Hold tight because the wild ones of Pacific Northwest garage rock, the Sonics have just channeled their raw spirit into thirteen new tracks. Not even twenty-four hours out of the studio, saxophonist and vocalist Rob Lind alerted that the material is on its way to Detroit in the hands of the mighty Jim Diamond. The Vancouver date will debut these. “It will be the first time that we play them in public,” says Lind. It will also be the first live performance in Vancouver since the mid sixties.
As vital as ever, with an outstanding track record of performances from the NYC Cavestomp Festival 2007 to the sold out 2008 Halloween show at the Paramount in Seattle. A first for fans in nearly 40 years. Steven Van Zandt flew in for this event. He is known as a guitarist and backing vocals with the E Street band but also for the syndicated radio show Little Steven’s Underground Garage, which brought listeners to likes of garage rock from the 1950’s to present. “We talked him into coming on stage and playing with us,” says Lind and it was immortalized on video for “Have Love, Will Travel.”
The Sonics are a sum of two bands, these rockers ‘protopunks’ are cited as ‘being punk before punk’. “We didn’t make a conscious effort to do anything, we just wanted to play hard pounding rock n roll. That’s how it evolved. We were trying to play Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, not ‘Take 5’ by Dave Brubeck,” says Lind. Back then, a band played for three hours. “We didn’t want to sound or be like a juke box [and] wanted people dancing and by the second song … our drummer Bob Bennett played as hard as he could and Larry played guitar as hard and distorted as he could. I played sax the same way. Gerry sang and screamed his guts out,” says Lind. Their edge can be attributed their Tacoma roots, which is in contrast to the ‘metropolitan’ Seattle. “In those days, the Seattle musicians were very good… very polished,” explains Lind, “so we’d tell people, Seattle is like London and Tacoma, were we came from is like Liverpool. A blue-collar port city and all our dads were blue-collar working guys, so we played a lot more harshly. We were average guys trying to do an above average job.”
The Sonics put out an EP a few years ago. “it was just kind of an experiment to try some different things,” says Lind. Somehow the approach and sound was not what they hoped. “So on this album we decide to get back to hard [and] fast rock n roll,” he explains. So enter Jim Diamond from Detroit. A well credited producer with an ear and an edge for garage. Connected with likes of The Dirtbombs, The Fleshtones, White Stripes, Bantam Rooster, The Compulsive Gamblers, The Mooney Suzuki and the so forth. Hints of the new recording point at something rawer, less technical and definitely a nod to the grit of early material. “It’s a lot more of what fans would expect from us,” says Lind. With three of original Sonics are on this album, Larry Parypa on lead guitars, Rob Lind on sax, plus Gerry Roslie on lead vocals and keyboards. New players include Dusty Watson LA on drums and Freddy Dennis on bass and lead vocals. The all-encompassing two weeks in the studio finishing nine each night and back at it in the morning. “All five of the musicians just threw themselves into it,” says Lind.
The last seven years of touring connected the Sonics with a whole new era of bands. “Just blowing the place up in the same kind of music that we do,” recalls Lind. They toured Japan with The Bawdies and Australia with the Hoodoo Gurus. “We are doing one of their songs on the new album,” he says. The Hoodoo Gurus gave them a song, “Be A Woman” written by Dave Faulkner. The Fuzztones paid homage with an album called The Fuzztones BOOM. They played together in San Diego and toured in Berlin. Incidentally, they’ve become good friends with The Hives from Sweden. Pelle Almqvist and his brother Nicholaus Arson came out for a tremendous encore and reciprocated when the Hives came to Seattle. “They called me and asked if I’d come up and play sax,” says Lind.
Just recently, a coupling of Mudhoney and the Sonics under the same roof wrought musical havoc and a rave response. “I love those guys, Mark Arm is a great singer [and] they are just great players. They just blew the place away and the audience was half on the floor after Mudhoney and it made it easy for us,” he says. You could hear the Sonics influence in many of the Seattle bands of the 1980s to 1990s. Lind commended the entire Pacific Northwest explosion of that era.
What keeps this going? “So you always hear this cliché, about music … you get so much energy back from the crowd and it’s totally true. It’s like you are playing above yourself, like being plugged into a giant battery and its circular,” explains Lind. The Vancouver date will mark a return to the stage. “We never ever mail it in, we give every molecule of energy that we have to the crowd, says Lind, be it 2500 or ten people. “We give it every thing we got no matter what stage we walk on and that’s what is going to happen at the Rickshaw.”
The Sonics will launch the Rickshaw Theatre, Sept. 20, 2013
By Tiina Liimu
Photo by Merri L. Sutton