Old school Los Angeles punk/power-pop band The Last celebrate the 40th anniversary of their debut L.A. Explosion album with a show at Alex’s Bar this week, so we chatted with founding member Joe Nolte about it all…
L.A. WEEKLY: This being the 40th anniversary show, could you have envisaged the band would last that long when you started is back in the day?
JOE NOLTE: Not in a million years! I certainly had no intention of ever giving up, but I am frankly surprised I’ve survived so long.
What do you consider the career highlight?
Probably the album whose 40th anniversary we are celebrating. It was our first, it remains the best received (as first albums often are), and it’s fun to play! Also, I will confess that when I was a young Joe, like 12 to 13 years old, I was not in the happiest place. I wanted above all things to be cool. I was not cool. I was in fact 180 degrees away from cool. I remember actually hating myself for a lot of them formative years, bemoaning my pitiful uncool state. Fast forward to around 1980: Gene Sculatti comes out with a book — The Catalog of Cool. We are in it, thanks to the L.A. Explosion album. Great closure for my 12-year-old self. I now tell my daughter that her father is indeed cool — and can produce the book that says so.
What do you think of the state of L.A./SoCal punk in 2019?
My main focus in the early days was to rectify a monstrous state of affairs. In the dreaded mid-70s that led myself and many others to realize there was a desperate need for a new type of rock & roll, not only was there no way for unknown original bands to get signed (and this is before DIY), there were not even any clubs that would let bands play original music. You had to have a record out to be able to play your own stuff, and you couldn’t get signed to a label without a venue to showcase your stuff. It was a textbook “Catch-22” situation: a completely closed circuit.
When we started playing live in 1976 things were pretty bleak, and we had to pass ourselves off as a bar cover band. Part of what made CBGB’s so legendary was that they actually allowed unsigned bands to play their own stuff. Anyway, the 70s were a never-ending battle as we were continuously searching for new venues that would allow such revolutionary things to occur. Needless to say, this is not much of an issue anymore. There is now always a way for a new band to play their stuff, it will never be as bad as it was 40-plus years ago, and I remain proud to this day for the role my colleagues and I played in making it happen.
What can we expect from this set?
Chaos and mayhem, mayhem and chaos… Also, the first time the entire L.A. Explosion album has been performed since 1979. The first band goes on at 3 p.m. and is worth getting there early for, as it is led by former Last member Vitus Matare, and includes ex-members John Frank and John Rosewall. The other two bands, the Alleycats and the Zeros, go back at least to 1976, and we have known both bands almost as long. It is a rare full on old school reunion. I expect to see some old friends from the Black Flag/Descendents/Redd Kross Church days, but they will be decidedly a part of the audience. The band on stage has been working on this set for a long time, and are what you will see.
When the show’s done, what else does the band have coming up?
I have run into snag after snag trying to get this thing happening, and I honestly don’t have enough time remaining to deal with any more of this than I need to, so this could be the last live show for a while, and we may concentrate on recording instead.
Then again, we could pop up somewhere in a month – who knows?
The Last plays with The Zeros, The Alley Cats and Trotsky Icepick at 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 18 at Alex’s Bar.