Interviews: Chris Rest talks about RKL’s new album “Live in a Dive”
Originally, Chris Rest didn’t realize the band even had the master recordings in their possession until last year, when ex-guitarist Barry Ward’s hoarding tendencies came in handy. He had kept all of the band’s old flyers, posters, merchandise and archive tracks, including the set recorded at the famous Eindhoven squat-turned-venue in De Efenaar, the Netherlands.
“He was the one who kept track of everything and archived everything,” Rest said. “He said, I found this tape of the Eindhoven show in 1989 but it’s all still separated, and I said let’s see if we can remix it and master it and release it because I remember it was a good show and we were kind of at the top of our game at that point in our career, so it all went well.
After asking a friend in the Pacific Northwest to hand mix and remaster it, the live album was then sent to Fat Mike of Fat WreckChords to gauge interest. Naturally, he was immediately enthused by the material which, ironically enough, was recorded by the venue staff that night, the band having no prior knowledge of it until the end of their set.
“I don’t know if they even asked if we wanted it, but they were nice enough to hand over the tapes.” Rest said with a laugh, and went on to explain that despite hiring mobile rigs to come to their shows and record live the previous year (resulting from RKL’s two live European albums of 1988), the squat shotgun recording came out much better than the previous two they booked and paid for, while also representing a more accurate version of how the band sounded live during those years.
“People always said we were a great live band and I always felt like all of our recordings and studio stuff that we’ve done so far just wasn’t up to par, like the album Rock n’ Roll Nightmare was a cool record and all but we didn’t even have a bass player at the time and had barely rehearsed in the studio and we pretty much learned those songs on the couch and then went and recorded them with our drummer Bomer playing bass and drums.
Remember at that time in the 80’s there wasn’t a member of the band over the age of 21 or 22, some were still in their late teens. By 1989 about half of the band had gone out of control with hard drugs and alcohol which ultimately proved to be very detrimental to the band. As the only consecutive original member over the years, Rest found solace despite all the chaos, addiction, and exhaustion through the grateful naivety of youth:
“We had no idea what it was like to go on a bus tour. On our first US tour, we shared a van with Dr. Know, so it was two bands and all of our gear in one van, we didn’t even have a trailer. Again, the same – those first two tours through Europe were in a van with the gear and we just thought that was it. You slept sitting up, you slept on the floor, sometimes we splurged and shared a hotel room so it was pretty hard. And then the party was pretty out of control, drinking European beers – every night was just chaos.
Located in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, De Efenaar was a well-known squat house in the area, but for Rich Kids on LSD, it was almost like hitting the big time. Playing mostly in basements or tiny club spaces with low ceilings, cramped quarters and shitty acoustics, the dilapidated cavernous building had proper lighting, a decent sound system and a capacity to hold at least 600, maybe up to 800 people according to Rest, and that night RKL had managed to pack the place.
“I remember being pretty overwhelmed by everyone and how everyone was so into it…it was cool.” Rest remembers.
With 17 tracks in total, RKL’s setlist that night in Holland consisted mostly of songs from their 1987 self-titled album, Rock n’ Roll Nightmare. Die-hard RKL fans might recognize “Rumors”, a track that until now only existed on one of 88’s live recordings on Live In A Dive, one that had never been formally recorded in a studio even less mastered so far. Interestingly enough, on the original version of “Rumors” from 1988, the vocals had to be dubbed after the fact because they weren’t even written at the time of the live recording.
“That song is kind of crazy. We were really going in terms of technical riffs and chord changes to that part of our songwriting,” Rest recalled.
Citing The Bad Brains, Youth Brigade and Battalion of Saints as major early influences, RKL absorbed much of the culture around them playing with all the local bands from the early Ventura and LA punk scenes. Aggression, TSOL, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Suicidal Tendencies and Wasted Youth were some of the other names Rest listed before disclosing that a love of classic rock also had its own influence on the band. Kiss, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, among others, strongly anchored the aptly named Rock n’ Roll Nightmare years, although most of the band members were stalked, ironically, by hair metal kids in the high school.
