The SoCal label was nothing less than a trademark of quality, as this interview with the founder, originally published at Dagger zine, reveals.
BY TIM HINELY
In the 2000s I started getting promo packages from a Southern California label called Teenacide. Its proprietor was a guy named Jim Freek (his real last name!). The covers all had a certain bubblegummyness to them and when I spun them the bands sounds were similar. Bands like The Checkers, The (all-female) Rocket, The Shakes, The Holograms (another all-female bunch), The Blondes (dudes), etc. I dug these sounds quite heavily but the bands never seemed to tour. I wasn’t even sure if they were actual bands or just like studio projects and Jim being the Phil Spector/ Kim Fowley ish figure (I did see The Checkers on their tour stop in Portland and they were most excellent). Soon the packages stopped coming and the label seemed to vanish as quickly as it appeared. I never saw anything further from any of the bands, either. Being friends with Jim on Facebook I decided it was high time to toss some questions his way and find out just what made him and his terrific label tick. Here goes nothin’…
Q: Were you born and raised in Fullerton, CA?
A: Born in Westminster, just a Coppertone bottle’s throw from Huntington Beach where my mom grew up, and spent the next 20 years of my life in Fullerton.
Q: Did you get hooked, at all, on the So. Cal/ Fullerton punk scene (ie: Adolescents, Social Distortion, etc.)?
Actually, just those two that you mentioned. I love the first albums from both of those bands and it was exciting to be “from the same town as them.” Remember how long it took for SD to release a follow-up? By the time Prison Bound came out I thought they were washed up and that nobody would give a fuck about them. I guess that’s why I’m not David Geffen, right? I thought a lot of the other local OC bands were kinda cheesy: Hvy Drt, Doggy Style, etc. The actual first punk gig I went to was 7 Seconds, Uniform Choice, The Dickies, and Doggy Style at a roller rink in whiter-than-white Placentia. Doggy Style tossed donuts out to the crowd on a Go-Nuts level during “Donut Shop Rock” and within minutes the whole placed got smeared with chocolate frosting. If you showed up late in their set you’d think that G.G. Allin had been on the bill. The next day, I drove by the skate rink on my way to work and there was all this police tape out front and they were cleaning it all up. There were lots of other Fullerton bands that I found out about much later, like The Mechanics and The Pontiac Brothers, but as far as early ‘80s punk stuff, it was just SD and the Adolescents for me.
Q: What was the first song you remember hearing that really knocked your socks off? Hmm, wow. Well, I remember “liking” songs I heard on the radio while growing up, but the first one that really blew my mind was – and it was heard at a junior high school dance! – “All Day And All Of The Night” by The Kinks. Of course, I’d heard all the standard Beatles and Stones hits by that time and a Kinks tune here or there, but nothing deeper into the garage/punk realm. The school had hired this “hip” DJ guy who had a Badfinger haircut, and he played all the usual safe and sane 1981 teen dance fare and even turned down the volume on the Stones’ “She’s So Cold” during the “goddamn” part, but near the end of the night he blasted that Kinks song and I went stampeding over to his equipment and demanded to know who did it. I think that nasty guitar part is what did it for me.
Q: Had you been involved with music/labels before Teenacide?
I had done nightlife columns and various writing for local mags ‘n rags, and DJ’d a lot around town and got to know the bulk of the local scene that way, but most of this question will be answered by the next one.
Q: Tell us about your zine Fruitbasket Upset. When/how did it start and when/how did it end?
In early 1995, my best friend Shaun and I (he was at the life-changing dance where I heard that Kinks song, I’ve known him that long!) started going to see this all girl surf band called The Neptunas. We found ourselves out on the town even more than usual, and since the band played EVERYWHERE, we were exposed to lots of new clubs and different bands. At some point, we decided we should just start writing about all our adventures with the band and beyond, so we started a zine based on the name of a game we used to play in first grade called Fruitbasket Upset. We padded it with horrible customer stories from the hotel in Santa Ana that I worked at during that time, plus foodie stuff from Shaun, record and show reviews, and a column from our six year-old neighbor girl named Echo. The real reason we started it was to get free stuff from record companies, and it worked. We snuck over to the place where Shaun worked and pillaged their copy machine and I sent out copies using the postage meter at my work. No one at either place ever caught on to it. Since we live near L.A., it was easy for me to pop by labels and drop off a stack of the mag and leave with armloads of free product. It was particularly fun hitting the offices of the legendary Del-Fi and the old MCA building. Anyways, after awhile I started handing out FUs to bands at shows and eventually some local paper peeps ended up with it and I got some writing offers, and my writing career just kinda happened after that. Did the magazine for about two years but it became more difficult to do once Shaun moved to the East Coast.
