Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Ron Reyes interview plus Piggy farewell gig, May 6th

Good God, have I really only seen Piggy once?

I'm thinking back on it, and I think that may be the case. It's a little foggy, because I've seen a few related gigs - like, I saw Alexa Bardach, near the end of her tenure as Piggy vocalist, join the Bonitos onstage for some Stooges-worship at the Japan tsunami relief gig at the Venue, back in 2011 (she barely sang anything, for the first few minutes of the song, but the charisma between her and Billy was palpable). And I have met Ron Reyes on several occasions, and saw him unleash his fearsome pipes at his 50th birthday event, where he first reunited with Greg Ginn.

But unless I'm forgetting something, I think the only actual Piggy gig I have attended was at a Neptoon Record Store Day event, also in 2011. Mostly I remember from that day that people were stressed that Alexa was running late. Once she got there, I remember enjoying the show - but that's about it. I like Ron, and I liked Piggy's debut album, Undignified - which I gave a positive review to at the Straight, neverminding the negative title someone hung on it -  but I have seen no other incarnation of the band, to my knowledge. I feel kind of embarrassed to admit this...

But here: I put together an interview with Ron for the Straight website, and I have some outtakes to share. 
Photo: Sharon Steele

You're of Puerto Rican background, right? Is it a part of your identity that's important to you? Were there any important bands or artists from Puerto Rico that influenced you or that were on the LA scene?

Yes that is right. Sadly, it was not a big part of my upbringing. My mom was a single mom and moved to New York when I was young. My step dad, who came on the scene when I was young, was German, and in our home it was SPEAK ENGLISH OR DIE. He was a cranky Archie Bunker-type, but I do miss him. So I never even learned Spanish until later in life, though I picked some up along the way. In 2013 I was able to Play Puerto Rico with Black Flag and even though the BF thing was so far off the rails by then it was an amazing time.

Wikipeda says you grew up listening to your father's jazz albums... What sort of jazz? Do you still listen to jazz? (How did your father react when you started listening to heavier, angrier music?)

I don’t know who did that Wiki thing - not me - but I think someone must be mixing me up with Dez, whose father was a great jazz musician and producer. I split home when I was like 15 or so, so my parents were not subjected to any punk rock torment. I think they visited me at the Church once or twice. But my mom and dad were pretty cool and had only love for me.

Sorry, the Church? Is that an LA punk house or something...?

The Church was made famous in the movie the Decline of Western Civilization. It was an old Baptist church that was almost abandoned and uses for storage and some hippies did arts and crafts there. At one point Greg Ginn had part of his electronics business there then I moved into a room in the basement and we started jamming there it became a punk party/gig place and a key transitional destination between the emerging Orange County scene and the Hollywood scene.

Ron Reyes in a still from The Decline of Western Civilization

Aha. I should have known that - I haven't seen Decline in awhile. So, uh, when did you first start listening to punk? PIGGY seems to owe some debt to proto-punk and garage rock - are there any bands you would namecheck as inspiring stuff you do? (Is there a dream band you'd want to share a bill with?).

I was listening to the early first generation of punk thanks to Rodney Bingenheimer. Again, it's all the usual suspects but I have very little love for any of what we call hardcore punk. My punk was colourful and fun and inclusive. It had wild guitars and long or short hair. It was played by women, queers, black or white and it had some swing to it - what came later is awful in comparison. Dream band? I don’t know perhaps a cross section of the Dolls, the Stooges, Alice Cooper, The Damned, the Germs, MC5, Flamin' Groovies….

Who were your favourite bands on the Los Angeles scene? Do you still keep in touch with anyone from back then? If you had to pick a handful of albums as favourites from that time and place, what would they be?

The Germs, X, the Screamers, The Weirdos, the Zeros, the last, the Descendents and from the OC side, TSOL, the Adolescents and Agent Orange. I don’t really keep in touch that much, ‘cause to tell you the truth, I was and am still to some degree antisocial. I was the guy at all those early shows who loved the bands but pretty much kept to myself.

