KOTTONMOUTH KINGS ARE PUNKER THAN YOU #909 #INLANDEMPIRE
You probably know and hate Kottonmouth Kings as one of the forefathers of underground white trash hip-hop, but what many people don’t know is that frontman and KMK founder Daddy X is also a legend of the Orange County hardcore scene. He cut his teeth as the singer for the pioneering OC straight edge band Doggy Style (also featuring Brian Baker of Minor Threat/Dag Nasty and Doug Carrion of Dag Nasty/Descendents), went on to be one of LA’s most successful club promoters, and started KMK back in 1994. As if that wasn’t enough, he’s also the cofounder of Suburban Noize Records (La Coka Nostra, Big B, Sen Dog, and now Crazy Town), which also signed Brokencyde and Eyes Set To Kill to their subsidiary Breaksilence. For more details on Brad’s punk rock history, check out Double Cross’ excellent post on the subject.
His punk rock resume aside, I’m actually a big KMK fan. In all seriousness, what they’re doing is the new punk rock. Clearly there’s nothing threatening or subversive about Warped Tour, Hot Topic, or whatever else “punk” has become since its inception. I’m fine with that, but my point is that punk is no longer the safe place for losers, outcasts, and pissed off fuckups that it was 20 years ago. Disenfranchised kids will always carve out a place for themselves, and I think the KMK/ICP underground hip hop scene is that place. Kottonmouth Kings are the soundtrack for the true outcasts who don’t have a place anywhere else, and I definitely support them for that.
One thing I really appreciate about the KMK/Subnoize scene is the complete lack of pretentiousness and elitism that runs rampant in the metal and punk worlds. There’s a real sense of community there, and you won’t find a nicer, more welcoming, friendly bunch of kids than the crowd at a KMK show. Are they dirty, poor white trash? Fuck yes, and that’s why I like them so much. They legitimately don’t give a fuck who you are, where you came from, or what you’re into as long as you’re there to have fun and make friends, and that counts for a whole lot in my book. These are the real underdogs and outcasts, and I’m always down for those people.
I only had a few minutes with Daddy X and Dirtball, but I was really stoked to talk to them about their punk rock roots and the upcoming album from his punk side project The Ex-Pistols. I wasn’t expecting them to be so disarmingly soft-spoken and nice. Daddy X was seriously one of the nicest, most courteous, friendly people I’ve ever interviewed — he actually reminded me a lot of Frank Mullen in a lot of ways. You might not love KMK, but I can guarantee you’d walk away from a conversation with Brad with a newfound respect for them at the very least.
Doggy Style “Donut Shop Rock,” featuring appearances by Kevinsted, Pat Dubar, and many other OC straightedge legends
I grew up on Doggy Style, Insted, DI, and a lot of the bands you hung around with, so I just wanted to talk with you about your punk rock roots, The Ex-Pistols, and what it means to you now. How many people here tonight do you think are Doggy Style fans?
X: You were corrupted at an early age! As far as how many people here know Doggy Style, I’m sure not a lot. The hardcore fans probably research a little deeper into the history and stuff. As far as the Ex Pistols, and the definition of punk rock, one of my problems with punk was that it got to a point were there were too many rules. Punk rock, to me, was always about doing whatever you wanted and making your own rules. So nowadays, really, what does “punk rock” mean? Does it mean you play a certain style that sounds like someone else, that’s been done 500 times before? Are you “punk rock” then? To me, coming original, thinking outside the box, those are components that attracted me to punk rock. Questioning things, being different, not just trying to be like everybody else, that’s what attracted me personally to punk rock.
Then I started to explore new things, just in the journey of life, trying to learn as a human being, you know? Punk rock became limiting, in the same way as any kind of label was limiting. But punk rock was definitely very influential in setting me on my path through life, questioning things, my ideals, looking deeper inside myself, punk rock lead me to that kind of thinking.
With the Ex Pistols, it’s with the Tatter brothers from DI, old friends from back in Orange County. It’s just straight Southern California-style punk rock, my favorite style. We also pulled a couple punk tracks for the latest Kottonmouth Kings record, because every record we do a handful of punk-style songs. Dirtball’s the latest addition to the Kottonmouth Kings. He’s a solo artist, and when we started playing with him, he was like, “I’ve heard punk before, but I’ve never played it.” I was just like, “Just do your thing, but in doubletime, 190 beats per minute or whatever, just attack it.”
“Spies,” of the best KMK punk songs
Dirtball: My background is mostly hip-hop. I mean, I’ve been a drummer since I was young, and I grew up on rock too. But I never really got super into old punk music. I think I’ve always had that kind of punk mentality, but I’ve never really done it until X brought me into this. We’ve done a couple shows, it’s a lot of fun.
X: That’s how it all came about: when I heard Dirtball flipping out on punk rock, it kind of re-excited me. We had so much fun making that record– we just dug in, went up to my studio up in the mountains. The music’s real traditional; there are a couple of curveballs in there, but for the most part it’s just real fast, turn and burn, high energy punk rock.
From what I can tell, most of the KMK fans are primarily into hip-hop. What do they think of the punk stuff?
