Born in Cerritos, California, Channel 3 were one of a clutch of LA-area bands who broke out during the hardcore years of the early 80s. They were also one of the best, with a fantastically robust punk ‘n’ roll sound. As the UK found out, when three of their finest tracks were released on third generation UK label No Future as the ‘I’ve Got A Gun’ EP. No Future was considered, at the time, to be the very finest of the UK’s specialist punk labels. Yet Channel 3 cut every other artist on the roster to ribbons with that EP (OK, we’ll make an exception for those startling droog types the Violators. And The Blood were pretty funny actually. Darn, sweeping statements always trip you up).
Anyway, it did seem like a breath of fresh air after UK punk had disappeared into a bunch of silly factions - with the musical cunning of a deaf squirrel between the lot of them. Not that the band knew anything about all this. The tracks had been licensed from Robbie Fields’ Posh Boy Records to No Future and the first they knew was when they started getting fan letters from Blighty. But it did mean that the UK has a ‘special relationship (heh heh) with Channel 3 that endures to this day. Which is why longstanding members Mike Magrann and Kimm Gardener (vocals and guitar in the former case, guitar and vocals in the latter), along with bass player Anthony Thompson and drummer Fredo Silva, are making their way over here in May for a few shows. Quite handily, Captain Oi! will be reissuing a fabulous new CD of their first two albums (plus those bonus tracks us anoraks adore) in April.
A quick chat with yer man Magrann seemed to be in order:
trakMARX - What's your previous experience of England/Europe band-wise, or as individuals.
Magrann - Well, I've been through Europe quite a few times, it's just a couple times playing with the band though! I've always like the European lifestyle, as it always seems so much more - well, European! The availability of convenient train travel, the ability to sit in a cafe for three hours with a book, the possibility of getting dinner past 10 at night. All things we don't have here. When we played in the UK (finally!) we were really taken by the honest enthusiasm the older crowd had for their music! It's like they came out to the Wasted fest to celebrate the music of their youth, even bringing along the grandkids for the day . . . just great! Over here it's like pulling teeth, trying to get the old geezers out to the clubs.
trakMARX - Also, the most common complaint - and I get this all the time from visiting bands - is that English cuisine sucks the big one. How do you propose to sustain yourself for your brief stay? Will you bring your own sandwiches?
Magrann - You know, we got ya covered there. We're in training by eating all of our meals in pubs for the next couple months to get used to it! Figure if we can sustain our bodies on a steady diet of fried bar food and Guinness we'll have no problem! Nah, I've never noticed bad food over yonder . . . but then, I always seem to end up eating goddamn gyros the whole time too!
trakMARX - Well, the bad food for American musicians is our revenge for the appalling beer you foist on visiting Europeans.
Magrann - Guilty on that count - do you people even have this whole light beer thing going on? Basically, ya just pour out half your beer and replace it with tap water . . . mmm!
trakMARX - 'I've Got A Gun' might be quite topical. Previously, Britain had very few problems on this score, but in the last week, there's been a plague of shootings in South London and we've had the Prime Minister doing 'briefings' with da inner city yoof. They're blaming gangsta rap. Again. But actually, it's really your fault, isn't it?
Magrann - God, I wish! If we could only get some nice lads to shoot up their school while wearing some CH3 shirts - how would that be for some instant publicity?! I blame MTV for all of this . . . used ta be, you'd have to go to the movies and sit through the latest Scorsese to get your guns and guts on. It was so - big and distant, right? But nowadays you're watching the latest Fifty Cent video playing on the 13-inch while you're brushing your teeth, and you think, damn, he right! I'm gonna go cap that fool's ass!
trakMARX - OK, what day jobs and family commitments are you ducking to make this trip? Will you be bringing wives/girlfriends (boyfriends? let's not make assumptions here) on your luxury coach? Or will you all be grovelling for a month before and after, doing extra washing up, sucking up to the boss, etc?
