Weird things

Band interview

The following interview with R.G. is from the September '95 issue of Beat Generation, published in Madrid, Spain and was originally printed in Spanish.

B.G.: Can you please talk about the bands you played in before forming the Beatnik Termites? I Have the Reactions LP but I don't know about the other bands.

R.G.: Pat's been in about a hundred bands. I was in a hard-core band, but I wasn't into the music too much and wanted to create a new sound, an original sound. When I met Pat at the university we had the same ideas; to add more elements of pop music. I had just heard the Descendents for the first time and was in love with this sound. We (the Termites that is) try to add as much pop and as much punk as possible, into every just two minutes. A lot of critics say that we're too pop, but fuck it -- that's what we do.

B.G.: I think that you and Pat were studying at Case Western Reserve University when you were trying to form a band and that you met Brian through an ad in a record store, right?

R.G.: Pat and I were studying at the local University. It's a geeky school and there were only a couple of punks who were students there, so we were a small group. We knew Brian's band the Reactions and they were a great pop band. When the Reactions broke up we asked their drummer Dave for Brian's phone number. We got together and talked about how much we loved the Ramones, and our sound was set...before we ever played a note together.

B.G.: Quickly you recorded your first record, a 12" mini LP with 7 songs and it was totally great, the sound and the songs. Why do you think you didn't get more success or media attention? Maybe because you didn't think very seriously about the band and put more interest in your studies?

R.G.: Yeah, the 12 inch EP didn't get us much media attention. I think because it was a punk record, and punk is a sub-culture, not mainstream. Everyone thinks punks are a bunch of freaks. That was 1989-1990 and the popular sound at the time was that recycled disco and recycled hard-rock crap, only it was labeled "alternative" by the marketing guys at the at the major labels. We didn't fit into that scene because we're punk. Now with the success of Green Day the popular sound is "punk" and "power-pop" so there's more media and label interest in bands like the Termites. Fuck it. We don't care about such attention. We just want to play punk rock. Our fuel or catalyst has always been the fans not the music industry business. Punk music fans are the most loyal in the world. They love the music and will do anything for it. Punk is more than a style of music or a dress code. It's an attitude, a way of life (how's that for a cliché). There are people who come to every show that we play, no matter how far they have to drive or even if they have to call in sick from work or sneak out of the house without their parents knowing. There are people who search endlessly for our out of print records. These people keep us going. In that sense we are sort of elitists because we only like to have punks at our shows. Often there are curiosity seekers at our shows. People who hear our songs on the radio and think that they are going to go see a power-pop band. Then when they (the curiosity seekers) see us live they are appalled to learn that we are actually a punk band. There are a lot more of these people at our shows now that we're getting played on commercial radio. However, these people don't like punk so they end up hating the show.

B.G.: I haven't heard the bands that you were in prior to the Beatnik Termites, but I suppose that they weren't similar to the Beatnik Termites. How did you get that personal mix of surf and punk that made the Beatnik Termites sound?

R.G.: I wouldn't say that we're a surf band. We're a punk band that plays pop songs. We just use some surf beats. I suppose that I've been influenced by every band that I've ever heard. When I was a kid I used to sit in front of the radio and stare at the speakers and listen for hours. I wasn't just listening but studying the music, attentively. I listened to music all the time when I was a kid. I never watched television. I suppose that the Termites aren't a very original band because I can point to every element in our music and tell you where it came from. For example, the surf element is in the drum beats. This was lifted from Bill Stevenson (Descendents, All). The guitar, well it's mostly lifted from the Ramones.

B.G.: The harmony vocals sound as much as the Beach Boys as Dion and all that early 60's "high-school sound".

R.G.: Yeah, the harmonies are what make us different from most punk bands. Live we all three sing just about continuously so there are non-stop three part harmonies. The harmonies sound like mid-50s pop: Herman's Hermits, the Beach Boys. These are the same elements that the Ramones used when they first invented punk rock. I don't like it when I hear new bands that sound just like NoFX. It's punk rock twice removed from the original source. The Ramones are the fathers of punk rock.

B.G.: Talking about surf, one of the obvious components of your music is surf music, do you know or like modern surf bands like The Untamed Youth, The Boss Martins, The Surfing Lungs? And what do you think about the big amount of surf bands coming out lately? Are you familiar with such combos as Man Or Astroman?, Satan's Pilgrims, Impala, Phantom Surfers, The Tiki Men?

R.G.: I've heard some of these names before but I've not heard any of these bands, sorry. I don't like instrumentals too much. We're all three into Agent Orange and JFA, but JFA is more of a hardcore band than a surf band.

B.G.: The other half of you is punk, but are/were you very deep into punk as fans? What do you prefer, the 70s punk (Ramones, Undertones, Buzzcocks) or the 80s hardcore (Descendents, Black Flag, TSOL, Circle Jerks)?

R.G.: We love both 70s punk and 80s hardcore. The Ramones are, of course, our favorite band. It's difficult to imagine where music might be today if the Ramones hadn't revolutionized the direction of the entire music industry. There was hard rock like Black Sabbath, but it never would have evolved into heavy metal like Anthrax it wasn't for the Ramones. What I'm saying is that the Ramones were a punk band, but the impact that they had was much further reaching, even into heavy metal. They took pop songs and assaulted them with a brutal delivery.

B.G.: When you (R.G.) finished your studies you left Ohio and went to New Jersey to live. Did it seem the end of the band?

R.G.: This isn't quite the way it happened. I moved to New Jersey after I finished my first degree at the University. I returned to study again and that's when we first got the band together and recorded the 12 inch EP. It was recorded in 89 and released in 90. A year later we released the "Ode to Susie and Joey" 7 inch. So there's been no interruption.