An Interview with Ian Taylor of the Adolescents

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Musink 2018 - Adolescents, Strung Out, Fear, and the Descendents - Night #1  - 13 Stitches Magazine
Image Credit: 13 Stitches Magazine

One great thing about music and writing about music is the community aspect. Along the way, I’ve met many cool people, some of whom have become close friends. I’ve also had the opportunity to speak with and become friends with many of the artists I’ve interviewed as well. To say it’s been a fun ride would be an understatement.

Anyway, I met a really awesome OG Punk rocker named Rob Martel through my time within the music and vinyl networks. Now, Rob lives out on the west coast, and he is one of the nicest, most genuine guys you’ll ever meet. Rob being the Punk rocker that he is, mentioned to me one day that he was lifelong friends with Ian Taylor of UNSOUND, Mondo Generator, and the Adolescents, and asked me if I would be into an interview; it didn’t take me long to jump at the opportunity and away we went.

So, if you haven’t guessed it, I’ve got Ian Taylor with us today. We talk about his early days out in the des, how he came to love Punk, end up buddies with Nick Oliveri and eventually take his well-deserved place within the legendary Punk Rock outfit, the Adolescents. Suppose you would like to learn more about the Adolescents, head over to their website here. If you would like to learn more about Ian, and his fantastic solo record, The Sounds Between Us, head over to his Bandcamp here and dig in. Once you’ve got that all sorted out, check out this interview with Ian. Cheers.

Andrew:
Ian, thank you for taking the time to speak with us here. It’s been such an odd time. How are you holding up during this seemingly ever raging dumpster fire?

Ian:
Yeah, It’s like a bad zombie movie that won’t end. We are all safe here in our bubble, starting to go a little stir crazy. I’ve spent the last year hiding out and working on my house. It’s been one year today since the last Rock show!

Andrew:
Let’s talk about your background, your musical origins, so to speak? How did it all begin for you?

Ian:
Growing up in the little mountain town of Lake Arrowhead, CA, there wasn’t much access to the big world out there. My Dad’s Classic Rock/Motown record collection sparked my interest in music; Beatles 66’, Elvis, Marvin Gaye, Hendrix. There was a little record store where you could find a few gems like Devo, The Clash, and The Pretenders. They also had guitar lessons in the back, which I tried briefly in elementary school. Once I got my hands on Nevermind the Bullocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, I locked myself in my room singing along and pretending I was Johnny Rotten; I still do, actually. I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be the snarling singer of a Rock ‘N’ Roll band.

Another moment that really sticks with me, I was in 6th grade, and I had a crush on a 9th-grade girl; I was terrified, but somehow we ended up exchanging Christmas gifts, I got her a Journey record, and she gave me Black Flag’s Damaged! Just the cover gave me chills, and it was the most explosive thing I’d ever heard; it hit me right in the gut. I was never the same after that, funny though; when I hear Journey decades later, I think of Black Flag and a girl named Beth. After that, I got into all the So Cal and UK Punk bands. I would soak in all these compilation records my friends had, like Let Them Eat Jellybeans, The Decline of Western Civilization. Back then, it was all about the mixtape exchange. I had several cassette mix-tapes; I knew all the lyrics to every song but no idea who the bands were for years to come…

Andrew:
Let’s dive right in and talk about the Adolescents. Tell us more about how you got the gig. What’s it been like playing with such an iconic band?

Ian:
It’s pretty insane to be in one of my favorite bands. My first real Punk show was the Adolescents at Fender Ballroom. It’s sort of full circle; in Jr High, my nickname was “Ian Amoeba” because I loved the Blue Record so much. Most nights, when we play “Kids of the Black Hole,” I can feel my childhood friends Dennis Kearny and Alex Jacobsen (RIP) looking down or up, laughing, smiling, just saying, “WTF, how did this happen?” I befriended Tony Reflex and Steve Soto over the years, mostly with my band Furious IV. We played with Punk Rock Karaoke a few times, and Tony was a fan; he interviewed us for Flipside Magazine (the Punk Rock bible to us kids), at a show, at the Whisky A Go-Go, I remember the feeling, “We’ve made it!” Anyway, I messaged Tony one night about something random, and at the end, I slipped in, “Btw, if you ever need a guitar player….” I remember thinking, “Man, I just made that awkward; I won’t be hearing from him again.” He wrote back, “I didn’t know you were available; this pleases me.” A few minutes later, Soto called me and said, “Hey buddy, I hear you wanna play the punks Rock with us? Can you learn 25 songs in time for the GBH show in a few weeks?” I laughed, and I cried, a dream come true and oh shit, what have I done!?! I drove up to the OC to try out, and Tony wasn’t there, so without the vocal cues, I totally sucked. I was so nervous and driving home late that night, thinking, “Man, I just shit the bed, but at least I got to try out, I guess.” Soto called on the drive and said, “Hey, can you come back tomorrow and try that again?” I practiced my ass off all the next day and went back for another try; that was 7 years ago.

