“Fast and angry but with more rock’n’roll vibe.” – Razorcake
“…top notch hardcore… “ – Ugly Things magazine
The Story of Vampire Lezbos
Vampire Lezbos was started in 1984. Originally from the Spokane-area in Washington State, they played across the country for five years before regrouping in Portland, Maine in 1989. The Lezbos has toured the United States every year since 1985 with the exceptions of ’92 and ’94.
Led by Dave Whiting, Vampire Lezbos has lived in Spokane, Seattle, Washington; San Francisco, CA; Portland, Oregon; and Auckland, New Zealand. Dave is still leading VLs and is currently based in Auckland, New Zealand. They most recently released their fourth studio album entitled ‘2012’ in 2009.
Flat Field Records, which released the ‘SpokAnarchy: Where Were You In ’82?’ documentary and soundtrack anthology the band stars in/on, is reissuing VLs first album. It features 23 songs, with bonus material including their beloved 1986 unreleased demo with Rob Westergard singing, David Lezbeau on guitar/vocals, Jeff Duty on bass and Mike Hill on drums.
Dave of Vampire Lezbos was initially inpsired by bands like the The Clash and The Buzzcocks. The band name was taken from a Cramps song (which itself comes from a 1960s Italian erotic horror film). Their last U.S. tour was in the summer of 2009, supporting their latest album. Joey Shithead of D.O.A. fame, helped the band early on by sharing shows with them a number of times in both Canada and the States. (Joey also helped produce the second Lezbos, which also featured sing back-up singing with Wimpy from D.O.A. and the Subhumans.)
The legendary garage-punk VLs has stormed an astonishing twelve U.S./Canadian tours, playing out with D.O.A., Adrenalin O.D., Dough Boys, Circle Jerks, 7 Seconds, Queers, Fugazi, Faith No More, Gang Of Four, Bad Religion, Toxic Reasons, Nation Of Ulysses, Operation Ivy, All, Adolescents, Battalion Of Saints, Poison Idea, Neurosis, Verbal Abuse, Beyond Possession, Shudder To Think, Skinyard, Filth, Raunchettes, JFA, Dead Milkmen, L7, etc. They headlined over Nirvana and Everclear in their early years.
Original Track Listing on 1988 LP:
2. Cop Magnet
4. Stop Killing The Seals
5. So What
6. Reds Use Poison Gas
7. Ogon Warrior
8. It Hurts
9. Phone Solicitor
10. What The Fucks
11. Queen Spuma
13. Macho Fag
Bonus tracks on re-issue:
14. It Hurts (Alternate 1986 Version)
15. Monkey (Alternate 1986 Version)
16. Plasma (Alternate 1986 Version)
17. Macho Fag (Alternate 1986 Version)
18. Worm (Alternate 1986 Version)
19. Mike’s Family (1986)
20. Phone Solicitor (Alternate 1986 Version)
21. What The Fucks (Alternate 1986 Version)
22. Disease (1986)
23. Gonad Warrior (1986)
Q & A With Dave Whiting of Vampire Lezbos
When, where, and how was this album recorded?
Summer of 1987 at the ‘Production Group’ in Spokane, WA. Was recorded live with vocal over dubs put down after the instruments. There were at least two, but possibly three sessions involved, as we re-did some vocal tacks (from the original recording) and changed some lyrics.
Who produced and/or engineered it? Why did you use them?
Bill Byrne of the ‘Production Group.’ Knowing how little we knew about recording back then, I’m guessing we found Bill by word of mouth. We wanted the best recording we could get so looked for our idea of the most equipped studio, most knowledgeable guy behind the board and of course, the cheapest session we could find. Bill & The Production Group fit that ‘bill’, at that particular time.
When were the songs written? Any particularly old ones or new ones right before the recording?
Songs that made it on that particular album were written between 1984 and 1987. Believe “Stop Killing The Seals” was written in 1984 and went through some changes over the years until this stripped down version was realized. “So What” was one of the last songs to be added and was new for us when we recorded it in 1987.
Who wrote which songs, and any other specific info?
