Gregg Turner might be the world's hippest math prof.
He's one of the founders of the Angry Samoans, the smart-ass '80s SoCal punk outfit with one foot in hardcore and the other in '60s garage rock. He also had a multi-year run as a music critic for Creem Magazine
(go ask your older brother or mom about that one).
Now, Turner — who teaches at a university in New Mexico — is heading to San Antonio as part of a whirlwind Texas tour promoting his recent musical endeavors. Don't expect the two-minute blasts of Angry Samoans-style misanthropy, but do expect a quirky sound influenced by Turner's love of garage rock and Jonathan Richman.
Turner and his band — which includes Krissi Pardue on harmony vocals, Sarah Meadows on bass guitar and vocals and David Barsanti on drums — performs at Limelight on Friday, May 17. Signalman, Worm Suicide, Chris Toast & the Jerks and Trumpcard will round out the bill.
spoke to Turner over the phone about his upcoming Texas jaunt.
What are these Texas dates going to be like? It is just you with a guitar, or do you have a full band?
I have a band accompanying me. We've been playing around a good two or three years. It's quiet. It's not thrashy punk rock. It's more geriatric. I tell people it's more like Jonathan Richman meets the Velvet Underground with some Tom Lehrer and Allan Sherman thrown in.
How'd that evolution in sound come about?
I've always grown up loving '60s punk rock more than anything. But there's also a little Jonathan Richman thrown in, who influenced me a lot. I'm also getting to be an old guy — you can cut me open at the wrist and count the rings like a redwood tree now — so I can't downstroke as fast as when I was in the Samoans. So this is very much tailored to what I can do.
Is there still something for fans of the old Angry Samoans to latch onto?
I hope there's something they can latch onto. We do a couple of Samoans covers in our own style now. I mean, it's adaptable to this different phase. The humor is still there. The wry, ironic attitude of the Samoans is still there.
That kind of humor mixed with confrontation was always a big part of the Samoans, wasn't it?
Right. I mean, we were never part of the Masque or the Hollywood scene in LA. We were from the San Fernando Valley, so sort of outsiders. We played to about 10 friends for a long time, then we got banned from every club in LA because we attacked [via song] a local DJ named Rodney Bingenheimer. We got exiled to playing outlying shows in the suburbs, which is where hardcore really started. We were just scared they'd beat us up because we were playing too slow. So we cut our hair and triple-timed everything, and all of sudden, we got a big following.
When you look back, why do you think the Samoans' music still resonates with people? I can think of plenty of other bands from that same scene who didn't really stand the test of time.
It's interesting you ask that because I can't figure it out myself. I think the fact that the nihilism of punk rock and hardcore — especially hardcore — we just thought was funny, not serious. So, we wrote songs like "Lights Out," about poking your eyes out, just because we thought it was funny. We played a club in Boston called the Channel right as college stations started playing our record all the time. A thousand kids showed up, and during "Lights Out," they pulled out white plastic forks and started doing gestures like they were poking their eyes out. I almost passed out, like "What?" There was something about what we were doing that stood outside from everything else — being a little unusual or ironic — and I think that caught people's attention. But I think you're right, it seems to be lasting on some kind of volition of its own. I can't place it really.
Even though the Samoans were lumped in as a hardcore band, that '60s garage influence shone through in a lot of instances. Do you think that has anything to do with why the songs hold up?
I hope so. I mean, that was the idea. We had a song on the first EP called "The Right Side of My Mind," and it was a stolen riff from a Shadows of Knight song. That was our primer from where to start from. The singer Mike Saunders and I were old friends. We always wrote songs together, and we thought, "This is great, this is our blueprint. We'll just speed it up, add some funny stuff and start from here." I think, in my mind, the amalgam of influences on the Samoans was Roky Erickson meets the Dictators.
Free, 8pm Fri May 17, Limelight, 2718 N. St. Mary’s St., (210) 735-7775, thelimelightsa.com
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