Full Rig Details: https://bit.ly/CircleJerksRR
Any band that hammers along for 43 years should be praised. But for a hardcore outfit that first seethed “I don’t wanna live / To be thirty-four / I don’t wanna die / In a nuclear war” 42 years ago on their 1980 debut Group Sex, pushing on for over four decades is a bit of a miracle. The Circle Jerks should be honored with a skanking statue in their hometown of Hermosa Beach, California.
“If you would’ve told me in my 20s that I’d be in a seminal hardcore-punk band in my 60s, I would’ve said ‘you’re fucking crazy, dude! I’m going to be dead by that time,’” jokes longtime Circle Jerks bassist Zander Schloss. “Now I say, live slow, die old!”
The Circle Jerks were formed in 1979 by former Black Flag vocalist Keith Morris and ex-Redd Kross guitarist Greg Hetson. (Hetson has also been a member of another seminal SoCal punk rock band, Bad Religion, from 1984-2013.) They were joined by bassist Roger Rogerson and drummer Lucky Lehrer. Group Sex is one of the most important albums in the first swell of hardcore. It’s worth noting that the 14-song collection was crammed into less than 16 minutes of tape. Tasmanian devil Morris raged his commentary on sex, drugs, politics, the rich, and even self-reflection. His bandmates redlined to keep up. Hetson’s swift, stabbing guitar parts pierced and slit through the slamming, double-time rhythmic pistons that were Lehrer and Rogerson.
Their 1982 follow-up, Wild in the Streets, contained five songs over two minutes long and three covers (“Wild in the Streets,” “Just Like Me,” and “Put a Little Love in Your Heart”), but all 15 tunes were still laced together with the same frenetic guitar bursts and rambunctious rhythms of Group Sex. The last of their most-influential works was 1983’s Golden Shower of Hits, which alternated between short, melodic mayhem and slower-but-still-acerbic stompers. The next year saw the arrival of Schloss, who contributed heavily to the band’s final three studio releases: Wonderful (1985), VI (1987), and Oddities, Abnormalities and Curiosities (1995). While out in support of the latter, their major-label debut, the Circle Jerks imploded.
In subsequent years, Hetson focused on Bad Religion, started Punk Rock Karaoke, formed Black President, and built out his Hetson Sound studio. Schloss played guitar for Joe Strummer, drove the bass for the Weirdos, and even entertained on the silver screen, starting with the role of Kevin in Repo Man. While Morris battled health issues (he fell into diabetic comas in 2008 and 2013), he was able to get several projects off the ground and revisit old ones including Midget Handjob, Off!, and FLAG. The latter’s a Black Flag byproduct featuring former members bassist Chuck Dukowski, guitarist/vocalist Dez Cadena, and Bill Stevenson—who produced most of their 1980s catalog—on drums, plus Stevenson’s Descendents bandmate Stephen Egerton on guitar.
Before the current celebratory run marking the band’s first live shows in 11 years (and first full U.S. tour in 15), they announced drummer Joey Castillo (Queens of the Stone Age, Danzig, Eagles of Death Metal) would be propelling the Circle Jerks’ runaway train. And since the band’s core members are now all in their 60s, and the resolution of the ripping “Live Fast, Die Young” is yelled out at each show (“I don’t wanna live / To be fifty-seven / I’m living in hell / Is there a heaven?”), they’re well aware that according to their own canon they shouldn’t be here and certainly not having this much fun.
Hours before the Circle Jerks’ July 21 headlining show at Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl (a Covid-delayed celebration of 40 years since Group Sex), PG’s Perry Bean took to the stage and talked gear (a conversation longer than most Circle Jerks’ albums) with Schloss and Hetson.
00:00 - D'Addario String Finder
00:15 - Zander Schloss Intro
02:57 - Playing with Joe Strummer
04:38 - Circle Jerks World Tour
06:18 - Fender American Professional II Precision bass
08:45 - Early ’70s blue-line Ampeg SVT
13:04 - Greg Hetson Intro & SG Standard ’61 Maestro Vibrola reissue
14:05 - Two 1980s Marshall JCM800s