The Controllers were the first and the last band to play the legendary L.A. punk rock club The Masque. Formed by Johnny Stingray
(guitar/vocals, later bass/vocals) and Kidd Spike (guitar/vocals) in the late spring of 1977. Like most of the early
California punk bands their original releases have become collectors items. As far as I know no
live bootlegs have been released although the band did quite a few gigs. They were around between 1977 and 1979.
Kidd Spike also played with The Gears and Johnny Stingray formed KAOS. Ex-members of
The Controllers and The Skulls played together in Skull Control between 1991 and 1997. Out of that the Controllers
re-united for a few gigs in 1996. Skull Control released a full-length CD - Radio Danger - on Iloki Records in the early '90s.
If you like PUNK both in music and attitude you need THE CONTROLLERS in your record collection. I mean it, man, they were
a really great band!
This interview with Johnny Stingray was made in July 2001.
- Were there any other Punk bands rehearsing at (what later became) the Masque when you first approached Brendan
- Yes on both counts. The Skulls were already there, but it was an earlier version of the band. The Berlin Brats were there, with Rick Wilder- he would go on to form the Mau-Maus a year or so later...and Martha and the Motels were practicing there. Maybe they weren't really 'punk'...oh, and Backstage Pass came down shortly after. Backstage Pass was the inspiration for the G0-Gos.
- When you lived at the Masque did you stay in your rehearsal room?
- I lived in our practice room, incidentally, the very room we shared with the Go-Gos. I dragged a matress from somewhere and slept in that filthy hole. The worst thing was, because it is a basement, when you turn out the lights, it is PITCH BLACK....a bad place to wake up with a hang-over, which,of course, I did many times...
- Was the Masque used for rehearsels even after the club was closed down?
- Yes, the Masque died slower than you would think...the real problem as far as the LAPD was concerned, was that Brendan had never bothered to ask for any permits of any kind. There was only one exit, so the Fire Dept. also had some problems with 'public' events. It was used officialy for 'private' parties and rehearsals to keep the cops out.
- I know the Controllers tapes from the Elk's Lodge Feb 78 Masque benefit was lost when the 'Live At...' CDs came out, have they been found? And what about the (Japanese) 16mm footage from that weekend?
- I think the real story behind the 'lost tapes' is that we were really bad that night. I don't think they were ever 'lost'...more like they were taped over. I've been given many contradictory stories over the years and that's the only thing that makes sense. We had a rythym section that didn't really learn our songs. Bruce Barf [bass, that night] was so drunk he could barely walk and Paul Roessler [Screamers] was a keyboard player. He played drums because he's a nice guy, but I don't think I've ever heard of him playing drums for anybody else! We played with them a week later at the Whiskey and that show went better. I've never seen the Japanese footage in any form.
- Any other old stuff filmed with the Controllers? (And is it available somewhere?)
- We did a couple of things, but I think it's lost to the winds of time. The one I'd like to have is from Halloween nite 1977. Charlie Trash had this boyfriend/client who was former CBS camera man and he brougt his giant video recorder/backpack and taped our show. I only saw it once. Target video did some stuff and we did a film in San Fransisco at Mabuhay, but I've never been able to track it down. No one hung on to a lot of that stuff and we were just another band- one of many flirting for attention at the time.
- Why were the other members of the band fired?
- Charlie Trash was a pain in the ass. She had convinced herself that she was the main attraction. One night we were playing at some art school in Santa Monica and she insisted on putting her drum kit in the front, instead of in back like a real band. Spike and I wrote all the songs and did all the vocals and we hated the idea. We canned her the next day, and to our surprise, DOA Dan quit in an attempt to force us to take her back. We refused. I guess he wanted to get his dick sucked more than he wanted to play in a band. They had a lame band together afer that, then they disappeared. I haven't heard from either of them in over 20 years.
Controllers live pics from Search And Destroy #10
- I've got the old Search and Destroy mags, the one with
the MadDog interview created a lot of interest in the band, how
much did that (and MadDog herself) change things for you?
- Maddog changed a lot of things. Besides being a relentless self-promoter, she could really play drums! And I mean really play. I've often called her the Gene Krupa of punk. Charlie Trash was a lazy hippie chick compared to the Maddog. She brought a lot of attention to us, but we really came together as a band at that point. I had switched to bass and we suddenly had a tighter feel. We could play FAST! And with no slop what so ever. People that thought we were sort of a second rate band had to look at us from a different perspective.
- How did people react to your songs (like Killer Queers, Do The Uganda, Slow Boy) ?
- Nobody ever got our jokes. I get more comments today than I did then. We were seldom serious about any of the subject matter. Killer Queers is a perfect example. This was the first song Kid Spike ever wrote. He thought the phrase 'Anita blowjob' was just plain funny, so he made a song about it. I've gotten all sorts of opinions as to what the song was about and it was just a joke!
- Do you think the audience of today's "punk bands" would accept stuff like that from a new band, with all the PCness going around?
- In the day, I don't think anybody even heard the lyrics. Today we would be subject to all kind of hate from every mis-informed jerk on the planet.
