|Kraut's Doug Holland in 2011. (Konstantin Sergeyev photo)|
What were you up to at age 18?
You could have been twirling your pencil during high-school classes or putting your grubby hands in the popcorn bin while toiling away at a movie-theater job.
You definitely were not fucking opening for the Clash.
Doug Holland and his Kraut comrades did just that, people, at Bonds in NYC on June 11, 1981.
"Faith, pestilence and persistence got us that gig...We only had been together for three months!" Holland wrote in an email to me recently. He added that the band placed its three-song, four-track demo in the right hands and the punk-rock gods shone down upon guitarist Holland, bassist Donny Cowan (22), singer Davey Gunner (15) and drummer Johnny Feedback (13).
(I guess I could have led in with 'What were you up to at goddamn ages 13 and 15!?'... you get the point -- let's move on.)
Holland added a few more priceless morsels to the Clash scenario...
"Donny...was banging the chick in charge of...no, no, no...He had a fine relation and she was a great asset. Not only did she get us in every night, she gave Mick Jones our demo...which Mick loved! He asked, 'Are they Nazi?'...NO!!!...'Sure! put them on the bill.' The show was the first time ever anyone of us played in front of people. It was all a dream...One that will stay in my heart forever."
|Early Kraut: From left to right, Feedback, Gunner, Holland and Cowan; positions reversed below. |
(Tom Marcelino photos)
And the good fortune kept rolling Kraut's way.
A year later, the band hammered out a set of its anthemic punk tunes like "All Twisted," "Kill for Cash," "Don't Believe" and "Unemployed" in an opening slot for two graduates of the punk Class of 1977 -- former Sex Pistols Steve Jones and Paul Cook and The Professionals in Boston.
Holland reminisces: "We were one of N.Y.'s top punk bands, so when it came up for a chance to play with The Professionals (!!!), we were as dazed as when we opened for the Clash!...And now Steve and Paul? It was really great! Steve and I hit it right off!!! He knew I was still at almost 19, still not manly yet! And he treated me like his little bro! He liked my playing. And there are times when jokes he had told me come up, and I still laugh out loud."
Jones remained tight with the Kraut boys and played guitar on "Kill for Cash," "Sell Out" and "Onward" on the band's album "An Adjustment to Society," released in 1982. Jonesy also strapped on his guitar alongside Kraut at a handful of live dates.
Kraut's tunes struck a chord with me, and Holland is proud of them, as well. They still resonate with him 30 years later: "They were an artwork of music! They were a porthole into what was going on in the world in our tongue. They will last the test of time."
|From the TSHIT collection.|
Another feather in Kraut's punk cap was shooting a video for "All Twisted" ... and it ended up on people's fucking TV screens.
Holland: "The 'All Twisted' vid was shot in NYC, sometime '82. It was a deal to get on someone's reel to show they make videos. It was a new concept -- Everyone was on it. So, Don Cowan knew the person who paid to shoot 'All Twisted' for his reel and ours!! What came after was the story: MTV picked it up in light rotation. First independent punk band on MTV!"
|From the TSHIT collection-- "fan club" stuff from the '80s.|
Next up for Kraut was the "Whetting the Scythe" record (1984), which featured more rock-styled songs to some people's dismay, but in my mind, the band still packed a punch and the songs were just as vital as before. It was during this time frame that I saw Kraut live for the only time at the Concert Factory (former legendary Cuckoo's Nest) in Costa Mesa, CA, with Channel 3 in 1985... it was a blast!
I hand the baton back to Holland: "After 'Adjustment,' I started to write more melodic songs. And what I really wanted was to let my freak flag fly!
"The Cro-Mags were getting it together when I was on tour with Kraut..Great tour!...But, as they say, sometimes -- or all the times -- you go with your instinct. I told my bros about me wanting to move. I told them, 'You guys are my brothers. I need to cut my teeth right now! So, use my name, use my songs, get another git player and move on. You have my respect.' (Holland joined the Cro-Mags in 1985.)
"But, we were working on a third album with songs already in the can. So, Don met Chris Smith (ex-Battalion of Saints) one night and asked him, 'Would ya like to play with Kraut?'...Smith jumped on that move like a lion on a gazelle!!!...Shame only months later, Chris Smith slipped and fell in a bathtub of water and drowned ... That was the last move for Kraut."
|Holland with the Cro-Mags. (From Doug Holland archives 2000)|
Kraut's latest move will be sharing the stage once again with Channel 3 on Oct. 17, 18 and 19 in Philly, Brooklyn and Long Branch, NJ.
