Being in a band in Simi Valley is sort of like trying to sell Playboy subscriptions in Iran. It's tough. Although Simi Valley has plenty of rockers, it doesn't rock much.
Take, for example, Scared Straight--local punkers with 10 years' experience, and survivors of many a local party. They'll be opening for NOFX tonight--right, not in Simi Valley--but at the Mayfair Theatre in Ventura.
Ten years is a long time for a band, but Scared Straight has mitigating circumstances. The singer, Scott Radinsky, is a relief pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. Since the band isn't into karaoke, there are no Scared Straight gigs between February and October. Hey, the Dodgers could use a mean left-handed relief pitcher, but that's another story.
The band began in a garage in the early '80s, inspired by the Oxnard punk scene known as Nardcore. Loud and fast are the operative words here. Scared Straight put out an album around 1985, later an EP, and the band has appeared on several compilation albums since then on the shadowy Mystic label. They hope to record a CD later this month, or before Radinsky has to report to spring training in Sarasota, Fla.
Scared Straight features Radinsky doing vocals, Dennis Jagard and Steve Carnan on guitar, Pete Newberry on bass and Jordan Lieberman hitting the drums. On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Radinsky--having arrived not by limo but by skateboard--and Jagard discussed the life and times of their favorite band.
How often does Scared Straight play?
Jagard: Whenever we can get shows between October and February, which is usually about six or eight times per year. Lately the band has been a hobby for four months a year, but we're getting more serious this year, and are going to do some recording.
What's the east county music scene like?
Jagard: Mostly what's happening here is a lot of alternative rock. Lately, they've been having some shows at Cheers, but the sound system there is pretty cheesy.
Radinsky: The people with the money to put on shows don't have a connection with the young people. We've probably played at over 100 parties, most of those more than seven years ago.
Did the band's name come from that movie about those gnarly criminals scaring all those kids?
Jagard: Yeah, it did. There wasn't too much thought put into it. We were only 14, and that was a better name than anyone else could come up with. We started playing in Scott's garage around 1981--just a bunch of junior high school kids trying to learn how to play music.
How would you describe Scared Straight music?
Jagard: It's beefy. We were influenced by Minor Threat and all those Nardcore bands like Agression, Dr. Know, Ill Repute and Stalag 13. There is never a time when we think a song is done, because our music is always evolving. If we wanted to, we could probably play for an hour and a half, but we like it short and sweet. We don't dress up. We just play loud, fast music and jump around.
Radinsky: There's definitely some energy and some melodic power, but it's still fast. Even people who never liked punk like us and enjoy our shows. There's punks everywhere.
Is punk getting bigger or smaller?
Jagard: It's getting a somewhat wider audience partly because some of the bands like Nirvana have taken so much from punk. Now, people are more likely to check it out. People who never listened to punk before would listen to it now because they're used to the speed and the style.
Radinsky: In high school, people were listening to the Go-Gos and Van Halen, and not to Black Flag. Now they listen to Nirvana. Punk has definitely gotten more melodic.
Will little Buffy Co-ed get squished like a bug if she goes to your show?
Jagard: No. We don't have a special cult following. We attract the young skate crowd, plus the old hard-core Nardcore crowd. We want our gigs to be a cool, safe place to be. Fifteen people shouldn't be able to shut down a show with 500 people inside and the cops just waiting outside.
Radinsky: The last time we played, people were slamming to "Teen Spirit." (Nirvana's big hit) It was the biggest pit of the night. You should know the difference between slam dancing and beating people's heads into the ground.
What was the strangest Scared Straight gig?
Jagard: One time in Wisconsin, around 1985, I had to stand outside on the sidewalk to play because I was underage. I guess they thought everyone else was old enough. When the cops pulled up, they pulled me into the club.
So how does a band get signed out of Simi Valley?
Jagard: We're not the people to ask.
Radinsky: We're capable of doing it ourselves. We're going to record an independent CD, which should be out around May.
So until then, I assume, you all have day jobs?
Jagard: Yes, I do sound reinforcement and rent sound equipment. Pete works for a veterinarian. Steve has a carpet cleaning business. Jordan is a professional motorcycle rider. Scott just throws things.
Could Scared Straight do the national anthem at Comiskey Park?
Radinsky: Totally, but we probably wouldn't.
How 'bout those Dodgers?
Radinsky: I've been a Dodger fan all my life. I grew up with the Dodger teams of the '70s--Garvey, Lopes, Russell and Cey. When we play in Anaheim Stadium and when I drive by Dodger Stadium, I keep thinking it's half an hour closer to home. But Chicago's a great baseball town. There's a river running through the middle of town--half is for the White Sox, the other half for the Cubs. I'd still love to play for the Dodgers.