Bob Durkee

First of all, let’s get a few facts out of the way.  I was not there at the beginning.  I did not go to the Masque, or any of the landmark first shows that started punk rock in Los Angeles.  If memory serves, I had heard of some of the original LA bands by 1980 (X, Germs, Weirdos) but I really didn’t know or understand much of what was going on.  By 1980 I was listening to Cheap Trick and Elvis Costello and thought that all of this was lumped into a category called New Wave.  Thankfully in early ’81 the first Decline of Western Civilization movie came along and solidified, at least for me, a lot of what punk rock in Los Angeles was all about.  It is hard to imagine, but in those days before the internet, to find out and understand what was taking place in the music underground at this time, right under one’s nose, is difficult to imagine.  To use a worn out phrase, knowledge was more organic back then.  I was going to the independent record stores and had started reading the free local papers that covered all the local clubs and what was going on.  In February of ’81 I went to my first club show, Oingo Boingo at the Whisky in Hollywood.  I had to convince my parents that it was no big deal (16 years old and going to Hollywood!  The horror!) so I could borrow the car, and I was lucky enough to get the car and take a whole bunch of my friends to the show.  I didn’t understand the significance of it at the time, as the real headliner was the Doug Sahm Quintet, legendary ‘60’s garage rockers.  In retrospect I am glad I got to see them both.  I remember them playing their hit Mendocino.  2 weeks later I was at the Starwood to watch the Kingbees and the Twisters, and then at the end of March the Dead Kennedys and Flipper at the Whisky again.  By then I thought I had figured out what this punk rock thing was all about.  Later that year I bought my first copy of Flipside, and figured that now I KNEW.  From the interview with Killing Joke, who had played their first LA show a few months before, to all the record reviews and reviews of live shows, I thought, this is IT.  This is speaking to me on my level, the level of the fan, the guy who buys records every two weeks, goes to shows, and is really interested in finding out about all the great music in his backyard.  

 I both ran my own record label, which was/is called Fartblossom Enterprizes.  It started out as a bootleg cassette only label in 1982, and then became legit in 1984.  To date there have been 24 separate releases on the label spanning from 1984-1995.  I also worked at Toxic Shock Records, which also had its own label.  My involvement with the label side of Toxic was small as Bill Sassenberger, who was the owner of the entire Toxic Shock company made most of the decisions.  He did ask me and a few of the other people working at the store about certain bands and if we thought putting out a record by them would be successful,  Probably the biggest contribution I made to Toxic was using my relationship with Corrosion of Conformity to get them to agree to have Toxic take over the repressing of their first album.

I was in several bands over the years, the two that I was most heavily involved in were Pillsbury Hardcore from 1984-1987 and Shoeface from 1989-1998.  Pillsbury started before I got involved with Bill Tuck and the drummer Joel Connell.  Bill asked me to join in Sept of 84 when he discovered that he did not have the time to learn the guitar.  We learned as we went and since no one else in the band seemed interested I took over the main songwriting duties and then the main vocal duties as well after Bill left the band for the last time in the summer of 86.  I was only the leader for another year and a half until the other members decided they were tired of me ‘running’ everything (i wrote most of the songs, booked all the shows and recording sessions and basically managed the band). They kept going for another year or so and released an album on Billy Rubins label that I was not involved with other than they did not give me a credit for some of the music.  I spent the next two years looking for the right fellow musicians to play with and that is how Shoeface came together in 1989.  I also led that band and did the majority of the songwriting and vocal duties.  It was very amicable until the bass player burned out and quit in the spring of 1997.  We released 3 7″ records and one full length CD during that time.  I currently am trying to raise the money to release an anthology of all the unreleased Pillsbury Hardcore recordings that I own the master tapes to.  Hopefully that will come together sometime next year.

When I worked for Toxic Shock, it was primarily a record store with a large mail order business when I started there in 1983.  As I worked there the company expanded into distribution as well, which I was an integral part of.  

I worked briefly for the fanzine Brainstorm, which after the first issue changed its name to 12XU.  Over the years I also provided pictures to the fanzine Ink Disease, as all the people working there were good friends of mine, even to this day.

Beginning in the spring of 1984 I started my own gig production company called 12XU.  12XU put on a bunch of shows, mostly at the Sun Valley Sportsman’s Hall in the fall of 1984 and the spring/summer of 1985.  12XU was responsible for promoting the first show in So. Cal for Fugazi in the spring of 1988, which was the last show I promoted and co-sponsored by Flipside fanzine.  12XU also operated an underground club in Pomona called 12XU that hosted a handful of shows from Feb-June 1985.  Several notable bands performed at both of these venues including DRI, Corrosion of Conformity, 7 Seconds, Marginal Man. MIA, Toxic Reasons as well as many local bands.

Much of the work I did was on a volunteer basis.  I spent far more of my own money promoting shows and running the label, to say nothing of all the money I spent playing in various bands, than I ever recouped.  Of course back then it was all about the love of the music and making sure it kept going!

The two biggest interesting stories that I am associated with are the song NoFX wrote about me and the famous picture of Nirvana taken at Raji’s that I am in the background of.  In 1985 NoFX wrote a song about me called Bob Turkey.  It is on their second Mystic Records 7″ EP, ‘So What If We’re on Mystic’.  The story behind the song is when I was putting on shows Mike from NoFX constantly bugged me to put them on a bill.  I thought their band in the early days was not very good and was reluctant to do so, but finally acquiesced.  They were on a bill at the small 12XU club in Pomona with DRI and some other bands.  They showed up late, were already drunk, and did not even have all their own equipment and had to borrow gear from the other bands to play.  After they were done Mike asked me if they could play another show and I told them flat out that I thought they sucked and were unprepared and would not book them again.  Apparently he didn’t like that and wrote the song about me, which for everyone who knows me is hilarious because none of it is true.  The Nirvana picture was just luck.  I happened to be standing on the side of the stage when Nirvana played Rajis in Hollywood in Feb of 1990 and the famous Sub Pop photographer Charles Peterson was in the audience that night and took a very famous picture of the band with Kurt sprawled on top of the drum set.  I am in the far left of the frame standing next to Krist Novoselic wearing a white t-shirt that says ‘Angry Samoans’ on it.  That picture has been reprinted probably hundreds of times.

I have spent the majority of the last 20+ years in the music retail industry, working for both retailers like Guitar Center as well as manufacturing companies.

One Comment
  1. Shawn

    Bob did some amazing things, and most certainly was involved in and responsible for helping So Cal punk in particular happen. That said, his account of Pillsbury Hardcore is highly debatable in my view and as a former member and wish he would have told fond stories of the bands we played like Bl’ast and UK Subs at Fenders or 7 Seconds in 84 in Sun Valley; mention the good times we had as an anchor of legacy, but as he might say “punk rock man” it’s just punk rock so who cares?

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