SHANE WEST readily sacrifices his body for the Germs. The actor doesn’t have much on Darby Crash, the original frontman of the infamous late-'70s L.A. punk provocateurs, who had a habit of cutting his chest onstage and smearing peanut butter on anything that moved before committing suicide in 1980, at age 22, with a heroin overdose.
But to portray Crash in this year’s Germs biopic “What We Do Is Secret,” West underwent intense body modification to match Crash’s feral, ragged physique. “I had semi-permanent teeth put in to make my real teeth look like Darby’s,” West said via e-mail, laid low after a recent surgery to remove his actual wisdom teeth before the band’s Friday Key Club show. “They took three hours to put in and only a doctor could scrape them off. It was amazing, the looks I would get on the street.”
Gawking passersby weren’t the only ones convinced by West’s turn as Crash. The surviving Germs, including guitarist Pat Smear, bassist Lorna Doom and drummer Don Bolles, were so taken by West’s abandon in the role they signed him on as the band’s new vocalist, reuniting for the first time since Crash’s death.
“We were all consultants on the film and ended up having so much fun playing the wrap party we decided to continue,” said Doom. “Shane isn’t channeling Darby but he still gets it right by being himself.”
The “new Germs” have toured semi-regularly since 2005, including a run on the 2006 Vans Warped Tour and playing the “Secret” premiere in June. Fans and some punk peers initially derided the reunion, believing it to be either a nostalgic cash-in or a reputation-sullying mistake. But those aghast by Landon from “A Walk to Remember” donning Crash’s blue-circle armband, are realizing that West’s spit-soaked reprisals of his Crash role are faithful and riveting, right down to West’s spitfire rebuttals to skeptics.
“If you sit home moaning about the past and haven’t seen us play, then you can go to hell,” West said. “I wasn’t going to mess with Darby’s songs or change his singing style. I wasn’t going to be sober doing lounge-jazz either.”
In a way, the Germs’ sets are more live theater than reunion tour, and less of a post-mortem hit parade than a chance for a younger generation to feel the gleeful fury and bleak sadness of the ‘80s L.A. punk scene for themselves.
“There is a level of chaos, mischief and danger to it, but it’s fun and done in the original spirit,” said West. “We try and show them what a real punk rock show should be.”
WHERE: The Key Club, 9039 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood
WHEN: Friday, 8 p.m.
INFO: With the Adolescents and the Mae Shi. (310) 278-5400