Interview With an Angry Samoan
Gregg Turner is alive and well in Santa Fe, and playing the hits
Gregg Turner is known to most as a founding member of the Angry Samoans, a Los Angeles hardcore band that began in 1978. He is also known, perhaps, to a different slice of the population as a record reviewer for Creem Magazine (1976-1998) where he was noted for his inspired hatchet jobs on the likes of Bon Jovi, The Who and even Iggy Pop.
In 1991, he quit the Samoans and moved to New Mexico to accept a position teaching mathematics. In Santa Fe he formed Blood Drained Cows, a truly rocking outfit in the ’60s garage psych vein. Now he’s on the verge of releasing his first solo album, Gregg Turner Plays the Hits (made at The Barn Recorder up in Questa), as well as a 45 RPM single. Winning Coffee will be hosting the release party. There he’ll be accompanied by Billy Miller (Blood Drained Cows, ex-Roky Erickson and The Aliens) on electric autoharp and drummer Britt Alexander.
Last week the Alibi spoke with Turner over the phone.
You recorded in Questa?
Yeah, you wouldn't think there'd be anything in Questa to record anything, let alone a voice mail message, but this guy David has his own personal studio constructed from a barn. All analog, two-inch tape, and we did it in about a week, no more than two takes for each song.
Is the song “I Dreamed I Met Lou Reed” a true story?
Yes! About three years ago I was writing a song called “Fear,” and I couldn't get the chorus. This is the first time in my life that real life has transferred into a dream and then back out of it. In the dream my friend asks, “What's going on? You look bummed out.” And I tell him I just can't get the chorus, and he goes, “Well, why don't you ask Lou, he's next door.” So I go into this room, and he's moaning and bellyaching about something and my friend says, “Hey, this is Gregg, he's stuck on a chorus.” Lou asks me what it’s called, and when I tell him, he goes, “Hold on. OK, it's going to be a 1-4-5, and it's going to go like this: Fear is the thing that makes you insecure and then you become a controlling motherfucker.”
Which version of Lou was it? Transformer, Velvet ... ?
Velvet Underground Lou Reed. That was always the Lou Reed that counted to me, so that was gratifying that it was the good version of Lou Reed.
How did the Winning show come about?
My friend Nate Daly put it together, and I like the place. I used to grade papers there when I was teaching a calculus section at UNM. The only peculiar thing about the place, and I've never heard this before from any promoter or booking agent, is that we're not allowed to play any songs that are published by BMI. I'm guessing that some BMI idiot came in and threatened to sue for not paying royalties.
You can’t even play your cover of Roky Erickson’s “Starry Eyes?”
Yeah, that's Roky's song and it's published through either BMI or ASCAP. And Billy actually played the autoharp behind Roky on the original 45 that Doug Sahm put out in 1978 on Mars Records.
It's such a pretty song.
I saw a University of Texas football game in Austin—this blew my mind completely—and the University of Texas marching band played it at halftime! Roky's star has really risen. I saw him two or three years ago in L.A., and he was completely lucid and he drives a car now. ... We talked about Roger Corman movies we like. He likes the part in every movie where someone gets decapitated. I made the point that that doesn't happen in every movie and he went, “Yeah, maybe it didn't, but it should’ve.”
Will the 45 be available?
No, that's about two weeks away, but Triple X Records is pressing the CDs for me, and I should be getting an advance box to bring down to Winning. White Noise, the record label, is run by an old friend of mine, Ronn Spencer—he's the main character in my YouTube Kickstarter video. White Noise pressed The Avengers’ records and the VOM EP. So it's been sort of dormant and he wanted to activate it for this.
Do you want to make another installment in the long-running Mick/Keith-style press feud between you and Metal Mike?
You know, it's funny. We haven’t talked for more than 15 years, but he's been hacking to death the whole Samoans live thing for a while now, and the videos I've seen are pathetic—it's more like an Angry Samoans revue. But he's got the chutzpah to do it. I give him credit for that.
What do you think of Santa Fe?
Every idiot we chased out of L.A? I think I found where they wound up. I went to some open mics when I first got here, and it was one person after another doing Eagles covers ... Under the surface, there's some legitimate people that are really doing scary, interesting stuff. You just got to stick it out and meet a few people like that, and then it's kind of OK.
with Billy Miller and Britt Alexander
Thursday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m.
111 Harvard SE
Admission: Free, all-ages