Plasma (Whiting, Westergard) 2:25
Cop Magnet (Swanstrom) 1:17
Monkey (Whiting) 2:48
Stop Killing The Seals (Whiting) 3:19
So What (Whiting) 1:54
Reds Use Poison Gas (Swanstrom/Berryman) 2:44
Ogon Warrior (Whiting) 1:45
It Hurts (Whiting, Westergard) 2:34
Phone Solicitor (Whiting) 2:37
What The Fucks (Whiting) 1:42
Queen Spuma (Swanstrom,Whiting) 2:15
Worm (Whiting, Westergard) 2:10
Macho Fag (Whiting, Westergard) 2:43
Please tell us all the players on the LP, starting with the core band, and how that reflected your live line-up at the time.
Dave Whiting: Lead Vocal/Guitar, Jon Swanstrom: Vocals/Guitar, Spot: Bass, Dave Delong: Drums. This particular line-up finally solidified our rhythm section. Jon and I were the two hold-overs from our first 1985 tour, so could be considered ‘the core’, main song writers on this album, band organizers and tour initiators, etc. With the addition of this new solid rhythm section, coupled with two solid guitar players, I think we felt the most musically powerful than we ever had in the past. I’m sure this somehow translated to our live shows…
Do you remember how some of the sound effects, additional voices, etc. were made in some of the songs? Also, did they differ much from the live versions otherwise?
We used some cheesy samples on “Monkey” and “Macho Fag” which were on some piece of equipment (perhaps a synth?) at The Production Group. If I remember right, we thought they were pretty cool at the time so wanted them included. Some jungle sounds for the intro of “Monkey” along along with horny girl sounds for “Macho Fag.” Any additional vocals we used were doubled up by us when we wanted some parts/chorus to sound stronger. We never used the samples outside of the studio, so the live audience were spared the cheese. If we put on a good show with an audience that somewhat knew our songs, than the additional vocals were usually added by those who were brave enough to jump on stage. Otherwise, since the album was pretty much recorded live … we pretty much delivered the same product live.
What were the three most important shows you might have played up until the release of this record? (Had you played out with DOA before, for example?)
I would say the 1985 and1987 DOA shows at the West Central Community Center in Spokane helped solidify our presence in the U.S. hardcore punk scene and laid the foundation with DOA to play future shows with them in the States and Canada, as well as recruit Joey Shithead to help produce our 2nd LP. Both he and Wimpy sang back-ups on a couple of songs from that album, which we couldn’t have been happier about at the time. This 1985 show was also a kick-off to our first national tour in 1985, which exposed The Lezbos to scenes and people who would have probably never heard us otherwise and which sort of put Spokane on the punk rock tour map. I believe another ‘important’ show for us was the 1986 Valentines show at the Women’s Center in Spokane. That was a biggee, with our new singer at the time, Rob. Rob really gave us a presence we hadn’t had before which really freed us up to focus on playing our instruments. Plus, he was able to banter with the audience more than we were ever able to do. Whether it was effective advertising or ‘just the right time,’ that show helped make the Lezbos an even bigger entity in Spokane and was a lot of fun to boot.
Perhaps another important show for us, psychologically, was when we first played CBGB’s on our 1987 tour. We really got to connect with that whole NY scene and played a rocking matinee show to boot. I think after that show, we felt like we could pretty much go ‘anywhere’ with the Lezbos. A noteworthy show during our 1987 tour was in Houston at the Axiom. We were the openers for a big show that night which may have been celebrating the opening of this club. We only played a few songs before the police and fire departments showed up to shut the club down. They climbed on stage to stop us from playing, which we were reluctant to do. A riot ensued which involved police helicopters, fender benders out front and general chaos inside & outside. We split asap without getting paid, but were forever known as ‘the band’ that started the riot and actually helped us with future shows in Houston.
What were some noteworthy and exciting shows/tours following the album’s release?