Magrann - Alfie the drummer is the UPS guy, but he doesn't get to wear the cool shorts and flirt with receptionists all day - no, he's night manager in the warehouse, so no-one knows when he ducks out anyways! Both Kimm and Anthony work in the licensing and merchandising of clothing, band gear etc, and I run a metal shop. I take big pieces of steel and make them into small pieces of steel - kinda like the chain gang hammering away on a rock, eh? No wives allowed on this trip - we told them there'd be no sightseeing, that we'd only be seeing the insides of dark clammy pubs and staying drunk sunup to sunup - God, let's hope that comes true!
trakMARX - Most people in the UK know you through that old No Future EP. A veritable punk rock classic. I know you had no idea it would have the impact it did, and weren't even fully aware of the release details. And I know you've said that, in some ways, those three tracks give a slightly false impression of the band, that you were ardent politicos rather than the beer-swilling party animal reality. So my question is this - why do Americans call sports like baseball and gridiron, that only they compete in, world championships? No, sorry, I mean - if you had to squeeze just one extra track on that original EP to provide a broader representation of what Channel 3 was about, with total hindsight, what would you put on there and why?
Magrann - Listen who's talking smack about sports! Y'all have a version of Football where the guy actually uses his foot to move the ball around! It's not that we didn't have an interest in the political themes that hit close to home--it's just that our songs were always more about the politics of the heart, or for that case, also of the penis and the liver! The packaging and presentation of the No Future release was just great. But you could see the disappointment on some people's faces when we'd show up at the club, not a Mohawk or spiked leather in sight . . . When Posh Boy first got our demo tape, we had almost all of the songs from Fear of Life [their debut album] already done. So maybe a song like ‘I Wanna Know’ could've been on there. That being said, I wouldn't have changed anything about that No Future EP! We're banking on most people still thinking we're a Brit band, just gotta get that nutty accent down mate!
trakMARX - OK, speaking of accents and stuff - is punk rock a shared language? Does it mean something similar, in your experience, to a kid in LA or in London? There has been way too little philosophical shite in this exchange so far.
Magrann - Ya know, I think Punk Rock in its ideal form is indeed a shared language. It's more of the attitude that cuts across all lines of culture and class. I see some old guys working in the gas station that are definitely punk rock, though by the same standard, there's a ton of kids down at the mall that have the leathers and spikes but are about as Punk Rock as a moustache! As far as what it means to the kiddos nowadays, hmmm - I think we're much more in tune with the ol' geezers like us! I hate to jump on that old cliché about how the scene is dead, it's not the same as it once was, we used to walk to school in three feet of snow, blah blah, but there's truth in all that. We were lucky enough to grow up right when a brand new thing was taking shape. I guess it's something we'll take to our graves. So yeah, those that shared the times are always on the same wavelength!
trakMARX - Oh, and when you said metal shop, I thought you were going to tell me about hoarding Twisted Sister picture discs and such. What a relief.
Magrann - Actually, that's Kimm that sells the Twisted Sister picture discs. I'll bet ya think I'm joking here!
trakMARX - To wrap up, hmm. Which of the following pithy statements sums up Channel 3 best:
a) Musically literate punk rockers . . .
b) Unpretentious rock band with punk edge . . .
c) Drunks with self-esteem issues . . .
d) Children in adult bodies . . .
e) Adverts for the necessity of a national conscription programme . . .
f) Musicians who would one day like to be interviewed/profiled by a proper grown-up journalist . . .
Magrann - Shall I be obvious and say all of the above here? By the way, I'm so grateful you didn't say adults in children's bodies. That wording got Alf in a lot of trouble through a recent internet sting operation. Thanks for having the chat with us, we're so looking forward to our upcoming European jaunt.
CH3 Euro dates: Wed May 16 The Junction Stokes Croft Bristol Avon BS1 3QP Fri May 18 Le Pub 1 Caxton Place Newport, NP20 4BN 01633 221 477 Sat May 19 Underworld 174 Camden High Street London NW1 Sun May 20 Melkweg Lijnbaansgracht 234a, 1017 PH Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The band is also releasing a documentary, “One More For All My True Friends”, which will be released in late March, and should be out on DVD by the summer.
Alex Ogg – tMx 29 – 04/07