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The Vandals Get MusInked UpEXPAND
Forrest Locke

The Vandals Get MusInked Up

All this weekend, the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa will play host to Travis Barker's annual Musink Festival, now in its 12th year, which deftly combines punk and metal music with tattoo culture. Suicidal Tendencies and Limp Bizkit headline on Friday and Saturday, while Huntington Beach vets The Vandals headline Sunday, a day that also includes such genre-definers as Fear, Dead Kennedys and TSOL. We spoke to Joe Escalante from The Vandals about all of that and more...

L.A. WEEKLY: It's been a while since 2004's Hollywood Potato Chip — any sign of new material?
JOE ESCALANTE: We write a few things and we rehearse a lot. We do work on new stuff — whether it’s released as a full album or songs here and there, we’re not sure. We’re working with the new Kung-Fu Records, which is run by Cleopatra Records, on some stuff. It’s not a giant priority, but it’s not out of the question.

For 30 years, it’s been the same four guys. We’ve recorded a lot of music together and haven’t given up on the idea. On the other hand, we’re having a lot of fun just playing all these festivals and staying in touch with the people who really like the body of work that we’ve done. We have a lot of people on the internet insulting us because we haven’t made a new record, but those people wouldn’t buy it. You know who would buy it? Nobody. We’d be doing it if we thought it was fun, so we do it at our own pace. We don’t listen to them, and we work on how to make this version of The Vandals better. Do you want an album of punk songs written by guys in their 50s? Does the world need that? Probably not. Maybe we’ll do it anyway.

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What do you think of the current state of O.C. punk?
It seems like there’s two worlds. There’s the shows that we play at the Observatory, House of Blues, the Garden Amphitheatre, the thousands of municipal concerts all over Orange County. There are almost too many places to play now. We now are suffering from not being able to play places because of a radius clause. So you have to space out and can play a couple of times. So there’s that world, and then there’s the bubbling under youth scene of punk rock. If you ask me what that’s about, I really don’t know because I’m a sad old man living on top of the hill and out of touch. I don’t know what’s going on with those kids but there’s too many places to play and that’s good.

Are you looking forward to any of the other bands at MusInk?
There’s stuff every day that I like. Suicidal — we’ve been buddies and colleagues with those guys since the beginning. There was a period when they were banned in Los Angeles and the police would not let them play. We had been banned before in various areas, so we had sympathy for them. So we would donate 20 minutes of our set to them. I would call Mike [Muir, ST frontman] and say, "If you guys want to show up, we’re playing at Fenders so you guys can hop on our gear for 20 minutes." Haha, we fooled the cops and that’s how they got to play. It’s good to see those guys still happening. Even Limp Bizkit — they were on the Warped tour with us for a while, and they were really nice guys.

On the day that we’re playing, I couldn’t be happier. The Dead Kennedys and TSOL — it’s hard to keep a band together, whatever version of a band you can get together. Nobody knows that better than The Vandals. So these guys are keeping it together. When I see the current version of the Dead Kennedys play, to me it’s the same experience that I got when I saw them when I was young. Actually, I worked for them as a roadie a few times. I was friends with them. The guy who sings for them does a great job. If he doesn’t do it, nobody’s going to hear those songs. I’m looking forward to that, I’m looking forward to Fear. There was no Fear show that I didn’t go to at one point. You’d go to every one. TSOL, I was also a roadie for, before I got in The Vandals. I should probably be nicer to our roadies.

What can we expect from your set?
You can phone in this stuff if you’re our age, or you can try to make an effort, work out the kinks and make sure you’re on top of your game. We’re as rehearsed as we’ve ever been. We like to get together and play. Not a lot of banter between songs because in a cavernous hall, nobody can understand what you’re saying. So there’ll be more music and less nonsense. I apologize in advance for the amount of music that we’ll play.

What's next for the band?
Let me tell ya — taco festivals, beer festivals, bowling festivals. There are a couple of Warped Tour shows in July. We’re grateful that we still have the agent we’ve had for a long time, Stormy Shepherd. She fields the offers, she doesn’t let us know about the incredibly insulting ones that I’m sure come all the time. But the ones that get through to us are incredible. Playing these festivals is a blessing that we didn’t know was in store for us when we got into it.

Musink Festival takes place at the OC Fair and Event Center in Costa Mesa from Friday, March 8, through Sunday, March 10. For more info, visit musinkfest.com.

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