Playing CBGB’s our second and last time in the summer of 1988, and the first tour we had a record to sell. Once again, another fun matinee show but this time, we had most of our equipment stolen out of the van right in front of the place. Someone had the bright idea of putting our gear back into the van after we played, so we could watch the other bands and not have our stuff stolen in the club. Slam. Another great show that year was with the Circle Jerks and 7 Seconds at City Gardens in Trenton, New Jersey. This venue was massive and the show was equally massive…easily our biggest show to that date of around 3000 people, I think. Problem was, this was soon after our CBGB’s show and our guitars being stolen. The bass player could only borrow a ‘toy miniature bass’ from a friend, which horrified him and the cheapest guitar I could find to buy was a full on ‘metal’ guitar which was totally not my style. We were both feeling incredibly awkward. To boot, we booted our second guitar player/hired gun for this tour right after CBGB’s. So, we shrunk down to a three-piece which was really awkward and scant. So there we were on this huge stage, nowhere near each other and feeling and looking ridiculous. The sheer numbers at this concert though furnished us with our biggest ‘show’ record sales to that point. A noteworthy show which was quite unexciting at the time was about a week or two after we released this LP. We played a show in Tacoma and one in Seattle on the same night, in March of 1988. The show in Tacoma was at the Community World Theater and we sort of barged our way onto a bill that was in progress. We were told we could headline that show, but we asked if we could play middle slot due to our late show in Seattle. We played, hung out a bit with the other bands and then pushed on towards Seattle. The noteworthy thing about this show is that it was Nirvana’s first show, known as Nirvana.
Do you think the record pleased your fans? Did you get excited responses in and out of Spokane?
I think it finally gave the people a ‘legitimate’ and tangible release to own, after a few limited edition DIY cassette releases. It also showed clubs and promoters that we were in fact a ‘serious’ band that had some history and worthy of headlining. After almost four years as a band and three U.S./Canada tours without an ‘official’ release, people who liked the Lezbos were very excited to finally have our first LP in their hands. This included many people who came out to see us on tour. Despite production and performance on our parts not being the quality we would have liked, we achieved ‘success’ with this album and it quickly sold out across America and Europe. Over the years, many people from around the world have asked if we were ever going to re-release this LP, both on vinyl and CD. Fans will be excited to finally have this back out on CD, with the additional bonus material featuring our 1986 singer, Rob, which has never been officially released.
In touring and interacting with other bands, can you recall some peers’ responses to the album? Did you make new fans and friends who had heard it?
I really don’t recall any specific responses to this album rather than just the usual accolades from fans, friends and reviews. The biggest and most rewarding responses came at shows that followed the release in the form of crowd sing alongs.
Was there another city that seemed more appreciative than your home-base about it? Where you went to play and they went apeshit over it as you played live?
We had a pretty good Spokane following so never really felt under-appreciated there. It was nice being able to play out of town though and get ‘Spokanesque’ responses which made us feel somewhat at home and happy to keep on touring. Some of the stand-outs included Rapid City, SD; Sioux Falls, SD; Mankato, MN; Charleston, WV; Portland, ME & El Paso, TX.
How do you think Vampire Lezbos reflected Spokane? What other players in the band, and people who helped you, are worth noting in the creation of this album and your success in the punk underground?
I would say many of our lyrics reflected our dissatisfaction with the conservative and socially limiting nature we perceived Spokane (and other similar places) to exemplify. Perhaps the speed and intensity of some of our material from that era also portrayed our anger with the local political and social stagnation we were experiencing, as well as the general state of world affairs. I would say that all of the players that stayed with the Lezbos for the longer stints and made it their own while they were in the band, did a lot to propel the bands success. Outside of the band, anyone that came to our shows, who bought merchandise, booked or promoted a show or loaned us money helped a great deal. Joey Shithead of DOA was one notable person who helped us out and made a big difference for us early on. Whether it was the name of the band or our inadequate & silly press kits, a number of great promoters gave us shows and a shot playing in great venues before a lot of people. Steve McClellan from First Avenue/7th Street Entry (Prince’s club) in Minneapolis, Hilly Kristal from CBGB’s, Randy ‘Now’ Ellis at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ were some stand-outs.
You moved to Portland, Maine in 1989. Was that the first place after Eastern Washington? Why?
Feeling what I perceived to be the stagnation and conservative nature of Spokane, I always had my eye on places that were more progressive, exciting, and aesthetically pleasing. As I had some family in the Portland, Maine area, it was an easy place to consider which seemed to fit the bill. Aesthetically, it was gorgeous and the town was generally more liberal and progressive, coupled with a smaller but accessible feel to the city. This was the first place I moved to after Eastern Washington and had made 2 prior unsuccessful attempts to ‘escape.’ 1989’s move was successful so I re-grouped the band out there, after trying to unsuccessfully recruit the other Spokane Lezbos to go. The band’s history out there is actually twice as long as it was in Spokane!
