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Interview: Seminal Deathrock Band Burning Image Hits LA for Halloween

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Fri, Oct 30, 2009 at 12:14 PM

click to enlarge burning_image.jpg

Back in the early '80s, when deathrock was taking over California, a group of young guys from Bakersfield formed Burning Image. They released a 7" single and played with bands like Specimen, Dead Kennedys and Butthole Surfers. Years after their demise, Jello Biafra re-released Burning Image's music on Alternative Tentacles and interest in the band was renewed. They regrouped, began playing again, and released an album of new material, Fantasma, earlier this year.

click to enlarge Burning Image back in the day
  • Burning Image back in the day

Burning Image will perform at The Wolfpak's Halloween party at Roberto's on Saturday night, right before heading up to San Francisco next week to play Alternative Tentacle's 30th Anniversary bash. LA Weekly caught up with vocalist/guitarist Moe Adame by phone to chat about the band's past and present.

When did Burning Image start?

Burning Image started in 1983. It was originally called The Pictures. At that time, we started writing a lot of the Burning Image music, but we weren't really fond of the name The Pictures, so we changed it.

What was the music scene like in Bakersfield at that time?

Actually, at that time, the music scene was pretty good. The shows were well-attended and everybody was listening to anything that fell under the "new music" umbrella, whether it was rockabilly or deathrock or punk. It was a pretty cool scene.

How did you hook up with Alternative Tentacles?

In 1984, we played a show with the Dead Kennedys in San Francisco. It was at the Keystone. What happened was that a couple of the band members from Burning Image went to Berkley to the college radio station there. They went up there just to play a demo of our music. We had just released a 45 of "The Final Conflict" and "Burning Image, Burning." The show that they went to was the "Maximum Rock 'n' Roll" show at the time, which Jello Biafra was a part of. When they were playing the 45 on the air, Jello Biafra was in the adjoining studio and he heard it.

Just by chance, I went to go see him do a spoken word show at The Echo, I believe that was in 2003. I went to go see him and we got reacquainted. After the show, he asked me to come backstage and one of the first things he asked me was, " I have a cassette of you guys from back when with four songs, do you have any Burning Image music." I said, "Yeah, I own all the masters, I have everything." That kind of intrigued him and one thing led to another and that's when he asked if he could release a collection of our music on Alternative Tentacles. That was the 1983-1987 CD.

click to enlarge Burning Image at LA deathrock festival Wake the Dead, 2007
  • Burning Image at LA deathrock festival Wake the Dead, 2007

Had you been playing in other bands?

After Burning Image disbanded in 1987, I had a side project, a band that I did in the mid-'90s called Iviscera. It was stuff that I didn't think sounded like Burning Image, so I didn't want to call it Burning Image. It was just a side project, nothing really serious.

What happened was that when I was trying to promote Iviscera though my website at the time, I made a mention of Burning Image. It was funny because people would write to me and say "This Iviscera stuff is okay, but tell us more about Burning Image." That's what it was, people constantly asking about Burning Image over and over again. I thought, I'm going to give this Burning Image thing one more chance.

What are your thoughts on the places you play and the crowd now as opposed to the first time around?

The audiences now are really enthusiastic about the deathrock scene. They're interested to try new stuff out and they seem to like the new Burning Image stuff. I'll tell you what, though, Europe is crazy about deathrock. They really love it. They're rediscovering a lot of the older acts like Christian Death, 45 Grave, TSOL, Kommunity FK. All of these bands are just so new to them for some reason. Europe seems to be embracing that whole style of music-- hardcore, deathrock, horror rock, stuff like that.

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