Sin 34 – Die Laughing 7″ (1982 Spinhead Records)
You’ll never guess where my first exposure to Sin 34 came from? If you guessed a compilation, you’d be correct. They were one of the bands on what I feel to be one of the greatest hardcore compilations of all time, We Got Power: Party Or Go Home released on Mystic Records. This featured 40 bands on it and it was an all star lineup of early hardcore. Sin 34 stood out as the only band on that comp to have female vocals. At the time I thought it was alright, but over time I’d grow to appreciate female fronted punk rock a lot more and go back and get what I was missing.
I contacted Dave Markey of We Got Power Films, and drummer of Sin 34 and asked him if he could give me a little band history. I have never spoken to Dave before, so I was just hoping that he’d write back and give me even just a few sentences. What he sent follows, and was far above what I could have hoped for. Thanks to him for taking the time to do it and send it over.
The Sin 34 Story
I had the name Sin 34 for a punk rock band in my head at age 15 in 1979. I even created a logo for it centered around a crucifix with S on the left side of the top center of the cross, the center being the “I” and N on the right, same with the 3 and 4 on the bottom of cross. It sounded real cryptic, but in actuality it was just a UHF television station based in Los Angeles (Spanish International Network -channel- 34) . In addition to making up fake punk rock bands (some of the names were hilarious), I would also make up fake punk-rock clubs just to entertain myself. Long before I ever ventured out into the actual punk scene in Hollywood, or beyond, I had an alternate universe in my mind of what “the punk scene” actually was. In some ways it was more interesting than the reality of the scene at the time. It would be a couple years before I would finally decide I was going to be a drummer at the age of 17, as a senior at (Santa Monica) High School, and make “Sin 34” a REAL band.
I had met Julie Lanfeld at a Middle Class show at the Starwood that year (in 1981), and she promised she would steal a drum kit from a neighbors garage. It was a kick drum with a tom-tom, probably hadn’t been used since the 60’s. I didn’t have any hardware so I used a metal lamp shade as a cymbal, and I bought a floor tom from a friend. I used to kick the kick drum (literally) WITH MY FOOT!
Julie and I bonded over our love of Devo and Black Flag. There were a only a handful of punks at my high school, and even less at her school (Beverly Hills High). But she managed to talk 11th grader and bassist Phil Newman into joining our band. They were both somewhat uptight about being known as Bevery Hills Punks, so I recall when asked where we were from (not unlike a gang, right?) it was always “Santa Monica”.
I remember, without a snare drum at first, I relied on very tribal-like beats to keep time. My drums sounded more like (early) Adam and the Ants or Bow Wow Wow than alot of the punk we were into and surrounded by. That soon fell by the wayside, as Julie turned me onto her friends band,
The Necros (she was selling their first EP herself, for the band to the two or three local record shops that would carry them at the time.) Soon after, we got the first Minor Threat EP from Ian himself (who was selling them at Oki-Dogs one night.) Sin 34’s material quickly evolved into pretty-much straight ahead hardcore at that point. Julie’s singing was very aggro, and not at all what you would have expected from a 16 year old Beverly Hills High School 10th grader. The envirornment in So Cal at the time was decidedly very anti-punk rock. You would constantly being yelled at from passing cars, just because you had short (or colored) hair, and Salvation
Army (thrift store) clothing. The jocks and surfers at school gave us a ton of shit, but this just fueled us. It’s hard to imagine that now, I know. I often try and imagine now how the geeks and misfits in the high school social structure nowadays find ways to rebel now that “punk rock” is normal and accepted. We rehearsed in Julie’s basement in the spring of that year as a three piece sans guitar, and came up with a set of four or five songs. The early material sounded like a scraggily version of Sousxie and the Banshees meets local LA band Mad Society.
At a Black Flag show at the Santa Monica civic in June of ’81, the day I graduated high school, we met some skater punks from Palm Springs. One being Mike Bates and Shawn (now of the current band Throw Rag). They were throwing a party and invited us to come and play. We jumped on the gig excitedly, but one small problem. We had no guitar player. So on our way to the party we picked up our friend Mike Vallejo of the band Circle One, and taught him the songs in the car on the way to the party.