Q: Tell us about the beginnings of Teenacide?
There was a local band called The Shakes who I just thought were just totally amazing. They sounded like a cross between The Monkees and The Real Kids. Janet from Redd Kross was the bass player and Ribbie Rist (Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch) was their first drummer when they were originally called Big Drag. Anyways, they’d played tons of shows around town since 1995 and I think they only had one song that had been released (on a power pop compilation called Closet Pop Freak). Meanwhile, they’d recorded an album with Ward Dotson of The Gun Club/Liquor Giants/Pontiac Brothers producing, and nobody wanted to put it out. I decided I wanted to release it, so I did.
Q: What labels influenced you when starting yours?
Norton, In The Red, Stiff, Frontier, Damaged Goods, but mainly Bomp!
Q: Was there a theme for the label (ie: seems like lots of girl groups)? Were a lot of them real bands? Like The Holograms (above) or Rocket? Were they working bands that played gigs or more like studio projects?
A: We wanted to originally take all the crazy pop, indie, garage, punk, and cheap synth and drum machine music we were into and add a definite Southern California twist to it. That’s why you have the three girls named Lauren in Rocket posing in pink and orange striped shirts in front of Hot Dog On A Stick in Santa Monica, or The Blondes (who sounded like a version of Big Star from the San Fernando Valley) singing about getting stoned, or surfing in Topanga. Most of the bands were real. I made up Cheer Car Wash for the song on the Hey! It’s A Teenacide Pajama Party! compilation. It was me on instruments and this teenage girl who was hanging out at the Wango Tango concert at Dodger Stadium to see Britney Spears. She told me she wanted to be a singer and that she was a cheerleader at her high school so I wrote a song around that called “Still Smells Like Teen Spirit.” John Peel played it!!!!! When we recorded it her mom sat next to her on the couch and read magazines. Rocket started out as a studio project because the girls told me in the Spaceland parking lot that they had a band called Rocket, but after we recorded material and they started getting all kinds of traffic and attention on their Myspace page, they found some other girls who played instruments and made it a REAL band and toured the country and even ended up on a show on Fox. Sisely & The Safety Pin-Ups were fake for art’s sake…just Sisely from the Holograms and girls from The Glossines (awesome girl garage punk from San Diego) and Peachfuzz, with Clem Burke from Blondie on drums. That song still gets played a lot on Little Steven’s station on SiriusXM. (Below: Rocket, with CC Deville from Poison)
Q: How/why did the label end?
Ran out of money and bands that I liked. Almost finished the label off with an album by Sparks/Milk ‘N Cookies sound-alikes S’cool Girls, but I lost interest in the label by then. BTW that band is now called Hammered Satin and they’re on Burger.
Q: Who are some current bands that you like?
Tacocat and Beach House. Taco Cat sound like early Go-Go’s on Kill Rock Stars.
Q: Care to list your top 10 desert island disc?
A: 1) 20/20 (first album)
2) Fleetwood Mac (Tusk)
3) Best Coast (Crazy For You)
4) The Monkees (Headquarters)
5) The Raveonettes (Lust Lust Lust)
6) Bootsy Collins (The One Giveth, The Count Taketh Away)
7) Talulah Gosh (Backwash)
8) The Barracudas (Drop Out With The Barracudas)
9) The Raindrops (The Complete Raindrops)
10) TIE: AIR (Moon Safari) and The Chamber Strings (Month Of Sundays)
Q: These days are you in California or Oregon?
Happily married and living in Oregon but seriously missing midnight trips to Malibu.
Q: Think you’ll ever start up the label (or a different label) again?
Only if I don’t have to work at a real job again and had time. I didn’t work for the eight years that I did the label, so I was always able to come up with ridiculous ideas and song titles or ideas for posters/flyers, etc. and was able to execute them in the middle of the day or the middle of the night because I had no other responsibilities at the time.
Q: Tell us one thing about Jim Freek that the world might be surprised to know.
I saw Debbie Gibson on her first tour. On purpose.
Q: BONUS QUESTION: What’s one band you would love to release a record by?
The material that Celebrity Skin (notorious late ‘80s/early ‘90s Hollywood rock gods who were like a bubbleglam version of early Alice Cooper and featured Don Bolles of The Germs/45 Grave) recorded with Earle Mankey in like 1990. All that came out was an EP, but there’s more, and the album they did was produced by Geza X and didn’t capture their clowncore insanity at its fullest. I’d be so excited to put that out!