Musink 2018 - Adolescents, Strung Out, Fear, and the Descendents - Night #1  - 13 Stitches Magazine
Image Credit: 13 Stitches Magazine

Andrew:
The Southern California/Palm Desert Punk scene is so vibrant. You came up with bands like Furious IV and UNSOUND. I wanted to dive into what’s known as the “Lo Desert Sound,” which sort of encompasses bands from the CA desert Rock scene that I mentioned earlier. You were/are a pretty-key member in that scene. The desert music scene out on the west coast has always fascinated me. Tell us more about it.

Ian:
My first band was the summer out of high school. My parents moved us to Palm Springs in the middle of 10th grade, a total shock to the system. It was the opposite of vibrant in the Desert in the late 80s. To me, it was like a wasteland on fire, definitely not the hipster paradise it is today. There was nothing to do and nowhere to go, besides skateboarding, there were just music and lots of partying. A few bands would play house parties, no such thing as music venues back then. I saw this band called Scabies Babies play at a party without a singer. I ran into them at a Dickies show at Oasis Water Park and told them I should be their singer and that I’d been in bands before, a total lie. A few days later, they called, and I had to beg my Dad to buy me a 100 dollar PA at Radioshack, and I took the hour bus ride across town to try out. All that practice, pretending to be Johnny Rotten in my bedroom, paid off, I nailed it, and UNSOUND was born. Hah!

We started playing house parties, but the cops always busted in, so we started practicing and throwing shows out in the middle of the desert, like the nude bowl, with a generator and maybe one lightbulb. We were lucky enough to find other bored kids playing in bands, like Yawning Man and Kyuss, to name a few. Hundreds of kids would show up to rage with us; it was like a scene out of Mad Max. The fact that legends and folklore of those parties have spread worldwide and made it into films is pretty strange and cool. I suppose it didn’t hurt that Kyuss blew up, and then QOTSA became huge. Speaking of UNSOUND, we are working on releasing a double album this year with all the recordings we made many moons ago. UNSOUND was burning the candle on both ends in the early/mid-nineties. I went to visit my brother in San Diego in, summer of ’94 and ended up at The Casbah one night to see Rocket From The Crypt. After that show, I went back to the des, rented a Uhaul, and moved down there as soon as I could. There was a Rock ‘N’ Roll buzz in the air; Furious IV was born out of that energy. We made 3 records and tore it up everywhere we went! We knew how to have fun, maybe too much fun.

Andrew:
How about Mondo Generator? You were the guitarist therefrom
2007-2015. How did you end up with them? Nick Oliveri is a fascinating and talented guy. What was the experience in Mondo Generator like? Ultimately, why did you choose to move on from that group?

Ian:
Yeah, Nick is the real deal, a true American rockstar. We’ve been good friends since the UNSOUND/KYUSS days. In the mid-2000s, I went to catch a Dwarves show; I hadn’t run into Nick in many years. I was out of the loop; I didn’t even know that QOTSA were international Rock superheroes. Anyways, we caught up for a minute after the show, and then he called a few days later on a July 4th and said, “Hey, you wanna go tour Europe with me, learn these 25 songs,” and the rest is a blur, but we rocked all the USA, Europe several times, Australia, South America, I think I was part of 3 records. I really appreciate the opportunity he gave me; it was another dream come true, to travel the world with a guitar. It was pretty mind-blowing to see lines of people in other countries that’s totally into this “Desert Rock,” something we did a lifetime ago on the other side of the world. Mondo was not doing much around 2014/15; when the Adolescents opportunity came up, I knew he would be stoked for me, and he said as much when we ran into each other in Belgium a few years later. Mondo rocks harder as a three-piece anyways. Hah!

Andrew:
Circling back around to the Adolescents, you’ve played on a few records with the band now, with the most recent being ​Russian Spider Dump.​ I love this record. Tell us about the new record a bit. I have an idea of the meaning and inspiration, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

Ian:
Yeah, I’ve worked on 3 records so far, and we are working on a new one now. I couldn’t put into words the excitement and pride I had when songs I wrote made it onto an Adolescents record, totally surreal.Hah, yeah! Russian Spider Dump, the “covers” record was a first for me and a fun one to do. No stress, really, when you are playing songs that you already know are great. You can second guess yourself with your own songs, like is this song even any good? The list of songs changed several times in the beginning, but it was Tony’s brainchild. Most of the songs were songs that influenced Tony and Steve when they were starting out, a few modern jams and a few I had no previous experience with. How crazy is that Redd Cross-track? I’ll let Tony tell you what a Russian Spider Dump is, but it couldn’t have been better timing for the sad, creepy shitstorm going on in The White House then. I will say – it was a total boner killer to put out a record when you can’t go out and play shows. In fact, I’ve never held that record in my hands. Shit, I don’t even have one!

Lo Sound Desert: A Silver Screen Rock Doc on the Desert Scene | Coachella  Valley Weekly

Andrew:
In 2011, you released a solo record called ​The Sounds Between Us​. Any chance we see ore solo work anytime soon? Or do you prefer working within a band instead?

Ian:
When Mondo was not really active, I was writing a bunch of sad mellow acoustic numbers; I fancied myself a solo singer-songwriter for a minute and had a blast playing songs from that record around town with like-minded friends. I think I got my fill of playing low volume shows, though, where people can talk over your songs. I’m going to stick with the full-on band turned up to 11…

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the idea of “being punk.” You’re about as OG as it gets, so what does Punk mean to you? Is it a genre? A way of life or an aesthetic?

