I have been a huge Channel 3 fan ever since I heard their song “I’ve got a gun” back in the early 80s in my book they have the perfect balance of melody and aggression. I wanted to catch up with Mike and update everyone on what they have been up to recently.
Thanks to Mike for the great Interview!
So it’s been 32 years now – most bands do not last 5 years – what’s the secret of you and Kimm staying together for so long?
I guess because we’re friends first and finally! Even when the band wasn’t touring in the 90’s, we’d still talk every day and hang out the weekends. Same thing with our crew now, Alfie on drums and Anthony on bass—those guys have been in CH3 longer than any other lineup, so we’re just a tight family. Makes a real difference on going through the rough or boring times, ya know? You could probably put up with any asshole if you were pulling down 10 grand a night, but to tough it out in the clubs for drink tickets and gas money, ya gotta know your mates.
You guys got your start playing House parties in So-Cal in 1980 back then what were the loftiest goals you had for the band? When did you reach them?
The first house party probably was the first and biggest goal; don’t know if we’ve ever achieved anything as exciting since! As with any band, you just try to move forward and set another goal ahead of you: Write your own song, make a demo, make a record, do some touring. We’ve been pretty fortunate to do these things pretty early and ever since.
I grew up in Australia and due to Skateboarder magazine I was lucky enough to be exposed to Southern Californian punk rock from the get go – but many people really did not hear of you guys until the punk and disorderly comps which were primarily British based bands – apart from being completely awesome how did you guys manage to get on to those compilations?
That was all Robbie Fields, Posh Boy. He’s always had pretty lofty visions for his bands, and these cross-licensing type deals, like with No Future or SST, just helped to spread the word. It was funny, we didn’t really know about the No Future release until we saw some LPs with the different artwork, then we were suddenly getting nice reviews and letters from the UK. Funny, even now a lot of people still think we’re an English band.
One of the things I always loved about you guys is that you had the energy and aggression but were also very melodic – was that intentional or just the way you guys wrote music/songs?
That all comes from the stuff Kimm and I always listened to—heavy metal, power pop, anything really. I’ve always loved the aggression and speed of hardcore, but the straight shouting gets pretty old pretty quick unless you really know how to deliver, ya know? We always thought to put a little more melody, actually see how much of the sweet stuff we could get away with before the punks started hating us!! Also, the PoshBoy production style seemed to really work with our writing style so there ya go!
Another thing I loved about you guys were the clever lyrics – from songs like “You make me feel cheap” where it’s a role reversal and the girl is using the guy to “Manzanar” about the Japanese Internment camps – again was the a conscious decision to take a new spin of punk rock clichés or did it just come naturally?
I just wrote what interested me that day, but I was an English Major as a pretentious youth, so I’m sure I had to try and be extra clever and wordy for the folks! I laugh at a lot of those inflated lyrics now. But that was a beauty about Punk—you could make the lyrics serious, political, comedy, horror, it all worked under the flag.
Following on from the question above – was it your grandparents or one of your parents who were interned and did you get much feedback from people on that song (most punk bands I know only ever touched upon the European internment camps lyric wise)
My Mother, who was actually born here in LA was sent to a camp with her 2 brothers and my grandparents. They weren’t sent to Manzanar, though. Worse, it was to a camp down in Louisiana of all places! Just seemed like a subject that was glossed over in school back in those days, and I was pretty outraged at the thought of my Mom, as a teenager, being forced from home.
What do you miss the most from the early 80s Punk scene?
I guess really the unpredictability of it all! Back then, you never knew if it was gonna be a shutdown, a riot, if the promoter was gonna pull a gun on you or if you might get laid! Nowadays, you have the agent collect half up front, there’s your backstage rider for RedBulls and towels, gotta set up merch, etc….It’s good, though, to be able to play and get paid, everything nice and organized. But back when the gigs were like a traveling Gypsy camp, it really made for some tight bonds and friendships.
