Interview: Greg Hetson


Guitarist Greg Hetson has been instrumental (pun intended) in three notable SoCal punk rock bands: He played on the first Redd Kross EP (released in 1980, back when they were called Red Cross). He co-founded the hardcore band Circle Jerks, whose classic albums include Group Sex (1980), Wild in the Streets (1982), and Golden Shower of Hits (1983). And he played with Bad Religion from 1985-2014, including on the albums Suffer (1988), No Control (1989), Against the Grain (1990), and Recipe for Hate (1993). Hetson also has been a part of Punk Rock Karaoke since 1996, a punk rock supergroup that provides live backing for singers from the audience.

This interview was for a preview article for a Punk Rock Karaoke show at The Garage in Ventura, California on 4/16/16. It was done by email, with answers received on 4/8/16.

Here is the lead-in for the preview article:

So you wanna be a rock ‘n’ roll star? Can’t help you. But if you wanna be a punk rock singer, here’s your chance. Punk Rock Karaoke will be at The Garage in Ventura on Saturday, April 16.

The band will be Greg Hetson from Circle Jerks and Bad Religion, Stan Lee from The Dickies, Steve Soto from The Adolescents, and Darrin Pfeiffer from Goldfinger. The singer? Well, show us whatcha got!

The list of songs to choose from includes punk rock classics like “California Uber Alles”, “Anarchy in the U.K.”, and “Search and Destroy”, and of course classics from the band members’ catalogs like The Adolescents’ “Amoeba”, Bad Religion’s “21st Century Digital Boy”, Circle Jerks’ “Wild in the Streets”, and The Dickies’ “Gigantor”. If your taste in karaoke runs more “Should I Stay or Should I Go” than “Let It Go”, the place to be is The Garage on Saturday night.

Still not convinced? Here’s what Greg Hetson had to say about Punk Rock Karaoke and his career as a punk rocker.

Jeff Moehlis: Can you tell us a bit about Punk Rock Karaoke, including how and why you started it?

Greg Hetson: A friend of mine had the concept to do it at a restaurant he owned for his first anniversary party. He called me and asked if I could form a band and I called Eric Melvin and Punk Rock Karaoke was born. That was in 1996.

JM: How did you first meet the other guys that will be part of the Punk Rock Karaoke band when you visit Ventura?

GH: I met Steve [Soto] and Darrin [Pfeiffer] from playing shows together over the years. Stan [Lee] too. But I was a huge Dickies fan even before I was in a band. They were the first punk gig I ever went to.

JM: What are some of the most popular songs that people request to sing?

GH: We like to say the show is like a box of chocolates…

JM: What makes a good punk rock singer? How about a bad punk rock singer?

GH: Attitude and lack thereof, respectively!

JM: Looking back, what are your reflections on the first Circle Jerks album?

GH: It was a whirlwind procedure recording it. We would get snuck into studios at Midnight or 1:00AM. We would get a call maybe an hour before then rush over to set up. Back then studios were so expensive. So we had people pull favors on sessions that were lock outs. When the client left, we snuck in and used their time. Thank you Beau Bridges! He was the main artist we got time from.

JM: How did you guys end up getting included in The Decline in Western Civilization, and do you think it accurately captured the punk/hardcore scene?

GH: Me and Keith Morris went up to Penelope Spheeris’ office and pleaded our case to be in it. We were definitely an afterthought.

JM: What are some forgotten bands from that era that are ripe for rediscovery?

GH: Hmm. So many people have rediscovered a lot of gems lately. The Cheifs (yes that is the correct spelling) and Urinals come to mind.

JM: What are a couple of your favorite memories from your tenure in Bad Religion?

GH: Too many to list! 29 years is a good run.

JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

GH: Remember you do it for the love of it, and be humble. And never get discouraged no matter what your parents say!

JM: What are your plans, musical or otherwise, for the near future?

GH: I have an album done that has myself and Loomis Fall from Wax and the Jackass TV show that was recently completed. Stay tuned!


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