Malibu Kens History Chapter 5

The following text represents my opinion and my best recollection of the events that happened 20 years ago. If you were there you may have a different recollection of these events and a different opinion. Scott Juskiw, January 2001.

V. Reformation [July 1981 - August 1981]

The Malibu Kens meandered in June 1981 shortly after Dennis left to create a Rockabilly band (the Stingrays). We briefly experimented with the idea of having me switch to bass and getting a new guitarist. I'm not sure why. Perhaps because there were more guitarists than bassists available and I was a lousy guitar player. We auditioned a few people for the role of guitar hero but nobody seemed to click. I was surprised when Ed said that I had a lot more style than the other guitar players had. Despite me having much less technical prowess than them, we decided that I should stick with the guitar and we resumed our search for a new bass player. Luckily, we didn't have to wait long. We had previously asked Jungle Jim to join the Malibu Kens back in May 1981 when we knew that Dennis was going to leave. Jim had declined since he was enjoying life as an Urban Surfer, a band he formed with Al Miller and Evan C. Jones. But by the end of June 1981 Al Miller had kicked Jim out of the Urban Surfers in order to create the Reverb Angels with Ken MacKay (ex member of the Rock 'n' Roll Bitches) and Evan C. Jones. I remember when Mike told me about the Urban Surfers split. We called Jim up right away, we knew we had to get him in the Malibu Kens, he was a perfect fit.

We had wanted to change the sound of the band for a while. Joey Did was a 1980 punk band and we had fun doing that for a while. But gradually we were becoming more interested in the 1960s garage-rock sound and wanted to head in that direction. Jim was the epitome of 1960s garage-rock. In the few months we had known Jim he introduced us to a number of great bands like the Troggs, the Standells, and the Fleshtones. Our manager Ian Istvanffy had an extensive collection of vintage vinyl which exposed us to even more great material. We knew the direction we wanted to take the band, but we couldn't get there with the current personnel. When we approached Jim the second time to join the Malibu Kens he was more receptive to the idea, but with a few conditions. They were quite minor and mostly related to cover tunes. He didn't want to play any 1970s or 1980s punk rock (Sex Pistols, Clash, Dead Kennedys), and he had a bizarre list of cover tunes he wanted to play. I believe he also wanted to ensure that we would play whatever songs he wrote. We had no objections to these demands and by the beginning of July 1981, the Malibu Kens were alive again.

There were a number of changes in our day to day band operations. Joey Did had practiced almost exclusively at Ed's house and recorded every practice. The Malibu Kens practiced at Jim's house and did not record any practices. At Jim's house we no longer used Ed's stereo as a PA and thus lost our ability to easily record ourselves. This lack of a recorded legacy has made it more difficult to piece together the history of the Malibu Kens compared to that of Joey Did. I believe we had become bored with the results of recording our practice sessions. In the early days of Joey Did we experimented a lot and it was very amusing to listen to those one of a kind performances. By the end of Joey Did we were not experimenting very much and so the recordings of practice sessions became much less interesting. They were just recordings of us playing songs badly. The same held true for the Malibu Kens; we were a serious band now, we weren't just doing it for fun anymore. It was decided early on that we weren't going to record every practice anymore, instead we would only record official demo tapes.

Our first demo tape, Girls Dig Me, was recorded at Jim's house in July 1981. We enlisted the help of Myron Nebozuk and his Teac 4-track reel to reel recorder to do the tracking. We also borrowed a mixer from Kim Upright along with some microphones and proceeded to record our current set of twelve original songs. We recorded and mixed it all in one day. We were pleased with the results at the time, but today it makes for a very painful listen. It's horrible. There are numerous technical glitches, such as not having compressors for the vocals, but the performance issues weigh most heavily against us. We wanted to be a 1960s garage-rock band, but we were still sounding like a 1980s punk band. We were trying to change our sound, but we weren't there yet. In fact, it would take us a while to get there. Throughout our career we were always pushing the boundaries of what we could achieve; we were always writing songs that we could barely play. Even in the controlled environment of a demo tape recording, where we could play the song several times until we got it right, we never got it right. This inability to play our own songs skillfully would haunt us even worse whenever we tried to play live.

Shortly after recording Girls Dig Me we did a live interview on CKST. It was quite short and we were very straight for the whole thing. Since it was live, we didn't want to say anything that would get the host into trouble. We had brought in a copy of Girls Dig Me but they couldn't play it because all music on the station had to be rubber stamped by "the system", which was typical for commercial radio stations. I'm sure we would have offended somebody had they aired anything from Girls Dig Me.

I don't recall all of the gigs we played as the Malibu Kens, just a few significant ones that stand out. During the summer of 1981 we played, what was supposed to have been, three nights at RATT. We had wanted to play RATT for a long time because it was a small campus venue that usually had a good crowd. The standard format was to play three nights, Thursday - Saturday. RATT didn't have an in house PA system and we didn't have a proper PA system either. We borrowed some kind of practice PA from Vince Evans of Office who also volunteered to do the sound for us. We set up on Thursday afternoon and plowed through a couple of sets in the evening. The crowd was very sparse. I recall that there was a group of British guys sitting around a couple of tables. Someone told us they were from the UDA (Ulster Defence Association) and were training at CFB Edmonton to fight the IRA. They largely ignored us the whole evening until we started to play Fastcars by the Buzzcocks. Despite our desire to not be a punk band anymore, we didn't know enough non-punk songs to play a whole night at RATT. The UDA guys were apparently huge Buzzcocks fans and as soon as we started playing Fastcars, they jumped out of their seats and started thrashing about the place, knocking over tables and chairs. After we finished the song they asked us to play some Undertones and a bunch of other stuff. We happened to know an Undertones song and we played it for them along with another Buzzcocks tune. They seemed to enjoy it, but after we finished with those songs they went back to their table and ignored us for the rest of the evening. Overall, I thought the gig went fine. Nobody threw food at us, or spat on Mike, and for a short period the crowd was responding well to us. I recall saying to Mike immediately after our last song, "Think we'll get fired again?" I completely meant it as a joke; I thought we played quite well that night. But the RATT management thought otherwise. They called Mike in after the show and said, "I'll be honest with you, it sounded pretty bad, pack up your stuff and leave." We were decimated. That was one of the best shows we had played, and we still got fired. We weren't even sure why we got fired, we had played as best as we could. We weren't just doing it for fun anymore, we were a serious band now, but everyone still hated us, and we still sucked. What were we supposed to do now?

We weren't about to give up so quickly. One thing about the Malibu Kens was that we were inseparable. Whether we were at the Rose Bowl, at the movies, or practicing at Jim's, we were always a unit. I remember that we ran into Moe Berg several times in one week and he remarked to Kim Upright, "Everywhere I go I keep seeing those Malibu Kens!" We were more of a gang than a band, we just happened to write and play songs as well. There was no reason for us to give up the band because it was just one of many group activities for us. We spent the rest of the summer writing songs and practicing.

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Last updated: October 14, 2017