five Hands, and Graveyard Girlfriends.

Poster for The Muffs/Chixdiggit/Groovie Ghoulies
show at The Middle East - July 23, 1997
Lookout Records signed the Groovie Ghoulies last year and released the super entertaining World Contact Day LP. The label has also reissued the group's first two albums: Appetite for Adrenochrome (1989) and Born in the Basement (1994).

Their latest offering, Re-Animation Festival, is due to hit record stores in September. But before all that...

An opening slot on the Muffs/ Chixdiggit tour brought them to the Fillmore where we gave Kepi an adorable toy tambourine, met temporary fourth Ghoulie B-Face (who can usually be found with the Queers), and interviewed the band.

Kepi: B-Face joined us on tour...

Teenage Kicks: He just got onstage and wouldn't go away?

Kepi: Yeah, in Boston. He got onstage and we couldn't get him off.

Teenage Kicks: Since B-Face is playing bass, are you just singing tonight?

Kepi: Yeah... and playing tambourine!

Teenage Kicks: I'd like to go over the group's history. Other interviewers haven't really gotten into it.

Re-Animation Festival (Lookout Records - 1997)
Kepi: Because it's too messy; there are too many ex-Ghoulies.

Teenage Kicks: Were you living in Sacramento when you started the band?

Kepi: I had a Groovie Ghoulies in Sacramento, but it was very short-lived, and it goes way back. The band was pretty much formed in Los Angeles, and Roy McDonald [former drummer for Redd Kross, now with the Muffs] played the first show. It's been going pretty steady since the first album came out, and the singles just prior to that.

Teenage Kicks: What brought you back to Sacramento from Los Angeles?

Kepi: I started going out with Roach. We went to high school together. We were graduates of Roseville High School! And then we started dating again later.

Teenage Kicks: When did you get married?

Kepi & Roach: 1990...

The Groovie Ghoulies at Sin City Swingers Club (perhaps in Norway?)
Teenage Kicks: Roach, did you play guitar before you joined the band?

Roach: I used to play as a kid. Then I didn't play for about five years. The first time I played electric guitar was with the Ghoulies.

Kepi (to Roach): You rock!

Teenage Kicks: There was a big span of time between Appetite for Adrenochrome and Born in the Basement...

The Cramps & Groovie Ghoulies at the
Fillmore in SF - Halloween 1996
Kepi: Five years... There were some singles, something almost every year — a Ramones' tribute ["Pet Semetary"], a Troggs' tribute ["Girl in Black"], and a couple 7" singles. But y'know, it was real low-profile. It's less low-profile now. We're low-to-mid-profile now!

Teenage Kicks: How did your signing with Lookout Records come about? It seems like the perfect label for you guys to be on.

Kepi: All their bands put in a word for us — the Queers, the Smugglers, Pansy Division... They all said, "Sign these guys!" And they did. It's good, they take care of us.

Teenage Kicks: What's the story behind Wendy's departure?

Kepi: We went on tour with the Queers in February or March, and she couldn't do the tour. While we were on that tour, we met Panic. We were trying to plan the rest of our year as far as touring and recording, and she couldn't tour.

Teenage Kicks: Why not?

Kepi: She has a good job; she has a house and a car.

Teenage Kicks: She's a grown-up!

Groovie Ghoulies circa mid-1997 
(publicity photo)
Panic: I don't own any of those things.

Kepi: He was a homeless pedestrian. So we said, "You're in!"

Teenage Kicks: Panic, you used to be in Screeching Weasel and the Riverdales...

Panic: Yeah, but I just became really disgruntled not touring.

B-Face: But now he's gruntled!

Panic: I am really happy to get back on the touring circuit again!

Teenage Kicks: I saw your Halloween show last year with the Cramps...

Roach: That was fun!

Teenage Kicks: I think Lux is from Sacramento.

Kepi: Yeah, he has a degree from Sac State. When we played with them, he said, "Did you know there's a Groovie Ghoulies in LA?" I said, "Yeah, that's me!"

Kepi Ghoulie and Roach (with Wendy in the background)
Photos: Devorah Ostrov
Teenage Kicks: Is Halloween always a big night for you guys?

Kepi: This year we're playing in Holland. It's the start of our European tour. We're playing with the Smugglers and Mr. T Experience.

Teenage Kicks: It's a Lookout package tour!

Kepi: We're touring with Mr. T, and the Smugglers are either just starting a tour or finishing one up. It just so happens we're all in Holland that night. It'll be one big party!

Appetite for Adrenochrome 
(Crimson Corpse Records - 1989)
Teenage Kicks: Where else are you playing in Europe?

Kepi: All I know is Italy.

Teenage Kicks: Is the band well-known in Europe?

Kepi: We're low-to-mid-profile in Europe. The first record sold more over there than it did here. And we have a German single out, and we're going to do an Italian single. So, there's people who know of us.

Teenage Kicks: Out of curiosity, how have you avoided being sued over the group's name?

Kepi: I think we give the cartoon more fame than it had on its own in the last 20 years! And we spell it differently.

Panic: On this tour, some promoters have used their own creativity. We've been called the Groovie Goodies, and just Groovie.