When and how did you play with Fugazi?
I first met Ian in 1989 when Fugazi played 123 Arts in Spokane. When they came to Portland, Maine in 1991, the Lezbos played with them at a local club called Zootz, and they also stayed at my apartment. We and the rest of Fugazi got to know each other during that time which set the stage for our future interactions. When they came back to play Portland, Maine in 1992 & 1993, the Lezbos played with them at 2 large venues. In 1995, when we went on a U.S. tour supporting our 3rd album release, we played a couple of shows with them in Rapid City, SD (University show)& Sioux Falls, SD at The Pomp Room. These were the last shows the Lezbos played with them. I last caught up with Ian and crew in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1999. We went out to dinner at a local restaurant and they allowed me to share in their backstage feast as well as attend their show. I believe this was my last Fugazi sighting…
What other well known bands/albums did players from this particular album go on to be in/play on? And have you been in any other bands?
I have been in no other bands since the Lezbos began, and that has been a handful to maintain all these years with general lifestyle bullshit and meanderings. I believe the Lezbos were the ‘biggest’ band for all of the players on this particular album.
There are plans for a reunion? Will it be a similar line up? Will you be focusing on material from this debut, or will sets include songs from your other albums/singles as well?
The reunion will consist of my Lezbos co-founder and original bassist, Jeff Duty. Jeff didn’t play on this LP but he did play on the 1986 bonus material, which is included on this latest release. Guitarist Jon Swanstrom will also be re-joining us. Jon wrote and performed songs on this album and toured with the Lezbos in 1985 (our first US tour) & 1987. Davey Delong played drums on this LP and toured with the Lezbos in 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1993. He will be taking up drums again in this latest incarnation. Lastly, Rob Westergard, our ‘old’ singer from late 1985 til mid 1987 and singer on the bonus material on this CD release, will be joining us too. So there we go, an all-star line-up of 80’s Lezbos and the 1st LP originals! Initially, most songs in our set will be culled from our first and second albums which we will expand upon over time.
Please explain the meanings of these songs to me (and if the meaning seems clear, as in “Seals,” please explain why the topic was important enough to write about for VLs):
Rob penned the lyrics to this gem and was a lament on his/our need to resort to such measures to ‘stay alive’. He and other band-mates would have to periodically go down to the Plasma Center in Spokane to get a few bucks to eat and generally survive. Apparently, I was one of the only ones to never resort to this type of maltreatment.
“Stop Killing The Seals”:
After a lifetime of loving and empathizing with these amazing sentient beings, I saw a documentary on the Canadian Seal Hunt. It was the epitome of cruelty. After many tears, I realized I had to write a song. After writing many lyrics and culls of subsequent lyrics, this is what survived.
I started seeing pictures and videos on what was happening to monkeys and other animals in laboratories. The incessant brutality and lack of empathy from the experimenters, coupled with the pain and emotion from the monkeys reaching out for anyone to deliver them from this horrible predicament, left me with great sadness. This song was not just about the monkey, but all of the other ‘laboratory’ animals needlessly and heartlessly brutalized in vivisection.
On a more personal, more contemporary note: Why did you and VLs move eventually to Auckland, New Zealand?
Back in 2002 when Bush was Czar, I thought it would be good to have other options on where to live and work. Originally, I was looking at Scotland/UK as that would have been my first choice, culturally and otherwise. The more I looked though, the harder it seemed. I researched further and found out my best/easiest chance of success would probably be New Zealand via its point system of immigration. Went on a round the world trip in 1999 and visited here, so thought it was ‘doable.’ Came down in 2002 and had a lawyer lodge a case for me which was ultimately successful the following year. That started my long affair with NZ and my bouncing back and forth between the two countries. I ‘made the mistake’ of starting Naturopathy/Nutrition/Herbalism school in Auckland, in 2007. Because I kept stopping and starting, its taken me this long to finish. I now have a qualification that is not good in the States, or at least any of the States I would want to live. On the upside, I met my German wife down here in 2003 and we now have 2 rockin’ little girls.