Hear Them Roar
If any punk band from Houston was going to make it out into the big, bad world of mainstream success, it was the Latch Key Kids. Their hardcore style, pop accessibility and knack for snagging prime spots with big-name acts had them ready to launch back in the '90s. Then one day they were just gone. No break-up. No deaths. They simply were not there anymore.
In 2007, they returned as mysteriously as they had disappeared, bringing with them the same indomitable energy they'd always had. And now, they're releasing the first new collection of work in what seems like a generation, an EP called Democracy: The Art of Maintaining a State of Fear. We caught up with front man Tim Guerinot, guitarists Marc Manic and Rhino Neumann, and drummer Cory Worden, and grilled them about their new release and what it means to be back in the punk rock saddle.
Houston Press: The most obvious question is, you've been back at work since 2007, but as far as we know this is the first new LKK album since you returned. What was the catalyst for the EP?
Tim Guerinot: The album idea came to light in December of 2007. The vision was and always will be complete idealism. We all had written several tunes musically and lyrically and therefore had the foundations for an entire collection of material. We envision releasing these songs in three volumes, each with a message and its own personality. We're about to start tracking vocals for the next one.
Marc Manic: Over the years we have referred to LKK as being a sort of fraternal order: With players coming and going for varying reasons, each leaves their own mark on the LKK canvas. This EP is recorded at a time when some of the most significant figures in the band's history return to reflect on realizations garnered from life lessons and experiences.
Cory Worden: I came home from completing my Air Force enlistment in 2010 and came back in the fold when Tim and Rhino called me up after getting back to Houston. Needless to say, I was super-excited to get the call and really happy to get back on it.
HP: Aside from being much better — oh God, so much better — there's not a lot of difference stylistically between your latest work and the things you'd hear from, say, Victory Records or other modern punk bands. Is that your influence, do you think, or does the genre just not change much?
MM: Thank you. An interesting characteristic about LKK is the individual members' influences and backgrounds. Though punk, or whatever you might call our sound, is the central meeting place for LKK, each player brings a particular musical motive and sometimes ulterior motive to the table based on their own taste and influences. Mine is to sneak in as much Iron Maiden, Fear and Descendents as possible! [laughs]
TG: I try not to affiliate my taste with record labels or style. We've been refining our music and have been committed to our message for nearly 20 years regardless of trends or what is popular at the moment. I grew up listening to 7 Seconds, Circle Jerks and Bad Religion. Each of those groups has a knack for writing thoughtful, polarizing lyrics incorporated with melody. Call it what you want.
HP: The main reason you guys were gone for so long was simply that real life called and you had to answer. Have you learned how to balance music and real life better, and what advice can you give people in the same position?
TG: It's hard sometimes to balance it all, but we make it happen by sticking to a schedule and supporting each other's endeavors away from LKK. We feel our other hobbies and experiences are what give LKK fire. Overall, we all love to play, so it's not very difficult for us to get it together when it's tour time.
HP: Speaking of real life...who's the semi-retired fencer, and how does one semi-retire from sword fighting? Don't you just do it until another Highlander cuts off your head?
TG: I'm the fencer. I fenced saber at a national level for several years, placed seventh a few years back at the Summer Nationals Division 1A Championship, and competed in many North American Cups. Unfortunately, I suffered several hamstring injuries, and it just became too painful to continue the rigorous training regimen needed to compete at a high level. I retired from competition a few years ago; after all, there can be only one, and retiring is a much more comfortable option than having my head lopped off.
HP: Since the days when you guys were going full-tilt boogie, only Rhino has maintained a full-time connection with the music world. I was wondering how he got his tech gigs, how he likes them and if that's what he wants to keep doing?
Rhino Neumann: In the fall of 1998 I got a call from Damon Delapaz from Riverfenix — Fenix TX — telling me about their upcoming tour with Blink 182, Unwritten Law and the Assorted Jellybeans. He asked if I wanted to come out on the tour and just hang out. I decided to take some time off work and go out and see what touring was all about.
Once I hopped on the airport shuttle bus — FTX's tour vehicle — I quickly figured out I couldn't just "hang out." I found myself driving, setting up, teching and helping with merch.
At the time, Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 was managing Fenix TX. He had observed me working and handling business throughout my short time on the road with the guys. When we were in Las Vegas at the Joint, he called me into the dressing room.
He handed me a bunch of contracts and said, "You're the new tour manager."
I really love touring with bands. Getting to see the world and hanging out with people who you look up to as artists is an honor and privilege. It has actually given me more insight to Latch Key Kids over the years, meaning that, for all the hardships we have gone through over the years as a band, I have witnessed the same things with some of the biggest bands I've worked for. There is always some kind of drama going on, technical problem, or someone getting on someone else's nerves. I am now married and have stopped touring full-time. It's time to concentrate on LKK and taking it to the next level.
HP: LKK was always good about getting sweet openers for major headliners, but didn't you guys start out opening for our own Hates?
TG: The Hates were the first band to give us a "real" show. Back in the early '90s, being in a punk band wasn't cool. We were actually turned off a few times in the middle of our sets because we were too loud. I was flyering for a house party show with my buddy Screech who drummed for the Hates at the time when I met Christian. He asked me if LKK wanted to play a show. We were stoked.
HP: As Houston Press's resident band etymologist, we've always wondered...you never hear the term "latch-key kid" anymore, though there still must be millions of them. The phrase conjures up a sense of loneliness and abandonment, at least to us. What did the phrase mean to you when the band was founded, and does it mean the same now?
CW: In my opinion, "latch-key kids" are no longer a subset of kids — lots, if not the majority, of kids are latch-key. This likely points to a shift in society — it's become fairly normal for kids to find themselves a little, or a lot, more on their own these days. The Ward Cleaver family setup is rare these days. I don't believe I know anybody who has a life like that.
MM: I immediately identified with the band's name due to my real-life experience as a latch-key kid growing up. Today, the name still resonates with me in the same sense: I can, in a way, see the band as if they were neighborhood latch-key kids from back in the day — maybe not the lonely and abandoned part, but rather using our "after-school" time for cranking the amps and rocking out.
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