The following is a 2015 MIKE SPENT interview by Gary Heffern, lead singer of the San Diego punk rock band the Penetrators. Mike Spent tells Gary about his origins, influences, and his bands.
Would you name all the bands you have played in, and if you can remember approximately what years, and any recordings?
My first band was Spent Idol. My concept started in 1978, and it took a couple years to get playing. My original guitarist joined a band prior to my band starting, so I had to find a new one that took over a year. Spent Idol started around 1980/81 and only played parties and underground bashes around north county SD, dodging police raids and equipment confiscation.
In 1992, I reformed my concept as Spent Idols, a more back to punk roots version. We played, toured and released mostly vinyl way before it was trendy, worldwide DIY, 1992-1997.
I have performed in various bands as G.I. Bleeds, Mike Spent Hour, Mystery Girls, Last Years Heros and the Spents.
What music, or life happening made your decision to play, and why?
I grew up in Oceandise, CA, near the pier in the 1960s, hippies were everywhere along with marines and HC bikers. A hippy chick artist turned me onto Donovan, Greatful Dead, Steppenwolf, Iron Butterfly. When she moved, she gave me her records. Soon after my parents split up, and we moved back to Carlsbad, my home town. I was a surfer skater there.
Around 1976, I ran into the Dils. They were simply crossing the street (I had known about Iggy and heard about the Sex Pistols). Let's say they left an impression! In 1978, I got into a fight with my pops and he punished me by cutting off my surfer hair. I was livid, so my family sent me to Long Beach to live with my uncle. He was ad executive based in Palos Verdes, and thru him I got to meet Angie Bowie. Zed Records was walking distance from my condo, so let's say Punk Rock was on! I brought L.A. punk attitude, South and raged from Santa Barbara to Tijuana. It was on!
Was it difficult to find your first band or was it happenstance?
Yes, very! Everyone I knew down south was a surfer type, very laid back, etc. My one best friend JP was to be my guy, but he joined another band, so I was stomach punched, but I didn't let it stop me. I eventually found some guys!
But the police harassment, it was difficult you could actually die for being a punker back then. I'm not exaggerating, and the booze and drugs didn't help. I truly lived a life of anarchy and debauchery on a scale these kids today would never understand. The world was a much different place in the 1970s and 80s. We are the bastard fathers to these hipsters and scenesters today, and they truly do not realize it. Gary, guys like us, we paved the way for their identities today, dyed hair, strange haircuts. We spawned them, and for me, it's bittersweet pill.
Where and how did you meet?
|Last Spent Idol gig.|
Now after all these years looking back, any regrets?
Cliche but Sid singing..."Regrets, I have a few, but then again, too few to mention" comes to mind from the original run. Now, once I reformed Spent Idols in 1992, there's where my regrets lie. Yes, I have some! Some are very painful.
Any feeling that your pursuit of music held you back from what you saw your friends at the same age happening (marriage careers, etc) ever make you double think what you were doing?
No, not in the sense that you reference to me fitting in, atomic households, traditional American life. I have never felt a part of our society or had typical goals. I was a freak. I simply didn't fit in, so for me punk was a perfect fit for me. In actuality a nerdy kid could become a force to be reckoned with! A new attitude and social revolution emerged and "punk was it, for me" it was THE great equalizer and for me. I never wanted kids, or a wife or stability. I honestly thought I'd be dead by 21, and lived like that! I'm a survivor. Most my icons died young and I sought that out with a vengeance. Crazy, I know, but it's how I rolled.
Influences, influences. Influences, please!
Sure, Gary. Original Stooges, Black Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Sex Pistols, Avengers, Saints, Vibrators, Crass, Honey Bane, Flipper, Black Flag, Consumers. I wanted stark simple, less is more biting, angry music that provoked thought and angst. I truly wanted a musical revolution. I wanted to break the corporate chains, so I kept it boxed in, simple elementary, no fluff or distractions, or egomaniac guitar riffs, etc. To me, pure punk.
What do you listen to now compared to what you were back then?
In all honesty, I listen to all types of music. Current faves I have are all the same ones I ever had. 77 punk is my fave, but I like Bossa Nova, Donovan's take on folk, and current bands like Belle and Sebastian to the Spits and other similar bands to name a couple.
Do you feel that your musical approach has changed and/or any new appreciation for music that you ignored in the past.
Yes, absolutely. I'm more open, more diverse, mellowed with age. I open up more, and let more out vocally and allow more guitar freedom.
Do you have children? What are they listening to that "you just don't get"?
I have an 8 year old girl, and she still believes in ferries and Santa. She's very interested in my music and thinks I'm a star. She like Sparks and 80s pop like Madonna and Blondie. She tells me our dog's favorite song is "Girls Just Want To Have Fun." There's lots I just don't get like Katy Perry lip synching, and people eating it up like popcorn! Not to single her out, but the whole ball of music confusion bugs me.
Are you surprised to still be alive?
Yes, I am, and I'm greatful I have a host of health concerns today, and feel older than I actually am! I beat the crap outta myself, and I'm paying for it now! You can go into any detail that you want on this.
I covered it earlier but I should say ...physically, I'm pretty miserable, but I cover it well, and keep cheerful and positive.
What is the worst situation you have found yourself in as far as a booking or a show?
Well, our last tour was a bomb. I'm in my 50s. I'm use to booking agents, and set up. We just powered thru 5 states in 10 days. No set up, no promotion, contracts, but hey, half of nothing is still nothing. It put a lot of stress in my current band, and it collapsed. I loved my current members but it all collapsed, and I'm taking a break before looking all over again.
What would you say to a kid that's just starting out today?
I say do it, go for it, do it ! And stay true to YOU!
Any new albums or music or art coming out now?
A new CD came out this year, Land Of The Lost. It's available from me on FB, or in various online and independent record shops. You can find Spent Idols on Spotify, iTunes and other digital sources.
Thanks for your time!
Gary, thank you for including me, and my art. It's truly an honor to participate. You are a San Diego icon and not to mention, known around the world for your art, and congrats on the recent book too.