- Do you still keep in touch with the punk scene, go and see new bands etc?
- I don't get out a lot. I go to see bands that buddies are in, or if there's a band that I think my kid [ he's 15 ] should see, but I don't pay too much attention. Modern punk doesn't do much for me and I hate the idea of elderly punk bands trotting their fat asses on stage.
- The 2 7"s (and also the KAOS ep) has become collectors' items as well as being bootlegged on Killed By Death and
Bloodstains LP's. You're like a legendary band but I've never seen much written about you..
- To our credit, we've held up pretty good. In'79 when we broke up, we had a nice following, but we didn't have as much of the 'art crowd'. We weren't one of the bands that were written up every month in Slash Magazine. We were thought of as low-brow and un-important. I meet more kids today that think we were hot shit than I did then. We have small bunch of 15-17 yr olds that email me and chat me up when I'm on line. I just did an interview with 3rd Generation Nation in Germany, so we're known, but I don't care if it goes any further than that. I'm not going to resurect the rotting corpse of the Controllers. I'm too fucking old.....
- What's your favourite Controllers song?
- My fave controllers song will always be 'Neutron Bomb'. It was my first song and when I listen to it today, I still love that stupid intro. And my guitar solo kicks!
- I know you played in Texas, did you tour the US?
- We never 'toured'. I don't know how many shows we played, but my favorite would have to be New Years Eve '77 at the Masque. The place was packed to the tits and every song would start the crowd rockin' and when we finished, we got a couple of real calls back to the stage.
- Was there anything else recorded with KAOS that's not been released and what Controllers stuff isn't on the Dionysus CD?
- The only un-released KAOS stuff is some live-in-the-rehearsal tapes. It doesn't have Pete Curry on drums, so it isn't as kickin' as the single. It might see release in the future. The only Controllers songs are a couple of tracks from '96. Again, they might see release if the time is right.
- My first guitar was an Ibanez Les Paul by the way.
- I still have my Ibanez and it still rocks. This is the same guitar you hear on the KAOS record. Is yours a '59er tiger-stripe? Someone put Schaller pegs and a DiMarzio pick up on mine, I bought it used, other wise it's stock. I love that guitar.
- The re-union in 96 - did you do any new songs and was there ever any plans to make it a more permanent thing?
- We were intent on being a real band again, but it just wasn't the same. I think old punk bands should not embarrass themselves by trying to re-live their wasted youth. Get your fat, old asses off the stage! We would have laughed our heads off at the very thought of 40-50 yr old punks.
- What are you and the old members doing now, got any new bands going? (and what happened to Skull Control?)
- I think Maddog is the only one still trying to have a musical career. She's doing a folk/punk/rock thing and she's the singer/songwriter of this band. She sings and plays guitar pretty good. I produced a demo with her a few years back. I work as a tele-marketer and do web design on the side. I also fix bicycles for friends, I just finished working on Chris Ashford's* bike. I'm an expert mechanic, but I love bikes and do the work for free. Think 'Atlas Shrugged'... Spike also is a tele-marketer, and I think he sleeps for fun. Seriously, the guy is a champion sleeper, 10-15 hrs a day is not out of the question. As for 'Skull Control', we de-volved into the Controllers and ended. That's about it.....
THE CONTROLLERS DISCOGRAPHY
V/A 7'' What (What records 1978)
A.k.a. The What Sampler. Includes Neutron Bomb + songs by The Eyes and The Skulls. Released without a pic sleeve.
Neutron Bomb/Killer Queers 7'' (What records 1978)
Ultra classic stuff.
Slow Boy / Suburban Suicide / Do The Uganda 7'' (Siamese records 1979)
Slow Boy also appeared on bootleg comp LP Bloodstains Across California (the best of all the Bloodstains LPs).
V/A LP Tooth And Nail (Upsetter records 1979)
Includes Another Day, Electric Church and Jezebel + songs by The Germs, UXA, Negative Trend, Flesheaters and Middle Class.
V/A LP What Is It? (What records 1982)
Compilation of What records 7''s including The Controllers and KAOS + The Germs, The Dils and The Skulls.
V/A LP/CD What Stuff (Iloki records 1990)
Includes all songs from the What Sampler and Neutron Bomb 7''s and the KAOS EP + The Germs, The Dils and more. Essential.
Controllers LP/CD (Dionysus/Bacchus archives 2000)
Includes pretty much everything - prev released and unreleased stuff. Still available so you've got no excuse.
Iron Dream / Top Secret / Alcoholiday 10'' (What records 1980)
With Johnny Stingray on guitar. Promo version released as a 7''. Songs bootlegged on one of the Killed By Death LP's. Now re-released on a 7'' by Dionysus/Bacchus archives entitled Product of a Sick Mind.
*Brendan Mullen ran the Masque and *Chris Ashford
was/is the guy behind What? and Iloki records.
View Karla Maddog Search And Destroy Interview cutting
Check out Johnny Stingray's CONTROLLERS site for a lot more on The Controllers, KAOS and The Masque. Drummer MadDog has her own site up which is more of a personal thing, but still well worth a visit 'cause her attitude hasn't changed.
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