L.A. rockers The Hangmen formed in 1986 but their career has seen them split and reform a few times as various substances and general chaos took over. Their latest rebirth sees them release their seventh studio album, Cactusville, a stunning piece of work that showcases frontman Bryan Small’s next-level songwriting. They play the Redwood this week, so we chatted with Small…
L.A. WEEKLY: For the newbies, when and how did The Hangmen form, and what was the mission?
BRYAN SMALL: The Hangmen formed in late ’84. I had a handful of songs (inspired by bands Gun Club, X, Creedence and Tom Petty among others) that I had written when living in Boise, Idaho, with the hopes of starting a band in Los Angeles. The first line up came together fast and we were soon playing anywhere and everywhere we could.
I knew West Covina-native Lenny (drummer) from his brief time in Boise. I placed an ad in The Recycler and found Doug, a bass player from Pasadena and Billy a guitar player from Torrance.
It clicked right away because we were single minded about our sound.
You appealed to fans of punk as well as the hair metal crowd — why do you think that was?
I guess it would be that our music comes from the gut like punk but rock & roll enough for others to identify with also. I can only speculate though.
Why did the band split? And why reform?
There were a number of reasons the first lineup split. One being the major label debacle that was our first album. It was remixed behind our backs and I don’t think any of us were happy with the result or the amount of bullshit we went through to get something that didn’t truly sound like us.
Another was the influence drugs had on me and my ability to make a decisions, good or bad. And finally I just think it ran its course and everyone needed a break. I had new songs and interest from Geffen after we were dropped by Capitol. I looked at it as a second chance and put together a great band and had Rob Younger (Radio Birdman) produce the album. But the drug and alcohol problems just got worse and soon found ourselves on the skids again.
After a few years of keeping some semblance of a band together, I finally got sober and along with Jimmy James (lead Gguitar) put out Metallic I.O.U on Acetate Records in 2000. This kickstarted the next 20 years of touring and making records that we could stand behind. I have been lucky to have the best rock & roll band I could imagine in Texas native Angelique Congelton (Bass) Florida’s Jimmy James (Guitar) and from Long Beach, Jorge Disguster. But our history would not exist without the unwavering support of Acetate records.
What can we expect from this Redwood set?
People can expect to hear The Hangmen and all that comes from a long history of triumphs and severe beat downs that would kill most bands.
When it’s done, what’s next for the band?
We will continue to do what we do, regardless.
The Hangmen play with The Cornfed Project and Beggars & Choosers at 9 p.m. on Friday, August 23 at the Redwood Bar & Grill.