Mike Vallejo played a few more shows with us, but he was committed to Circle One. We went through a couple other guitarists before meeting Mike “Geek” Glass, a fellow Santa Monica high schooler who was a surfer, who was just discovering punk rock, tho he was much more into Led Zeppelin at the time. He was learning guitar, but he clicked with Phil, Julie and I, who were more-or-less in the same boat. We didn’t waste time in writing songs and aggressively getting as many gigs as possible. It wasn’t long before we were playing shows with many of the area’s “big” bands like Social Distortion, TSOL, CH3, Circle Jerks, Fear, and even the Dead Kennedys had us play with them just on the strength of our first couple demos. The first demo was an extremely lo-fi 4 track, which a few songs would soon appear on the Charred Remains and Meathouse compilations.
By spring of 1982 we recorded our debut EP Die Laughing at an 8 track studio in the Hollywood Blvd. at Western building (as in Cheifs ‘Hollywest Crisis’). Phil had put up the (meager) funds to record it, and press 1500 7″ EP’s (which sold quickly and effortlessly, I recall). We also recorded for a couple other local compilations done by various friends in bands (like Gary Kail from Anti & Mood Of Defiance New Underground Label) and the Life Is… ( So Ugly, So Boring, So Beautiful) series.
The band continued to play many shows locally, and even made a couple trips north (San Francisco, to play with Frightwig and Flipper), Fresno (to play with the Faction and DRI) and South-east (Phoenix, to play with JFA and Red Cross). This was the extent of touring this band would ever do. We were much too young and green to take it any further.
In early 1983 we began work on our first (and only) LP Do You Feel Safe. Recorded at the 16 track Mystic Studios (before they would start releasing hardcore records.) They offered to put our LP out, but Phil had wanted to do it on Spinhead, since the experience with the EP went so well. He did do all the work for the label, and he did a great job. 3000 copies were sold, and the band enjoyed a bit of local radio airplay. We continued to play alot of shows throughout the year, and the into next. We had built up a great momentum locally, and we began headline shows at The Vex and The Cathey De Grande.
But 1984 would prove to be a dark year for the band. The scene around us was changing, and so were we. Internal pressures soon dissolved Sin 34 sometime in mid 1984, just as the band was poised for bigger things. We all felt it, and I think that’s what did us in. I remember feeling really let down after all the hard work we did as a band. Like being in love for the first time, and having your heart broken, it was a painful – yet learning experience. Phil and I managed to keep playing together and we formed Painted Willie even before the final “official” break-up of the band.
By the end of 1985 Painted Willie was signed to SST records and hitting the road with my all-time heroes Black Flag for what turned out to be their final 6 month US tour. As a footnote, Painted Willie’s Spinhead and SST releases have remained out of print since the late 80’s.
In 1995 Grand Theft Audio released a Sin 34 CD entitled “Die Listening” which contained all the early demos, compilation tracks, and live recordings from the Olympic Auditorium in Downtown LA. This is the only recording which remains in print unfortunately. Phil withdrew from music and was stringent about never re-releasing the Sin 34 EP and LP. Last I heard he was running a sound-stage studio (where they shot the Jack Rabbit Slims scene in Quintin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction). He has since viewed the band as an embarrassment, I think. I never did. I will always have good memories of that period. It was a whole lot of fun for me, and set up the rest of my life in a profound way.
Once in a while I will be asked about the band. Most people want to know what happened to Julie. I always reply with “I have no idea.” I do have some info on her, I did see her briefly upon the release of Die Listening in ’95 (now ten years ago). And I know she had just had a kid. I heard she had a couple more, and is a housewife somewhere in the wilds of the San Fernando valley. The only member I’ve kept in contact with all these years is Mike “Geek” Glass. Or as he likes to be refereed to these days, Michael F. Glass. He is a gifted graphic artist, and I’ve hired him when I can on various projects I’ve worked on. Recently, he has done the design for my Desperate Teenage Lovedolls and Lovedolls Superstar Fully Realized DVDs.
For more info on what I’ve been up to, check www.wegotpowerfilms.com
There were two different inserts for this EP. Some had typed lyrics and some had handwritten ones. The Sin 34 CD mentioned can still be purchased from Grand Theft Audio (mailorder through Bomp Records), and the Party Or Go Home compilation has been re-released on the Superseven Presents: Sixty Bands CD on Mystic Records. There is also some footage of them in Dave’s film, The Slog Movie, which you can buy here. It is a great old punk documentary that is a great history lesson for those curious about the past, or a great reminder of the old days for us old punks.
Thanks Dave for the great info, I really appreciate it and I know the people reading this will as well.
Dave also sent along a picture of the band…
Here’s pictures of the two different insert variations for the 7″