"CH3 are our West Coast brothers!" Holland said. "It is always an honor to play and laugh and have a great time with great guys! otherwise stoked!" (Channel 3's Mike Magrann shares his wild and woolly experiences with Kraut below.)
|Top: Gunner with Calum Mackenzie in 2011; bottom: Gunner and Holland with Gerry White in 2011.|
(Konstantin Sergeyev photos)
Along with Holland and Gunner, their two new Kraut colleagues are Calum Mackenzie on bass and backing vocals and Gerry White on drums.
"Don And John are living a non-punk rock life with family. They will always be brothers to Kraut and Kraut's goings-on," Holland said. (All the original members played a reunion gig in 2002 at CBGB's during the "New York Thrash" reunion and recorded a live album to mark the event. And nearly 30 years after their first gig, Kraut opened for Stiff Little Fingers on June 3, 2011 in NYC.)
So, it's only fitting for Holland to close out by sharing some stories about Kraut's beginnings all those years ago.
With a love of punk and rock in his bones, Holland -- who hung out at NYC clubs like Max's Kansas City, Mudd Club and CBGB's at age 15 -- began leaning toward forming his own band:
"Disco was a plague! ... And rock had one name: "Kansasjouneystyxforeignerboston." Dude!..When your American head is broken open by Jimi Henderix, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy... I thought, it's time to make my own moves. The kids from the block were lost! Except a chosen few...
"I had met Don Cowan through friends. I met Johnny Feedback from a schoolmate. And Davey Gunner was best buds with Feedback. So, I wanted to put Kraut together. It was late '80, I had started to write tunes. It was the right time: The yippees were dragged down and disco was dying.
"We got along really fast -- It was fresh air! We did some Ramones tunes, Sex Pistols, Clash, then I started to bring out the songs I'd been working on the last two years. And the drummer of 13 years old, Johnny Feedback, clicked with me. When I came up with a tune, he was right there...So was Davey and Donny."
Here's the "All Twisted" video:
... And some words of wisdom from the lips -- err, fingertips -- of CH3's Mike Magrann:
We first met up with the Kraut boys winter 1982. It was our first stay on the East Coast and those mismatched roommates Jack Rabid and Doug Holland graciously allowed us to crash at their apartment on the Lower East Side.
New York City, and especially those dodgy alphabet city streets, weren’t the cleaned up hipsterville they are today. It was a scary, nasty place…. in other words, fun!
We had the best tour guides in the world in Doug and Davey Gunner, who showed us around the dark alleyways and dive bars of the area. Doug was also working behind the bar at the legendary A7 club as well, so we would start every morning leaving the joint in morning light. We played half a dozen times in the city that first trip, multiple shows at CBGB’s and A7, as well as doing shows with the mighty Kraut in Baltimore and Boston as well. In short, we fell in love with the city, and I often think it was because we met up with Kraut that first jaunt that we hold such fond memories of the place.
Over the years we stayed tight with the Krauts. They would come out West for a tour together, we would go back East. On our long 1983 Summer tour, at one point we sat in moldy motel rooms in Calgary, talking on the phone to the fellas as they splashed around in my Mom’s pool back in Cerritos, the fuckers! But that’s what our relationship was and remains: tight as family.
And so these last few years, while we were out riding the Old School wave with every other goddamned punk band from the '80s, we always wondered why Kraut wasn’t out there with us. Davey and Doug lost connection for a bit, Donny and Johnny went on to other things. But we always kept in touch, and every trip back to The City wasn’t complete unless we at least visited and had a drink or three.
But our last trip back, 2010, we got the boys out for a gig in New Jersey, and were blown away! They hadn’t lost a step, Davey belting out the lyrics as if he were still the bratty 18-year-old Bowery Boy. Doug by his side, grooving down low with the tobacco Les Paul, all the sound and fury right there again.
And so it is a thrill for us, back together with the guys for a weekend coming up. We’ll tell the same old stories, make fun of each others’ accents, and toast to the years gone by and those yet to come!