Music News

No Age recalls L.A.'s Smell and other punk landmarks

As two-thirds of renowned noise-punk band Wives, Dean Spunt and Randy Randall not only made some of the most adventurous and blistering rock music of the last decade, but they helped put long-running L.A. DIY space the Smell on the map as a locus for innovative and exciting music, West Coast-based or otherwise.

In 2006, Spunt and Randall formed the more accessible but no less well-regarded No Age. With a handful of albums under its belt, including the recently released Everything in Between, No Age has managed to straddle the line of mainstream acceptance and underground credibility with skill and integrity.

Read the full interview with Dean of No Age in Backbeat.

With its ideals firmly in place, No Age is one of the few bands that has played an opening slot for the Pixies, been part of something like the No Deachunter tour with like-minded underground bands and had a lengthy MTV interview profile without egos getting out of hand. But then, Spunt and Randall seem like remarkably grounded people who never forget where they came from. We spoke to Spunt about his history with the DIY scene in Los Angeles and why it became so important to him.

Westword: How did you get involved in the DIY music scene in Los Angeles and come to play a place like the Smell? What are the most important things you learned being a part of that?

Dean Spunt: I started going to shows — like what I'd call punk shows, independent shows — at spaces like the PCH Club and this place called the Pickle Patch and the Smell around 1996. I was fifteen or sixteen, and I started becoming aware that there were punk bands that toured. Up to that point, punk was older stuff that I'd found out about — stuff from the '80s that people would make tapes of and mail-order things. I'd find out about these clubs and see these hardcore bands, punk bands, weird bands. It kind of opened my eyes to a new scene and another world.

I got pretty into it, but it wasn't until I started going to the Smell more that it caught my interests more than other places. PCH Club was for hardcore kids, the Pickle Patch was for emo/hardcore kids — a specific subgenre. The Smell was just fucking weirdos. I'd see a free-jazz band, and then I'd see a punk band, and then I'd see a solo noise guy.

For me, it was really eye-opening. There was no connecting musical tie, but what synched up in my mind is that it was about DIY. That's what punk is. It's not a scene, it's not a hairstyle, it's not a certain chord. It's people who do stuff themselves and make art. It seemed more fulfilling to me to have a bigger artistic palette. I started booking my own shows, and the Smell became the basis for my music and business practices — that was the way it was done. It was a big influence.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.