“The fucking Pitcher House doesn’t open till 3 o’clock,” grumbles Neshawn, guitarist for punk rockers, 1208. Instead we’ve saddled up to the bar across the street at the Hermosa Saloon, a laid back Cali cowboy bar on PCH. As we attempt to lick the hair of the dog, enter Alex Flynn, vocalist and front man for this punk band poised for pandemonium with the Feb. 10th release of their second album Turn of the Screw on Epitaph. Fashionably 12-0-late, in steps drummer Mike (a.k.a. Manny) McNamara and bassman Brian Parks, who are just in time for the obvious first question: What’s ‘Turn of the Screw’ mean anyway, we talking carpentry? Sexual metaphor? What the hell?
“We were doing construction at the time!” says Manny. “Hanging drywall and chipping paint,” says Alex. “We were gonna call it Swing of the Hammer,” admits bassist Parks. “But it wasn’t as catchy.”
Sarcasm already? Fucking punk bands – if only they were as serious about doing interviews as they are about making music, the world would be a better place. Mou-hahahaha! Building off their posthumous first release, 2002’s Feedback is Payback, Turn of the Screw demonstrates an expanded sonic range without abandoning 1208’s signature machine gun power chords and angst ridden lyrics addressing shipwrecked relationships and societal malfunctions.
But it was that first record’s success that has afforded them a little more studio time and a slightly fatter pocket this go around, meaning ‘Turn of the Screw’ is filled with newfound instrumental experimentation.
“We tried our best with the genre of music to be more diverse,” says Neshawn. “We really didn’t think we were going to get the chance to make a second album to
be honest, so why not try something a little different? With the guitars alone we ended up using around nine different amplifiers.” Neshawn also strapped on every guitar within arms reach, from a telecaster to his Ernie Ball, a Les Paul and various strats. In the effects department, he inadvertently pays homage to Kurt Cobain’s use of a Big Muff pedal from “back in the day.”
Meanwhile, Manny raves about his new drum tech—rescued from a stint with ’80s hair band Warrant, no less—who added layers of titillating tones to an otherwise simple drum kit. “I think I used 5 or 6 different snares,” says Manny. “Some brass and metal ones, a wood one...lots of sounds, we had more fun on this album, as far as getting to use more stuff.”
1208 also called upon two different producers to track the songs. “We actually tracked 12 songs right here at Stall #2 (Southland are studio) with Darian Rundall,” says Manny. “Then there were two more songs recorded at the Steakhouse (another Southland studio) with producer Matt Hyde (Slayer, Hatebreed). So we got the feel of two producers on the same album - the best of both worlds.”
But no matter who’s at the mixing board, ‘Turn of the Screw’ delivers 14 choice cuts. Get your blood pumping with thick and chunky guitars on the albums title track, or skip to The Next Big Thing’s fistin-the-air chorus to conjure up genuine oi oi nostalgia. There’s a guilty pleasure pop song in there too with “Time To Remember”. However it’s “The Saint,” one of two bonus tracks, that delivers an unexpectedly soulful sojourn into unchartered soundscapes for this steadfast punk rock ensemble.
“On ‘The Saint’ we got a chance to record some acoustic guitars, twelve string guitars, a viola player came in, one of our friends Rodney [Wertz]…” says Neshawn before trailing off in admirable reflection. Alex confirms, “It’s the most experimental song we’ve had – like nothing before.”
Turns out it was John Cranfield, drummer for The Deviates, not Manny, who pounded out those two extra tracks including ‘The Saint’ while the 1208 skinman was on sabbatical from the band. “He went to India to find himself – ha!” says Parks…there’s that sarcasm again. When asked what the fuck happened Manny says, “I guess I just wanted to see what other options were out there, I even thought about going back to school. [The band] was completely understanding.” Nevertheless, Neshawn and Alex have a slightly different take, “Yeah, we forced him back into the band. We put a gun to his head!” they heckled. All signs of disgruntled band members prove nonexistent as they fall victim to each others constant jabs.
All joking aside, I ask Alex if it bothers him that he’s always asked to comment on his uncle Greg Ginn, a founding member of Black Flag, and Alex’s supposed destiny to be ‘punk til u die’. “Totally,” says Alex from the inevitable ‘uncle’ question. “It bugs me because we didn’t use anybody ever. We totally made it on our own. But I can see how people see it as the interesting thing about us – so why not talk about that?”
Manny elaborates, “It becomes kind of redundant though. Seems like a lot of people don’t know what to say, so they read the bio’s and just copy [the connection] under the reviews.” Maybe what people should be writing is how Alex’s singing anchors each tune, evolving into a more guttural yet still melodic sound. He’s even stopped playing rhythm guitar during live performances to beef up the onstage everything and focus on his vocal delivery.
Witness the entire band’s evolution once they hit the road to promote their new album. Or as Parks puts it, “Just go to the shows, listen to [the new CD] and have fun.” “And if you can’t afford to buy it, burn it” insists Alex. So turn up Turn of The Screw – bang your head on something heavy – and thank 1208 for a necessary shot of adrenaline in the So-Cal punk revival.