Jeff PezzatiRiot Fest Records
By Ashley N. Milholland on August 24, 2015 at Phone
Last week Long Beach, California was taken over by the first annual Hi Fi Rock Fest, a day of classic punk that will surely become a staple in the Festival circuit for years to come.
Just before the festival began, we caught up with one of the main attractions of the evening: Naked Raygun and discovered just what it is that keeps them going for thirty plus years.
Hi-Fi Rockfest being held in September in Long Beach, CA. This is their 1st annual fest. Is this the first time Naked Raygun has played a 1st annual fest?
Yes. It is.
Is there anything to expect or not except since it is the 1st annual fest?
We’re just going to go out there, play like we always do, play for whoever shows up and hope a lot of people show up. It’s a pretty good location and a good bill. I don’t feel any pressure, because I am sure it’s the first of many Hi-Fi fest’s to come by promoting it right and if people haven’t been burnt out by other festivals; hopefully, they will come out.
Is there a difference playing a show in a festival setting versus playing a show at say, The Double Door, in Chicago?
Yeah, when you play a festival like, Riot Fest, which has a huge crowd, you’re trying to entertain the entire crowd and when you’re playing smaller venues, you’re trying to entertain the people at the front.
When you’re playing a festival with other headliners , the crowd is diverse because some people have come for a specific band only. Does that give your band a chance to gain new fans, exposure, and introduce your music to those in the crowd that may have never heard your music before?
We do convert people sometimes. Of course we’re not the only band there, so you get some people just kind of standing around; twiddling their thumbs-it’s not their fault–I don’t take it personally, plus I can’t see that far away because I take off my glasses when I play.
In 1981, Naked Raygun formed. Initially the band was called Negro Commando. What’s the reason behind the name change?
We all sat down and decided on a band name. My brother came to me and said, “We have to have the word Nude in our band.” That’s kind of how it started. Then we threw the word Naked in there. We were just brainstorming on a name. Some people think it was like the Sex Pistols, but it’s really not; that was not the intention at all. It wasn’t a play on the President’s name at that time; it was just a coincidence. The two names just sounded nice together with to two A’s in each word flows and the name kind of rolls off your tongue.
From 1981 to 2015, you are the sole original member of Naked Raygun?
Yes, that is correct.
You also play in a band called The Bomb.
Yes. The Bomb has another bass player now, so I just sing for The Bomb.
When you played your first gig, in front of a crowd of people, what was that experience like?
I was in other bands before Naked Raygun. The kind of bands that just played in basements but never went anywhere. The thing about punk rock is it has a raw and honest feeling when you play it and I love that. So, the first time on stage I just went out there, we played for a few people who came to the show and I loved it. I swear, since the band started, through the years, someone always comes up to us after a show and says, “Oh, man that was best show I’ve seen in my entire life!” That makes it all worth wild.
It’s really the fans that make playing music worth wild. Do you agree?
I totally agree!
Naked Raygun introduced complex melodies into punk music, which is now known as ‘The Chicago Sound’.
We are definitely identifiable with the sound that comes out of Chicago. However, Chicago has a lot of sounds such as Ministry and the whole industrial scene here is pretty strong with Invisible Records with Martin Atkins, so that is one sound coming out of here. There are a lot of bands coming out of Chicago, so there are a lot of sounds coming out of Chicago, too and I don’t think you can classify our band as being the only sound coming out of Chicago. I think there are a lot of good things happening.
Naked Raygun, as I have read, the band is labeled as being a pioneer of ‘The Chicago Sound’. Do you agree?
Well, I think that is being a little too generous. I think we just do what we do and we don’t think about it. We’ve just hung on the longest, maybe.
Can we expect Naked Raygun to be putting out new music in the future?
Yes, a new album is coming out.
Any advice for the struggling musician these days?
It’s unfortunate now to get started and get paid but those musicians should never give up. They should write a bunch of songs, keep the good ones and throw out the crappy ones. Keep putting out good work and eventually you’ll get noticed.