The Mutants: Tracks On Tracks In Your Face (Brendan Earley & Fritz Fox)

INTERVIEWS, ISSUE #2

The Mutants were San Francisco’s seminal punk band and dominated California’s first wave of Punk/Art Rock. They had 7 band members and 3 lead singers (2 female, 1 male). They formed in 1977, and released their sole album “Fun Terminal” in 1981 a year after their EP debut. In Issue #2 we spoke with Brendan Earley (the guitarist) and Fritz Fox (the singer). Here is excerpt from their track by track commentary. For the full feature buy TEENAGE NEWS: https://www.etsy.com/listing/201876845/teenage-news-2-music-zine-features-john?show_panel=true

BOLD RESPONCES & NARRATIONS= Brendan Earley

ITALIC RESPONCES= Fritz Fox

The 415 Records, 3 song EP was self produced and recorded at Dave Blossom’s old studio at 10th and Howard [San Francisco]. We didn’t have a clue and made all the usual mistakes including using a vocal track of Fritz’s that had what’s known as a ‘popped p.’ This caused the first two test pressings, that Howie Klein had made, to skip at that precise spot. The only fix at that point was to remaster using lower and lower tone quality on the single. That resulted in a weak sounding low volume product. Definitely weird. But the songs were so cool! I loved everything about them, especially writing them.

New Dark Ages: Lyrics by John, I found a melody and saw pictures of what I was singing.
An apocalyptic future vision; John’s lyrics, my chords, and my arrangement except for that brilliant orchestral break/bridge which Charlie, and our first bass player came up with.

Insect Lounge: A hymn for posers.
One of my favorites, a real band effort: John’s lyric, my chords, I arranged that melody; and I am especially proud of that pop chorus (Fritz came up with that crazy ass “Sally is a jetsetter-T- T-T-T-T-T” part). Great, FUN song.


New Drug: What everyone was looking for. Me especially.
Fritz showed up at practice with the line “We need a new drug” and I had these chords running around my head; ten minutes later a song was born and just about completed! It was all fun, effortless, and creative and while those days didn’t last, they sure were fun. We also recorded one other track which never got released: “Twit:” “You’re too mellow for me, how come you act so organically?… I’m freakin, I’m freakin, I’m freakin out… out.”


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That first EP sold reasonably well we thought. Somewhere around 7,000 copies and we had this one paragraph contract with Howie which said we would “share profits:” 50/50. We were expecting some money and after a year maybe more and many phone calls from Sally, who was Howie’s good friend, we got a check for around $135. We were not happy.

Next Howie wanted to put out an album with David Kahne producing, which I knew was the right way to go. I’d heard great things about David. But, nobody except for Sally, was up for doing anything with Howie especially after Bart, the owner of the Berkeley Square, offered us $20,000 cash up front to sign with him. Well money talks; but, all sorts of bad shit would happen because of the allure of that money. I think it was just bad juju all the way. 

That one album we recorded with MSI was a difficult process for many reasons. We were big fish in San Francisco at that point. Things got serious and some of us (me, for one) were actually thinking about making a living from music. But a dream it turned out to be and in the process of trying to make it, the pressure grew and we bickered and distrusted each other. Fritz was in another band, Frank Hyming, and missed a lot of practices and Sally and Sue started to write more songs and Fritz started to feel more edged out by that…

Opposite World: Sallie and Sue could really have inturupted the Pop Continum with this one. Probably the most popular song the band ever wrote. I, unfortunately, had absolutely nothing to do with its creation.
A very popular song. It was a spare, non-heavy/non-punk chordal structure that was more pop, less dense and definitely more danceable than anything we had ever done. It got a big response from the gay and transgender community. Suddenly we were looked at by the ‘punks’ as ‘sellouts.’ It is funny because the only reason I came up with those single note staccato stabs on the tune was to keep the rhythm going right, not to be a pop sensation. Anyway, it was supposed to be the big hit song on the album. mutants_stephanoWe recorded it and paid for it ourselves at Shangri-La Studios, in Malibu, which was owned by The Band. Just that alone made me so happy, cause I was a huge fan of those guys. A friend of Sally’s, Lisa Bowman, had a boyfriend named Mike Boddicker who was THE synthesizer player in Los Angeles at the time. He had done synth for Spielberg’s “Close Encounters.” Name dropping? Well, at that time I was, for sure. He did us a favor and came and recorded some overdubs. A huge wall of synth banks and wires were set up. The recording went very well. Paul Wexler was the producer (he had done the GoGos’s demos) and all went well and smoothly and everybody loved the demos. It was the big ticket out of our day jobs washing dishes and making sandwiches! So this was the only track recorded at Shangri La, which made it to the album. All other tracks were from Fantasy.

Lesson in Time: The rant of a pseudo intellectual.
It was written as a band effort, I think of it as advanced songwriting. Complex, different flavors and textures swirling around. It’s still one of my favorites live but because Sally and Sue have such a big part in it, we need the whole band to play it. It has a very non-punk funky feel to it.

True Story: This song, as far as singing goes, was a chance to repeat some of the things I had heard in art school.
It is another result of years spent in art school: “true art manifests it self in the subconscious, that’s the way it’s always been.” Twenty years later I listened to these lyrics and was blown away. I didn’t really pay much attention to lyrics in those days I guess. Not my job. My job was to make sure the songs felt right and fit right and moved right. But Fritz was right about art and us being artists, which I did not realize until years later.

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Twisted Thing: A narrative that I fictionalized about when I lived in an office on 16th and Mission [San Francisco]. I also did it in Frank Hymn crowd pleaser filled with Fritz’s noir period. He had rented an office over on 16th and Mission, had a typewriter and no secretary. It was an early Mickey Spillane title but Spillane never sang like that! Another Fox/ Earley hit!
Fritz’s noir period. He had rented an office over on 16th and Mission, had a typewriter and no secretary. It was an early Mickey Spillane title but Spillane never sang like that! Another Fox/ Earley hit!

Give and Take: I always knew that Sally and Sue wrote this about and aimed it at Fritz: “you always take more than you give,” oh yeah. Things were heating up on the front line of singers! This was another Sally/Sue vocal that Wexler and associates worked over in the aim of getting a ‘hit’ – they even got some keyboard session player up from LA to glitz it up; crazy! Another complicated romp through some twisted territory…

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Strange Night: The lyrics were inspired by a Paul Bowles short story.
It was to me the most haunting, beautiful song we ever came up with. It had (and still has) this surreal crashing off of LSD or meth feel: really capturing empty- downtown San Francisco-4-AM- desolation-and-loneliness; and some nights we’d play it and the audience would get it and the club would get otherworldly for a while. Spacy shit, I know. This is still my fave from the album: well, I love it as much as I love “Perfect Target,” let’s just put it that way.


Perfect Target: Another girls song. Not as good as “Opposite World” though.
Oh, I loved this one. Still do. A nice 2-minute-skankin’-ska-funky- peen to mindless teenage sex of the falling off barstool variety. Sloppy and tight, this song became a heavy rotation number on several New York radio stations and we heard it on our last tour. Too bad there were no records in the record stores for people to buy while that was going on!

 

If you enjoy what you read, support the in print version of TEENAGE NEWS available hereTEENAGE NEWS #2https://www.etsy.com/listing/201876845/teenage-news-2-music-zine-features-john?

Post by August Bernadicou

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