When the Flesh Eaters first hit the Los Angeles punk scene in 1977, the band instantly stood out among its contemporaries.
After breaking up in the early ‘80s, resurfacing in the early ‘90s, and reforming once again in 1999, the Flesh Eaters now feature a reunion of frontman Chris D. and the 1981 lineup heard on the album A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die, including Dave Alvin (The Blasters), Bill Bateman (The Blasters), John Doe (X), D.J. Bonebrake (X) and Steve Berlin (The Blasters, Los Lobos). In fact, the reunited superteam is releasing a new album on Jan. 18 titled I Used to Be Pretty—and on that same day, the band will perform at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace with Mudhoney.
During a recent phone interview with Chris D. (Desjardins), he said the recent reunion shows have been a lot of fun.
“We did five shows in 2015, and we did eight back in January (2018), and it always feels good to play with these guys,” Desjardins said. “They are some of my oldest friends, and they are certainly my longest-held musician friends. We just seem to have a good chemistry when we play together. Everybody has fun, and it’s great to do it again.”
Desjardins has worked in the film industry, released poetry, and written books, linear notes and commentary tracks for DVDs of various films. However, he’s not a formally trained musician.
“I tend to get musical ideas very easily, and I don’t know where they come from,” Chris D. said. “I come up with vocal melodies for the guys who know how to play the instruments, and we build up the songs in that way. I could always hear three or four different influences, and didn’t realize at the time I was working on the song. I’m just grateful in doing this that I’ve learned how to convey those musical ideas to more-trained musicians who know what they’re doing with their instruments.”
He talked about the early days of punk’s evolution in Los Angeles.
“Sometimes, like when hardcore was really mushrooming in the early ’80s, we were billed on hardcore shows,” Chris D. said. “In that lineup playing to hardcore audiences, I would think, ‘We should play the melodies a little faster than we usually do.’ In retrospect, I ask myself, ‘How chickenshit is that?’ Even when we’d do that, we’d connect with a majority of them, but there was a contingent that was very off-beat. The one good thing is that a lot of the writers who heard the Flesh Eaters records through the years seem to get that there were a lot of different influences. I could probably count bad reviews on three or four fingers. Most of the write-ups we got from 1979 on have been really good reactions.
“Occasionally, people criticize my vocal style, but when I first started out, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing.”
I Used to Be Pretty will include the song “Black Temptation,” which was originally included in Desjardins’ writing anthology A Minute to Pray, A Second to Die, released in 2009. He said he never thought he would be able to record it as a song.
“It was kind of strange, because I had the vocal melody in my head, and when I tried to work it up in the early 2000s to record when I did that Miss Muerte album with the other Flesh Eaters lineup … it was too complicated to get into,” he said. “When we worked it up this time with this lineup, we had a similar problem. We hunkered down. ‘Black Temptation’ is pretty structured, and we had to really work on it. Initially, before we did the overdubs and mixed it, I wasn’t really sure if it was sounding like what I had heard in my head, and it wasn’t until it was completely done and mixed that I was going, ‘Oh, OK! Now I hear it the way it’s supposed to be.’ In the end, it came out great.”
The new album also features a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown).”
“We were trying to figure out another cover to put in the set, and I had several other different ideas. We’re still intending sometime in the future—if good fortune shines upon us, and we continue to do this for another couple of years—a cover of ‘Dead Souls’ by Joy Division,” Chris D. said. “Since I originally had that idea, I heard that Nine Inch Nails did a cover of it, which I haven’t heard. I knew John (Doe) had this Stooges song in mind from the Fun House album called ‘T.V. Eye,’ and there were several other covers. Dave (Alvin) and I wanted to do ‘Green Manalishi,’ because we really appreciate how great of a guitar player (Fleetwood Mac founder) Peter Green is, and I loved how mysterious the lyrics were. They were informed by a really bad acid trip he’d been on when he was in Germany when his schizophrenia got triggered.”
The Pappy’s date is one of two shows the Flesh Eaters will perform with Mudhoney.
“(The members of Mudhoney) are great guys, and they’re the guys who were responsible for getting us back together for some reunion shows in 2006,” Chris D. said. “They were playing the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in England and got to pick the bands they wanted to play with on the day they were headlining. They got in touch with John Doe and me, and said, ‘We’d really like the Flesh Eaters to play with us, and any of the lineups would be good, but if we could get the Minute to Pray lineup, that’s what we’d like the most.’ John and I went out to the other guys, and everyone had time in their schedule. It was a great experience, and we did three warm-up shows in California before we went over there. We almost did more shows in 2007 and 2008 in California, but those always fell through before they got announced, because people’s schedules got in the way.”
The Flesh Eaters will perform with Mudhoney at 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 18, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $35. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.