I just stepped into a Payless shoe store yesterday – half the shoes were based on skate styles and they had some in-house brand that had the punk rock ransom note style writing as their logo – it seems to me that while 30 years ago we were the outsiders of society and that anyone with spiked hair or a shaven head was a pariah and everyone wanted to fight us now it seems that that is the mainstream – did you ever foresee Punk Rock getting so accepted into Society?
I would’ve never thought it would happen, and truthfully, I was probably of the thought that punk was pretty much dead when it hit the 90’s. The music is what survived though, and all the people that had that music in their heads, those people now are designing shoes and making car advertisements—and they know just the right song from their youth to sell this thing! It’s a great thing, that something that was first seen as so dangerous and destructive is really such a positive force in so many people’s live. It’s easy to be cynical about how punk has lost its meaning and is too accessible now, but it really comes down to the music, and long may it live!
Like I said above I loved “I’ve got a gun’ the second I heard it – when I heard Fear of Life I immediately heard it – but I have to say when I got “After the lights go out” it took me some serious time to “get into the record” do you think your playing style changed then simply cuz you guys got better at song writing and playing or was there another reason?
It took me a while to get into that record as well! I think the sound and vibe of that record is different—very distant and cold stuff on first listen, pretty dark lyrics too. But yeah, we were trying to expand the sound, not just us but Robbie and Jay Lansford on the production side. We have the backup singers, saxophone, and marimbas in there too! I guess like they say, you have forever to write the first record, 12 months to write the next. After the Lights…was pretty much written in one chunk of time, for better or worse, so it came out some sort of strange concept record. Some good songs on there, though we pushed a lot of the tempos I think…I’ll have to give it another chance!
Somewhere in the mid 80s you guys kind of went “hair metal” as did many bands at the time – was that an attempt to chase the “Guns and Roses” market? From memory didn’t you guys score some high profile tours at the time? IF so what was your most rock n roll moment?
Yeah, we went the old cliché’ big hair route a lot of the other bands went through then. A big difference, we had a blast during those times and aren’t really ashamed of that fact! Back then hardcore just seemed to hit a brick wall went it came to the gigs, touring, and the crowd. It was just natural to expand a little, especially now that we’d been holding these goddamn guitars in our hands for a few years and finally knew how to play them a bit! We did have some pretty high powered management, and did some gigs and touring with X, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Jane’s Addiction, etc. There was a night backstage at the Palladium in Hollywood, when we opened for Midnight Oil, and I’m standing between Peter Garrett and Lee Majors, the Six Million Dollar Man!
To me the CH3 record was a return to form – what was the inspiration for coming back as you guys did?
Well, we never really stopped getting together and practicing, writing a song here and there. So when the great Old School Punk resurgence of 2000 came around, it was natural to get back in the studio. We really knew that we wanted to come back to the style of songwriting that got us attention in the first place, let the guitars blast and sing a melody on top. We got a lot of nice feedback from that record, a relief as you really don’t know if people really want to hear from you again.
Do you think that the re-issuing of all the old 7”s and Lps on cd had anything to do with a renewed interest in both Channel 3 and early 80s punk rock with the record buying public?
Well, the cd reissues definitely kept the flame alive, especially at a time when a lot of the punks of my generation (the ones who hadn’t od’d or gone to prison anyway) were growing up. But I always thought it was the Internet that really fueled the great surge we had here in So Ca. It was a way to get the community back together, make the music really accessible.
Any plans for a new record and when are we going to see you guys on the East Coast again? Last time I saw you guys live was at CBGBS with MDC.
Actually, we have a 6 song ep in the can, just figuring out what to do with it! We’re thinking of just doing a short run of vinyl and downloads. And to celebrate 30 years since our first tour, we’re taking off in May to hit those same stops through Texas out to New Orleans. We always have the East Coast in mind; we’ll surely get back there before the year is up.