- by Rich Morris Release Date: Label:
Coleman Jolley started out in cult punk band The Lizerds before switching genres to early hip hop. Now a solo artist, he made time to chat to Soundblab about being a punk in a hostile town, getting involved in early rap, and the music that influenced him.
Hi Coleman, you were in Bakersfield punk band The Lizerds. What are your recollections of gigging and playing punk in the late 70s/early 80s?
It was very difficult to do, because it was seen as being very violent and dangerous. It was hard to find a bar or club or restaurant that would book punk bands. It was a bit of a struggle, even early in Los Angeles, as sometimes shows would devolve into fights and property destruction so some types of groups would be banned. It was also hard to find recording studios that would take punk groups.
After 1980, it seemed to get easier as the shock factor died down. The Lizerds played shows from Bakersfield to Oxnard and Ventura, and even up to Santa Barbara. Generally, our audiences were receptive with occasional threats. We played one Night Out event arranged for patients from Camarillo State Mental Hospital. That is one of my favorite memories!
You were the first punk band in Bakersfield. What was the scene like there in those days? What kind of reaction did you get?
Dismal. The polite way to say it is… locals weren’t very friendly to those outside the mainstream back then. Of course, we took that as an invitation to be abrasive. That didn’t always get us anywhere.
We took a year off, and when we came back, things were easier. People were more receptive. There were other bands. But by then, we had moved on to more avant-garde forms of music, in the style of PIL and The Residents. The last Lizerds recordings are electronic/synthesizer-based.
You self-released your music. How easy was it to do that at that time?
Surprisingly easy. Bruce Brink, our drummer, had been through the process already with The Rotters, his former band. He had the name and number of a pressing plant in Southern California. The hardest part was coming up with the money. (Cheap by today’s standards).
We recorded our record live, for the most part, to a four-track Portastudio in an empty pizza parlor using three microphones. It was engineered well and stands up pretty well for such a primitive recording!
Are you surprised at the interest that’s still there these days in The Lizerds’ music?
Yes! The first time a collector tracked me down was back in the mid-90s, and I was surprised anyone had even heard of us at that time. The editor of Maximum Rock'n'Roll had taken a liking to us and played it for everyone in their offices. From there, it just kind of snowballed.
Flash forward 20 years, I Googled us and was surprised to find ‘Is It Late?’ on a KBD compilation. One day I was driving in Manhattan and listening to a public radio show and caught the tail end of it on the radio! Thirty years later! That always brings a smile to my face.
You then played synth for DJ Flash and The Future MC’s. That’s quite a change! How did that happen?
I met Flash at a club. He was spinning records between sets of a local new wave band. Somehow we were introduced, and I mentioned my interest in groups like Gandmaster Flash and Sugar Hill Gang. Rap was the new punk.
We exchanged numbers and it kind of grew from there. He asked me to play synths on a session for his first record; it went well, and we did several more together. Eventually, I programmed beats and wrote/arranged music for the records.
You music now ranges from country/blues-rock to avant garde piano pieces to experimental electronica. How do you decide how a piece of music is going to sound?
The instrument usually decides. If I pick up an electric guitar, certain things take shape. Same with synthesizers. Sometimes I will be inspired by a loop and build around it. Other times I just improvise.
What’s your favourite synthesizer?
In hardware, I’m partial to my Kurzweils and an old Roland SH1000, which has a great noise generator. In software, I like the Korg emulations as well as the Papen and Arturia stuff. All very good. For samplers, I use Kontakt and UVI.
What’s your view on how punk has developed as a genre and a culture?
The recordings are a lot better now! I think bands like The Clash did a lot to overcome resistance in the professional audio community. There was a lot of evolution from The Ramones to The Pistols to bands like Minutemen in a short period of time.
Now, so many genres mix together under it. I am happy to have been a part of it.
Musically, what are you working on now?
I am working on some songs that are electronic, and other songs that are acoustic. It will be an interesting album!
Under the influence
First single you bought
Grass Roots – ‘I’d Wait a Million Years’
First album you bought
Alice Cooper - Billion Dollar Babies
Favourite artist of all time
Favourite current artist
Kendrick Lamar - AMAZING!
Favourite period in music history
Hah! Steve Jobs
Best gig you’ve been to
Peter Gabriel, 1988, Amnesty International
Not a festival fan but I’d go to BottleRock
Close Encounters of Third Kind
Favourite TV show
Download 'Procession' by Coleman Jolley for free here