Fans of Rest’s other band, Lagwagon, may remember their original drummer, Derrick Plourde, whose style was heavily influenced by the Tasmanian Devil of a drummer and sometimes RKL vocalist, Richard “Bomer” Manzanullo.
“You can hear it how tight the drums were in the first two Lagwagon albums, how Derrick – his bass drum pedal patterns and how he was really careful to be aggressive…having these things double foot that most people didn’t do at the time,” Rest explained. “And I know Chris Flippin and Shawn Dewey were also RKL fans, and being from Santa Barbara, we were an influence on all the early punk bands in the area at the time, even though we weren’t in the first generation of punk bands to come out of Santa Barbara.
“I was pretty much just an ignorant kid at the time, I don’t know… I still feel like the same person and I obviously don’t party like I used to party but other than that I don’t don’t feel that different I don’t know, the age is weird, I still feel like I’m the same kid somehow… it’s hard to believe I’m almost 55.
When asked if he would do something different after nearly 4 decades, Rest admits that RKL’s disbandment is one of his biggest ultimate regrets. Bomer, he explained, was such a visionary that his ambitions actually left him polarized in a way that was emotionally crippling for him. Wanting to take the band to levels far beyond punk rock with visions of epic, orchestrated productions the way Freddy Mercury or Rob Halford could rock their music, Bomer had almost too much potential at the time, and n didn’t have enough outlets to siphon through.
“He would wake up in the morning and already had a song written entirely in his head, and you know, when you have that kind of vision and other people are playing your music, it’s never gonna come out the way you hear it in your head, and I think he felt that Jason (Sears) was holding us back. He was a real Darby Crash style singer, you know, but nobody had the stage presence…he had such charisma. He could really controlling a crowd or building it up is an art in itself, just that.
Bomer and Sears died of drug overdoses in 2005 and 2006, respectively, with drugs playing a big part in RKL’s overall demise as a band. Naturally, Rest expressed regret about the whole thing, how there were a lot of things he wished he could have done better, but more importantly how much he missed them both.
“Every time we broke up, drugs had something to do with it.”
When asked what he would like the world to know about Rich Kids on LSD, he laughed and said most of the t-shirts were contraband, but followed that up with the more disturbing fact. that they were well underestimated when they were first. They weren’t mentioned in any of the zines and were consistently overlooked as one of the main California bands to come out of that area at that time.
“They always mention DRI, and a lot of bands that were in our same circuit, but for some reason, maybe it was because we were from Santa Barbara, people didn’t think it was a place for a legit punk rock band where i’m from but i’m not sure.
“The first review I ever read of our band was from Timmy O’Hannan, (of) Maximum Rock n’ Roll, and I was so excited, and the first thing he said was, ‘Heavy metal grrr-rawr, I choose not to listen to it’ and I was like, devastated, you know?”
Worth mentioning is the amazing Live In A Dive album art created by longtime RKL cover artist Dan Sites for this tenth installment in the ongoing Fat Wreck Chords series. Recently, Sites sat down with Rest and Fat Mike for their Fat Mike’s Fat Mike interview series to talk about both his long career as an artist and his retirement due to terminal illness, making this album cover. album (most likely) the last he will make. never do.
Rich Kids On LSD’s brand new live album, originally recorded in 1989 for the Live In A Dive series, was released Friday, June 3, 2022 and it’s hard to say if this material is more of a resurgence of lost relics of the past, or a memorial to those who made the album what it is today. Maybe a bit of both.
There is an ancient Hebrew esoteric term called “Binah”, which refers to everything in the universe having its own purpose and place. Perhaps Bomer never really got to see his ambitions realized in his lifetime, but even today he still has considerable influence. Not only did his pioneering double-pedal drumming style become etched in entire generations of punk drummers, but he also left behind a presence and charisma that is impossible to replicate and even more impossible to forget, which are all things legends are made. . So in this way Bomer was in the Binah of it all, which means he had his purpose and his place, although it could have been a bit longer. At the end of the day, there are albums like Live In a Dive to bring him back, and friends like Chris Rest to both tell his story and play his music for years to come.