Gentler Hard Core : 'We rock against racism' says the drummer, and they've always been against violence. So don't elbow in the slam pit.


When Ill Repute takes the stage at Mogz in Ventura Saturday night, the slam pit will resemble a gang fight, but it won't be. This is just another way for some people to have fun. And later, station wagon moms will wait outside to pick up some of the bruised babies.

Looks can be deceiving. Venus flytraps look good to flies, but you know how that ends. Although they may look like the house band for killers, there's no real trouble at Ill Repute shows since the band simply refuses to put up with any shenanigans. It'll be a kinder, gentler slam pit, where elbow etiquette will be strictly enforced. It's an all ages show and the place doesn't sell alcohol.

"We take a strong stand against violence and racism," said guitarist Tony Cortez during a recent interview.

"We rock against racism," added drummer Carl Valdez.

"If there's ever any trouble, we just stop playing," Cortez said.

Misunderstandings often result from confusion about the band's identity, said singer/guitarist John Phaneuf.

"Some people think we're some sort of racist skinhead band, and they link our kind of music to violence and hatred, but we've always been against violence in our lyrics," he said. "The scene used to be pretty violent. It was wild. We dropped out from 1986 to 1989, but maybe we should've stayed and spoken out."

The band formed about a decade ago when Cortez, Valdez, Phaneuf and bass player Jim Callahan--four Hueneme High buddies--decided to make some music, some really fast music.

Ill Repute, along with Dr. Know and Agression, have been associated with Nardcore, the name given the Oxnard hard-core scene. The band went on to record three full-length albums, plus a number of EPs and countless compilation albums including a rendition of "Clean Cut American Kid" that appeared on the first "Rodney on the ROQ" sampler.

Ill Repute has toured the country twice and have been on the same bill with about every punk band you can name, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Motorhead. They do an annual toys-for-tots benefit concert in Oxnard. They're, well, clean-cut American kids.

Now, the band plays a couple of times each month, but locally only every three months or so. They do mostly California dates from San Diego to the Bay Area.

Dancing at an Ill Repute concert might be considered a futile gesture because the group doesn't do any slow ones. Most of their music is played at Warp 10 intensity. They cover songs by Bob Marley, Elvis, Devo, and you should hear what they do to Neil Diamond's "Cherry, Cherry."

"Our music is still hard as rocks, but it's becoming more complex musically," said Phaneuf. "The music has grown up with us. It's not punk rock. It's not hard rock like Ted Nugent. It's not alternative rock like Nine Inch Nails. It's just honest, straightforward music."

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