Ian:
Well, my dear old friend Steve Soto summed it up best with the slogan, “Punk hurts.” The music infected me when I was about 10, and I still listen to it and play it every day at 50, but Punk Rock to me is just doing whatever you want in a good way, living your life on your own terms. Unsound also had a slogan, “Play loud, play hard, play fast.” I still support that message.

Andrew:
These days, we are more or less dominated by the never-ending barrage of social media. How has this affected music as an art form? Is an artist’s ability to get their music out there hindered by all this, or helped?

Ian:
My Dad used to say, “That little box is going to ruin everything,” talking about computers. It turns out he was not wrong. I’m just as addicted as the next idiot, checking my likes from the toilet, and it’s fun to share music stuff or catch up with old friends. Still, it all gives me anxiety, the bragging, the whining, we speak in memes now, or is it gifs?! Look at what social media did to our country in the last few years with a raging bully president on Twitter, we have become just like the movie Idiocracy. As for music, Lars was right man, the only people making money off the art of music are the suits in the boardroom at the app store. The newer generation seems to have adapted by going live and have become great at digital marketing. I’ll leave that stuff for the kids, and “Get off my lawn!”

Andrew:
One disturbing fact I’ve learned recently is that streaming services don’t pay, or don’t pay nearly enough. What are your thoughts on that? What can we as fans do to help support the artists we love better?

Ian:
It’s true; I’ve seen friends showing off their 12 million streams with a $17.00 royalty check; it’s pretty crazy. The best way to support the art you like is to catch a (socially distanced) live show, buy a shirt or a record. They haven’t figured out how to take that money yet!

Andrew:
In a world that’s been so confined by the constraints of late-stage capitalism and the alienation caused due to the internet age, how do artists find their footing these days? What advice would you have for younger artists?

Ian:
I think the kids today will figure it out, they grew up with the internet, so it’s part of the deal, but there is no substitute for writing songs in a garage with your friends and playing those songs live for your other friends.

Andrew:
As an artist, who are some of your biggest influences? Who are the obvious ones, and maybe some not-so-obvious ones?

Ian:
My biggest influences are my friends that I’ve grown up playing music with. Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future…

The Adolescents - Russian Spider Dump - Amazon.com Music

Andrew:
Are you into vinyl? Cassettes? Or are you all digital? Regardless of format, where do you like to shop for music? What are some of your favorite albums,
and why? Ones that really mean the most to you.

Ian:
I don’t care how I hear music, really. Funny enough, cassettes were the most life-changing medium in my impressionable years. I did have a pretty killer cassette collection at one time but had to pay rent or something. I wish I was a record nerd, but I don’t have the attention span, and I kinda regret trading the record collection of my youth for skateboard gear and other unmentionable items. My record collection now consists of mostly mine and my friend’s bands. I do have a vintage in-the-wall flip-down record player that came with my house from the 50s, so I better up my vinyl game. Digital music? Whatever, as long as the music is everywhere for everyone, I suppose…a few favorites always on rotation: Descendents- Milo goes to college, X- Los Angeles, Neil Young- Decade, Bad Brains- Self-Titled, The Fluid- Glue/Roadmouth, Goo Goo Dolls- Superstar Carwash, Ramones- End of the Century, Violent Femmes- Hallowed Ground, Devo- Freedom of Choice, Black Flag-Damaged.

Andrew:
Outside of music, what are some of your greatest passions? How do those passions inform your music, if at all? You’ve got a carpentry business. Tell us more about “Taylor Design And Build.”

Ian:
Yeah, one thing I’ve learned is true about playing in bands all these years is don’t quit your day job! It’s even more true now that music is expected to be free. The rub is, you usually can’t keep a good job and tour at the same time. I guess that’s why I started my own business 17 years ago; I can’t be fired when it’s time to go on tour. Most days, you’ll find me at my shop where we make custom furniture and cabinetry. The rest of my time is spent with my lovely wife, my 11-year-old girl, 9-year-old boy, and 16-year-old wiener dog. We know how to have fun; we are usually at the beach, a skatepark, hitting the slopes, or camping in our 1971 trailer. That’s my other passion, my tribe. Oh, and old German motorcycles.

Andrew:
Last question: You’ve been at it for over 30 years. You’ve been a member of several of the most quintessential Punk Rock/Desert Rock bands. So, as a veteran of the “scene,” what would be your advice for bands/artists who have just decided to take the plunge?

Ian:
A veteran of the scene…man, that sounds older than I feel. My advice is don’t overthink it, just do it. Start a band, write a hundred songs, book some shows and tear it up!! Surround yourself with wonderful, talented, positive people. I’ve often felt like the weakest link in the room, but that’s what makes you challenge yourself and work harder. Definitely wear your earplugs, tinnitus sucks so hard! Oh, and say no to drugs kids, it never ends well…

Ian Taylor (musician) - Wikipedia

Interested in learning more about the work of the Adolescents? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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