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Royer Evolves With Long-Lived D.I.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

With D.I., one of Orange County’s longest-running punk-rock bands, every number tells a story.

Forty is the age of its happily enthusiastic founder and front man, Casey Royer.

Thirty is the number of musicians, including Royer, who have served tours of duty in D.I. (The initials stood for “Drug Ideology” back in the band’s hard-partying early days, but now they’re just initials.)

Twenty is the number of years D.I. has been going now, with Royer the only constant.

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Five is a number that causes Royer some consternation: That’s how many years it has been since the release of D.I.'s last album of new material, “State of Shock.” Since then, D.I. has been unable to tour nationally, but has remained active on the punk scene in California and Arizona.

“The kids are always asking me, ‘Where’s the new record?’ I keep saying, ‘Uh, it’s right around the corner,’ ” Royer said.

Four is the number of times a week Royer tries to go surfing; he was a self-described “jock-surfer,” who played varsity basketball at Troy High School in Fullerton before punk rock took over his life.

Three is the number of new members who will debut behind Royer on Thursday at the Galaxy in Santa Ana; he has high hopes that the young trio from San Diego, which had previously performed together as Wick, will help D.I. return to the CD bins and the national touring circuit.

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Two is the number of Casey Royers now living and breathing in Orange County. Royer, speaking by phone from his home in San Clemente last week, said he devotes most of his extra-musical time nowadays to caring for his 9-month-old son, Casey Royer, Pt. II, the Sequel. That, says Royer, is what’s written on the baby’s birth certificate.

“I like to be spontaneous,” Royer said, noting that his girlfriend, the child’s mother, “thought it was cool and unique.” Royer’s older boy, 9, got off easy, as Max.

Spontaneity, Royer says, was the missing ingredient for the previous version of D.I., which was together two years without releasing a record. In that lineup, Royer reunited with three other players from D.I.'s very early days: drummer Derek O’Brien, guitarist Tim Maag and bassist Fred Taccone.

“They were excellent songwriters, but they’d outthink themselves and lose the beauty of spontaneity,” Royer said. He doesn’t believe that punk songs should be labored over, as he says happened in that all-veterans, all thirty- and fortysomething version of D.I. Royer said that Taccone, one of the longest-tenured D.I. members, left the band in June, and that O’Brien and Maag followed.

The new D.I. crew is guitarist Scott Montgomery, drummer Mike Turner and bassist Drew Padilla. An old friend of Royer’s, Ted Hudzinski, was the matchmaker between the Wick trio and the momentarily bandless D.I. leader.

Hudzinski manages Wick, which he says continues to play gigs apart from Royer. But it’s as D.I. that the newcomers, who are young enough to be Royer’s children, will try to make an impact as a recording band.

“We’re throwing songs together right and left,” Royer said. Fans will hear the new material in a series of shakedown shows for the new lineup, along with such nuggets as “Richard Hung Himself,” “Johnny’s Got a Problem” and “O.C. Life,” three of the finest songs in O.C.'s punk-rock canon.

Royer’s punk-rock career began in 1978, when he and a fellow Fullerton youth, Mike Ness, began jamming at Royer’s house. Royer was the drummer in the original version of Social Distortion, and he recruited the band’s original singer: Tom Corvin, a 6-foot-7 member of the Cal State Fullerton basketball team.

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Ness eventually asserted control over the band, and Royer left along with Rikk Agnew, another early SD member. They soon were playing and writing key songs for the Adolescents, one of the crucial early O.C. punk bands. Royer’s signature composition for the Ads, “Amoeba,” recently resurfaced on the soundtrack of the film “SLC Punk.” Royer has written his share of catchy numbers, but mainly has kept alive the hard-and-fast ethic of hard-core punk. That leaves D.I. among the grass-roots, rather than vaulting toward the punk-pop mainstream like the Offspring and so many other local bands.

“I’ve been living off the band and little odd [jobs] all my life,” Royer said. “I’m 40, but places are packed and people keep on freaking, so I just keep doing it.”

* D.I. and Worp play Thursday at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana. 8 p.m. $8-$10. (714) 957-0600. D.I. also plays Sunday at the Whisky in West Hollywood; Oct. 1 at the Tiki Bar in Costa Mesa, and Oct. 22 at the Showcase Theatre in Corona.


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