What is Gregg Turner doing in Santa Fe?
That was the driving question that convinced us to give the Angry Samoans co-founder a call. Turner and his fellow Los Angeles-based Samoans helped usher in the first wave of punk during the late ’70s. Now he's a math teacher at New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas.
Turner moved to the City Different in 1993 to take a job at the College of Santa Fe. He still resides in the tourist haven today. "I think everybody who lives in Santa Fe looks back and wonders, What's going on? How did I get here?" Turner speculates. "At the same time, when I visit my parents in Los Angeles now, it takes me 30 minutes or an hour to go five miles on the highways there. I don't miss that at all."
From his earliest days of record collecting, Turner's been a garage rock fan. He managed to track down two similarly infatuated musicians and together, they form what's now three-fourths of The Blood Drained Cows.
The band has been around since 1997, playing early garage in the mold of Lou Reed and the Kinks. Ex-Roky Erickson and the Aliens electric autoharp player Billy Angel joined the project after he impressed Turner with his vacuum-playing skills at a Cows gig in 2000.
That adds another dimension to garage rock, which is a genre Turner admits has been rehashed by group after group since its creation four-plus decades ago. Turner's sense of humor also helps keep the band's aura feeling unfamiliar. Song titles like "Hantavirus Deer Mouse Blues" and "Digging Up My Date" are anything but pretentious.
Turner spoke frankly about his cold feelings toward the Santa Fe music scene, the cliché of rock 'n' roll and an Angry Samoan confederate band.
Your band's bio paints an unflattering picture of the sonic landscape in Santa Fe ...
Oh, we're hyperbolic. There are all these old R&B retreads playing the same tired tune. I've learned to hate rhythm and blues and blues just by living in Santa Fe. It's unfair to the genre because the original black guys that did it were great. But these white guy improvisations of it ... it's just beyond annoying.
What are your feelings on rock ’n' roll in general these days?
I think rock ’n' roll is a cliché that's pretty much worn-out. Maybe it's time to throw the blanket over the whole thing. On the other hand, I'm having a lot of fun doing this. I just hope people are more interested in terms of the kind of stuff we're doing.
“I think rock ’n' roll is a cliché that's pretty much worn-out. Maybe it's time to throw the blanket over the whole thing. On the other hand, I'm having a lot of fun doing this.”
Gregg Turner, Angry Samoans co-founder, currently in The Blood Drains Cows and a Santa Fe resident
What makes The Blood Drained Cows different from other garage bands?
I think we bring a certain wry sense of humor that makes it a little bit less pretentious and a little more catchy to people. I think we're an interesting type of amalgam of those influences, plus a little Jonathan Richman sprinkled into it.
Talk about playing with Billy Angel.
Billy is our secret weapon. For anybody who hasn't seen Billy play, I think they're going to have a treat at this show. He plays the electric autoharp and he wears it on his vest. He strums it with a butter knife. He can get sounds that are very beautiful and harp-like, and at the same time, he can sound like Lou Reed and Jimi Hendrix. He's probably the most exciting thing to watch when we play. None of us are probably as charismatic as he is.
Does Billy live in Santa Fe?
No, he lives in Marin County in California. Every time we play somewhere, I have to fly him out. But it's worth it.
Do your students know about your music career?
Some do, but only if they browse the Internet. I don't try to advertise it because I need all their concentration I can get on the math.
Do the Angry Samoans still exist in some form or another?
The Angry Samoans are still playing around, but it's a confederate band. One of the members [Mike Saunders] has been playing since 1997 and he took the name.
Are you angry about the confederate band?
I'm not thrilled. I've considered suing him, but to do that with all the legal fees is just a huge expense. I just feel bad that people who think they're seeing what we once were are seeing a third-rate version.
What's your pitch for folks to come to The Cows show in Albuquerque?
We're trying to be slightly different, but at the same time, we're playing a genre that I think is pretty engaging for people to participate in. We're looking for people not just to watch and see if they like it, but to feel like they can be a part of it, and feel like it's something that they can feel involved in.