X: We’ve been exposing it to our fans for years on the Kottonmouth records, but I’m sure there’s an element here that really just likes the hip-hop stuff. The Ex-Pistols record is really just for us– if people like it and want to discover it, that’s cool, but it’s nothing we’re trying to force down anyone’s throat. It’s something we had a lot of fun making and we’re excited to share, but people either like it or don’t like it, whatever.
This video for “Knuckle Up” by Subnoize artists DGAF is the definition of the Temecula/Inland Empire bro lifestyle!
“King Klick,” which also serves as an excellent documentary on the 909/949 bro community — enough lifted trucks and SRH basketball jerseys to sink a battleship!
One thing I really appreciate about KMK is that although I don’t really look like I fit in at your shows, I always feel very welcome. Your fans are really friendly and seem to think of themselves as family.
X: I hope it’s like that! I want people to feel like it’s a safe, cool place to have a good time and hear music. You’ll meet some like-minded people, some people who might not be like-minded, but you don’t have to worry about getting judged. For me, I started touring with Doggy Style way back in the day, and the hardcore scene was getting super violent. Every show, every city we went to all these skinheads would show up, and it was just a bloodbath. That’s honestly the reason I quit the band. It was so discouraging to show up, trying to have fun, and it would just turn into a platform for all this crazy violence. One night, I forget where we were, somewhere on the East Cost I think, a full-on skinhead riot broke out, we got all our windows smashed, and I was just like, “This is not what I’m into.” For me personally, that’s why I said “I’m over this. I like the music, but I have to try something else.” I went down a whole different path, but I wound up later in life coming back to punk rock out of love for the music.
“Suburban Life,” off the soundtrack for “Scream” is a nice little nod to “Big A Little A” by the possibly the punkest band of all time, CRASS
Yeah, definitely — if you went to a Suicidal or DRI show back in the day, you could get fucked up.
X: There was definitely an element of danger. I remember going to shows in LA as a fan, being at the riot at the Whiskey or the Palladium, that was a whole different thing. That was coming from the authorities, cops coming in with clubs and macing people, that was more “us against the system.” But then the scene started cannibalizing itself, like if you look different or your hair is too long, you get beat up. This one guy, Steve Garden (?), he was the first punk rocker I can remember. Used to ride his bike around and had a big, long trenchcoat, super gnarly dude. Once punk started getting popular, he grew his hair out long and went to a Black Flag show and got beat up for being a hippy! There’s actually a picture of it in some book I saw. And this was like THE first punk rock guy I knew!
You have your fair share of haters. How do you handle that?
X: Honestly, it doesn’t affect us. The bottom line is, the music’s out there and people are gonna like it or they won’t. And of course we’re an easy target — we’re white guys doing rap music, so that’s one strike against us right off the bat.
Kingspade are a KMK spinoff made up of D-Loc and Johnny Richter that’s also pretty tight
Although to be fair, you were among the first to do that.
X: Sure, but whatever — I’m fine with who I am and the music I make. I enjoy it, although I’m sure a lot of people don’t. You can’t let people’s opinions or negativity affect you one way or the other, whether it’s super positive or super negative. If you have fun doing it, and you’re true to yourself, that’s it. People write stuff on the internet or whatever, it just rolls off me, personally.
Dirtball: At this point, I’ve just heard so much of it. I use it as a gauge of what we’re doing, like the more talk the better. I’ve learned to not let it affect me. But it is hard — sometimes there’s a part of me that seeks out a little bit of it, just to get a taste, and them I’m like “ugh!” [laughs]
“Be Strong,” off the 1984 Doggy Style 7″ on Mystic Records- classic OC straightedge skatecore!
X: The only thing I don’t like is, I try not to look too much, but I went on our Facebook page, and people just post all this super-negative racial shit, which has nothing to do with our music or anything else. Basically, every individual has a decision every day whether they’re going to project love or fear into the universe. Are you going to come from a place of love, or hate and fear? Some people wake up and want to hate, I choose to be a person who wants to love and project peace and positivity into the universe, and that’s all I can control.
Dirtball: It’s an honor and an opportunity to be involved with this massive thing they’ve created. I’m just super happty to be here and contribute!
My personal favorite KMK song is “Things I Do,” featuring my favorite KMK MC Johnny Richter (who I’m told is also a very nice dude)
With Subnoize and all that, how much of what you’re doing is influenced by the punk rock DIY ethic?
X: Everything with Subnoize and Kottonmouth Kings is definitely modeled after the do it yourself, punk rock spirit. It’s self-empowerment, true grassroots, independent music. Everything was built from the ground up, word of mouth, exactly like how we did it with punk rock.
It looks like you guys need to get onstage, so I’ll let you go — anything you want to add?
X: The Ex Pistols record comes out in early 2011. It’s done, but I had some personal issues I had to deal with and I pushed it out, but it’s done. We really want to get out and tour with that band, because it’s so much fun. All my favorite bands like The Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, Suicidal Tendencies, this record reminds me of what they did. It’s just a record I wanted to make. If I had to leave one record behind that I’d sign off on and feel content about, this is it.
Thanks to Brad and Dirtball for their time! Keep your eyes peeled for the Ex-Pistols record next year, and don’t be a hater!