In 1976, the Weirdos became one of the first Los Angeles punk outfits to form—and begin leaving a mark on the city.
After being on-again, off-again as a band ever since, the Weirdos are on again for the first time since 2005—and they’ll be at Pappy and Harriet’s on Thursday, Dec. 12.
The Denney brothers, John and Dix, are sons of the late Nora “Dodo” Denney, the actress who played Mrs. Teevee in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. They formed the Weirdos at the same time as the Sex Pistols and the Clash were taking the United Kingdom by storm with punk rock. Punk was starting to take off in the U.S., too, but the Weirdos weren’t calling themselves a “punk band,” per se. They were simply doing what was referred to back then as “art rock.”
“I think there were so few punk bands at the time, and it was pretty wide open. It was up for grabs, in other words,” said John Denney during a recent telephone interview. “… Initially, there was no scene in L.A. to speak of besides us, the Zeros, and the Nerves, who were a pop group, and shortly after came the Germs.”
Of course, the punk scene in Los Angeles eventually rose to prominence. Bands like Black Flag, Bad Religion, Fear and X became popular; so did groups with sounds coming toward punk from different directions, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone.
“There were a lot of drugs back then,” John Denney said. “… I was torn about the ‘80s, because a lot of the music was so canned and not my cup of tea—but then again, there were other great things happening as well.”
During the ’80s, the Los Angeles Police Department began to view punk rock as a threat to youth, and police started cracking down on shows. Violence among audience members was also common—and even upset various punk musicians.
“It was unnerving at times. You just didn’t know where the hell it was going,” John Denney said. “It got so wild and sort of went off at every show. You just didn’t know what was going to happen next with the police cracking down. It was really ugly. I wasn’t a participant necessarily other than being in a band, but I appreciated the youthful exuberance of it all. I don’t like people getting beat up, no matter the perpetrator, but nonetheless, it was still really exciting and exhilarating, and also really positive.”
John Denney explained the band’s various hiatuses through the years by saying the group was victimized by “circumstance, sometimes brought on by our own shortcomings.
“For example, we were on a great British tour in 2005 with The Damned, and our mom got very ill. (Dix) and I had to bail on that tour and came home for my mom, and she passed away. Back then, one thing led to another, and I moved to New Orleans. That was five or six years there that we weren’t active. We’re firmly entrenched in the here and now: I like to put it that way. … I think we’re better now, but some folks might not agree. We’re going to give it another shot; that’s all we can do.”
The new version of the band includes members both old and new. Joining the Denney brothers are former Circle Jerks bassist and Sean and Zander member Zander Schloss on bass, as well as Devo and Perfect Circle touring drummer Jeff Friedl.
Will the reformed band record new material? John Denney explained there have been ideas, but nothing is set in stone.
“(Our) records really were by and large pretty crappy,” he said. “We didn’t know what we were doing at that time so many years ago. I think the quality in every sense would be better and more proficient. I’m not sure if we can put the genie back in the bottle, because we are thinking and talking about new material, but I’m not sure we want to go back to a four-track and devolve. Hopefully, we will recapture the energy and the spirit behind it.”
John Denney continues to live in New Orleans.
“I’ve been here in New Orleans with my family about seven years,” he said. “I love New Orleans, but, yes, there are many things I miss about California. It’s an amazing place. New Orleans is my home, but I’m an Angelino—and always will be.”
The Weirdos will perform with Shawn Mafia and the 10 Cent Thrills at 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road in Pioneertown. Tickets are $13 in advance, or $15 on the day of the show. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.