Inquiring Minds

The Adolescents: Still Punk Rock Kids From The Black Hole

"We were little pricks, but bored out of our minds..."

For 30 years, seminal Orange County punk band the Adolescents has unleashed anthemic teen angst, since mutated into wise adult aggravation, in intermittent bursts. Sure, members come and go at revolving-door speed, but core kids from the black hole Steve Soto (bass) and Tony Cadena (vocals) remain at the helm.

They keep offering each new generation a chance to sing along to tunes from their self-titled 'blue album' onwards that evoke the confusing world of politics, science and everyday struggles to survive as loners and outcasts.

Rocks Off: The ties between the Adolescents, Agent Orange and Social Distortion are well-known, but how did the band feel about Middle Class and Red Kross?

Steve Soto: One of the first bands we met when I was in Agent Orange was Red Kross. We used to have to hang out in front of the Hong Kong Café depending on who was working the door. Some of the staff were more lenient about our age than others. Anyway, when we (AO) first started playing in Hollywood, we were the youngest band, then we met Steve McDonald, and he was all of 12 years old (we were 15), so we lost our youngest band status.

I was a huge fan of Red Kross and began a friendship with then-guitarist Greg Hetson that continues to this day. In fact, we play in a band together called Punk Rock Karaoke. Anyway, somewhere in my tape collection I have a cassette Greg made me of their first recordings, some of which would turn up later on Poshboy. I think I wore that tape out.

The Middle Class were a bit older than us, but I used to really look up to them. They had played Hollywood and had put out the "Out of Vogue" single before we had even played our first party. Their bass player Mike Patton got Agent Orange our first show in L.A. opening up for the Middle Class. This was before there were any punk clubs in Orange County.

The "Out of Vogue" 7 inch is still one of my favorites to this day, and they were a huge influence on my writing. Up until this point, everything was a lot slower - compare "Never Mind the Bullocks" or The Dead Boys' "Young Loud and Snotty" to "Out of Vogue." Those records are great but soooo slow.

Middle Class picked up the pace. It was exciting. I still get chills listening to that song.

RO: The Adolescents gigged with Black Flag. Did you feel that the SST crew pursued a self-interested, business-like approach?

SS: I have a ton of issues with the Black Flag camp. First of all, in hindsight, they were really out for themselves. We got along okay, but looking back as an older and wiser musician, I feel like we were used by those guys.

We had this huge following of suburban O.C. kids who went wherever we played, and the Flag guys used to put us on a lot of shows, yet we never really made any money when we played with them. I think it was a case of us not knowing what we were worth. We loved playing with them because of the early stuff (Nervous Breakdown and Jealous Again EPs), so we never thought about it. We thought they were cool.

Like I said in hindsight, they could have been more fair with us, but as they got further along with Henry [Rollins], they lost it for me, and they just got weirder. I think a lot of the early bands were into the "scene " and into playing shows and helping each other (like with us, the Circle Jerks, TSOL, the Middle Class, the Crowd), but Black Flag seemed to clearly have an agenda.

RO: "Kids of the Black Hole" is a punk rock Bob Dylan-sized narrative song, in striking contrast to two-minute songs from the Circle Jerks and Black Flag. Did late-period Buzzcocks influence this?

SS: I remember the exact time and place where Rikk [former guitarist Agnew] first played me that song. He had recorded the rhythm guitar and the bass on a cassette then played the second guitar along with the tape. I was blown away. It's probably still my favorite song to play live. The lyrics are awesome and all true.Tony stepped in a bit with those, but musically, yeah, there is a definite Buzzcocks thing going on there.

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David Ensminger