Kepi: If they can't figure out how it's spelled, they can't sue us. "We're the Groovie Goodies! Why are you suing us?"

Lookout tour poster for The Mr. T Experience
and The Groovie Ghoulies
Teenage Kicks: I want to talk about some of the songs you cover — like "Singing the Blues." Black Oak Arkansas and Dave Edmunds both cover it...

Kepi: I know Marty Robbins, but I don't know who else did it.

Teenage Kicks: And you cover Herman Hermits!

Kepi: They're just catchy.

Teenage Kicks: And Neil Diamond, and the Partridge Family, and "She Hangs Out" by the Monkees...

Kepi: Yeah, people ask for that and "Singing the Blues." I hope we can turn them onto some songs, like the Cramps do. Like 14-year-olds who are just discovering punk rock — if you can turn them onto the Stones or Neil Diamond or the 13th Floor Elevators...

Teenage Kicks: At least you guys pick songs that are fairly easily tracked down. With the Cramps, you have to do some major research!

Kepi: Yeah, you have to get into the R&B history of some one-armed blues guy who plays in a cardboard box, or something.

Panic: I had a big argument with someone who said covers were a waste of time, the songs had already been done and bands should just write all original material. But it's like, if people didn't cover songs, I wouldn't have found out about anyone really.

World Contact Day
 (Lookout Records - 1996)
Teenage Kicks: Or if someone you like talks about other bands they like in interviews... That's how I found out about a lot of groups.

Kepi: The Stones did that! The Stones turned me on to a million blues bands.

Teenage Kicks: Mass from Squirt Gun produced your new album, Re-Animation Festival.  Did you know him before that?

Kepi: We'd met him once or twice. Panic knew him. Panic and B-Face have recorded multiple albums with him. He just told Lookout that he wanted to work with us.

Panic: What I like about Mass is, he's real patient with people. And he'll get the best performance that he thinks he can out of you.

Teenage Kicks: I love your cover of Daniel Johnston's "To Go Home" on Re-Animation Festival. I'm not familiar with the original version, but I'll take a wild guess that it doesn't sound like something the Ramones wrote.

Kepi: No, it's shockingly different!

Advert for the 2016 remaster of Born in the Basement
Teenage Kicks: And you do a song called "Maze Effect" by Daniel Janish. Who's that?

Kepi: He's a friend of ours in LA. And we do "If You Need Me"...

Teenage Kicks: The Stones!

Kepi: Yeah... Robert Bateman and Wilson Pickett wrote it. But it's pretty much the Stones' version.

Poster for a Groovie Ghoulies show in Spain
Teenage Kicks: Yet you make everything sound like a Groovie Ghoulies' song!

Panic: When I first heard Born in the Basement, I didn't think about which songs were covers. They really put their own spin on them, which makes it more interesting than just copying a song. It really impressed me.

Teenage Kicks: Are you guys ever gonna run out of monsters to write songs about?

Kepi: No! We have "Chupacabra" on the new record. As long as they keep spotting new monsters...

Teenage Kicks: What is a Chupacabra?

Kepi: It's a Puerto Rican, blood-sucking alien. It attacks goats and other farm animals.

Teenage Kicks: Have you ever seen a monster?

Kepi: I've seen one flying thing, a very fast object in the daytime. It was weird. But we don't have time to look for monsters, unless they happen upon the freeway while we're driving. Actually, there was a Bigfoot sighting in Florida last week and it ran right into the middle of the road. So... if we're lucky!

Teenage Kicks: I heard that "Graveyard Girlfriend" is gonna be the first single off Re-Animation Festival. That's such a great pop song!

"Graveyard Girlfriend" b/w "Trick or Treat"
and "Devil Town" (Lookout Records - 1997)
Kepi: Thank you. I try to write songs that I want to hear. And y'know, if you do something you like, you play it forever! Like "Beast with Five Hands"... People ask me, "Aren't you getting sick of that?" No! There's no song we do that I'm sick of. If you write a song, you should be prepared to be stuck with it. So, when I write a song, I try to remember: This song's gonna haunt me and I better like it!

Teenage Kicks: I want to ask about the song "Punk Pt. II" [from World Contact Day]. Are you addressing it to Sid Vicious or someone else in particular?

Kepi: For me, it was actually Johnny Thunders and Stiv Bators, but it could be for whoever you miss. That's one of the few songs I've written that's reality-based. I was watching the Swinging Udders and thinking about how many great bands there are now. And I was wishing that these people could still be around to see... If they just could have seen the scene blow up — Rancid and Green Day, y'know. And it's just sad that all my heroes are fucked up or dead.

★ ★ ★

Click here to listen to the Groovie Ghoulies cover of "To Go Home"
from the Re-Animation Festival album.

4 comments:

  1. Great!👍 Happy New Year, Devorah!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Happy New Year to you!

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    2. Hi, Devorah !Thank you very much. Now I saw your answer. In January and February, several applications / internet platforms malfunctioned and, in this way, I lost the "string" of communication. I hope you are well and I wish you health and success for you with your articles, because you write so beautifully and to the point / real.👌

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