Where did the name PIGGY come from? Any connection to
Lord of the Flies?

No connections to anything that I am aware of. The name was suggested by our first singer Alexa. And I loved it as at the time I saw it as an empty vessel with no particular meaning so we could just keep it mysterious and pour whatever we wanted into it. I did a Google search at the time and surprisingly there were no other bands with that name so it stuck. I never wanted to associate it with images of pigs because I thought that was too obvious and then all the posters would be cute little pigs you know. So I pretty much insisted NO PIGS. But I eased up on it a little and came up with the snout and cross bones logo that was only used internally until this final show where I used it.

The band has had a few vocalists. Is Ange Trash still the current vocalist? (Are you still in touch with Izzy or Alexa?). How did you connect with Ange? What is her character like? (She looks kind of formidable!)

Our singers were Alexa, Pat, Izzy and Ange. I love them all and really miss Alexa who we have lost touch with. Ange is our current and last singer. They were all a little different. I wish I could just put them all in a jar, mix them up and pour out the best singer ever.

Can you walk me through the songs on... is the CDEP called Fit to be Tied? Is that the most recent PIGGY release? Are there going to be any copies at the show? (I want one!).

The Fit to Be Tied project was a quick almost last minute low budget attempt to get some new songs out in time for the tour. There was no money or time for a proper album so we thought let's do a special package with a handful of new songs, throw in the songs from our first vinyl only release, add a demo and a live interview conducted by none other than IZZY herself. I think we pressed 100 copies most of which we gave away on tour and I think we may have like 5 copies left. Although some band members and Ryan who recorded it haven't even got a copy yet.

Have you seen
The Other F Word? (A documentary about punks who are parents, which Ron appears in). How did the filmmakers end up picking you? Is it tough, being a parent with a punk background?

That movie was an adaptation of the book written by Jim Lindberg (singer from Pennywise). I was a fan of the book and wrote Jim a letter of appreciation. We became penpals and when the movie project came up he asked if I was interested. My story was significantly different than the others in that i was the only one in the bunch who 100% put family first from the beginning. All of the other dads tried to juggle both family and touring. I knew that would not work for me. And I never have regretted that decision: my marriage is super solid and my kids don't hate me as far as I know ;).
Still from The Other F Word

What kind of music do your kids listen to? Do you like it? (What do YOU listen to these days?).

My girls - including my wife - are not huge music fans. Its weird. I think they all enjoy music but it does not appear to be a significant factor in their lives. All us boys however…. Both of my boys have an eclectic appreciation of music which I admire. And both are pretty good musicians. Way way better than me and one of my boys is in a few bands two of which I have seen and really like, OAF and Crumb. 

Anything you want to tell us about the gig at the Astoria? Who else is on the bill? Do you have any special plans for the night...? 

We actually tried to put something together at the Smiling Buddha for sentimental reasons and also to utilize Cecil English’s Mobile recording setup. But we just could not nail down a date or line up and I began to fear that the longer this went on the more difficult it would be to pull off. Ange is moving away and other members will no doubt start going in different directions so I was contacted by Sexy Decoy and asked if we would join them on their final show as well. I don't know why that are breaking up but I really like them so I thought yeah how weird and wonderful is this. The other bands are Spring Breaks and Scotty P and the Virgins. Ive never seen them but from what I can see it's gonna be a fun show. Our special plans are all about bringing back Izzy, Craig, Doug and Nick backup for one last round... Also to finish with Jenn is a dream come true. Our first and last show with a proper keyboard player. Geesh. I would also love to encourage 4 Beer Ronnie to show up [Ron’s slightly less sober alter ego] but I ain't got a roadie and since it will be me packing most of the gear and driving home I guess 2 beer Ronnie is all ya get.

1 comment:

David M. said...

You're a good entertainment journalist. You get honesty out of these people, and humanity. I mean, I was hopelessly evasive as usual, but everyone else really opens up for you.