This interview was posted on the OC Weekly music blog to coincide with the print edition hitting the streets with my feature about Dawn of the Shred in it. Brad brought a Creepy Fingers t-shirt with him to the interview and I subsequently cut off the sleeves and turned it into my favorite tank top of the summer.

From Fu Manchu to Creepy Fingers: Brad Davis Talks Boutique Pedals and Crappy eBayers

Courtesy of Creepy Fingers

When the OC stoner rock band Fu Manchu began twenty years ago, the world of effects pedals consisted of a few rusty ones leftover from the 1970s waiting to be stumbled upon at random pawn shops. But today, even that world has become dominated by mass-market brands such as Boss and DigiTech that sell distortion and fuzz just as McDonalds does hamburgers.

Fu Manchu’s bassist Brad Davis, however, is part of a growing number of new pedal builders who are hand-soldering a range of effects products unlike anything the ’90s ever dreamed about. Based out of Davis’ Fullerton garage, his company Creepy Fingers is one of the few locally-based contributors in this growing world of boutique, small-batch music gear–producing knob-filled models with names like Fuzzbud, Sugarboost and Doomidrive.

Long Beach’s specialty music store Dawn of the Shredthe subject of this week’s feature story–is the only brick-and-mortar in Southern California that carries Creepy Fingers, which made sense when we discovered that Davis was the impetus for opening the business in the first place.

Dealing with Brad is the reason I got into this,” Dawn of the Shred owner James Demetra says. “At the time, not a lot of people were doing the types of pedals he makes. So I asked him, ‘If I’m gonna get this pedal, how many do I have to get to become a dealer?'”

We sat down with Davis at Dawn of the Shred while he was dropping off a recent shipment of pedals (which consisted of a Trader Joe’s bag filled with his handmade wares) to talk about his hobby-turned-full-time-whenever-Fu-Manchu-isn’t-on-tour job, the perils of buying transistors on eBay and how his pedals became popular with everyone from Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top to Erykah Badu’s guitarist.



L.A. Record is guest-editing the L.A. Weekly‘s music section for the next few weeks. Super busy with school, but managed to slip in an interview with Ceci Bastida for the blog. First time published at the Weekly! w00t!

Tijuana might be better known right now for its crooked cops and affordable prescription drugs, but Ceci Bastida has been sounding off for the border city’s next generation since she was a feisty 15 year-old fronting politically-minded Mexican ska band Tijuana No! (famous for their cover of the Clash’s “Spanish Bombs”). After dropping out of the scene to teach history at a TJ middle school, and then returning to music as keyboardist for friend and Tijuana No! co-founder Julieta Venegas, Bastida finally moved to L.A. and broke away fromlas bandas in 2008 in order to record her growing cache of electronic-infused Spanish-language post-punk songs (after her debut solo performance at SXSW in 2007, KCRW basically put “Ya Me Voy” on repeat).

Her first solo record, Veo La Marea (“I See The Tide,” released independently in the U.S. last week after previous release in Mexico on EMI) is an aggressive mix of emotional honesty and socio-political advocacy, entrenched in both Anglo and Mexican sounds without alienating either. The culture-straddling work features cameos from American artists such as Diplo and Tim Armstrong (on a bi-lingual Go-Go’s cover, no less) as well as Mexican rapper Niña Dioz, proving that when worlds collide, it’s not always chaos.

The spunky fireball of future music answers some questions via email after looking thankfully out-of-place on the red carpet at the Latin Grammy Awards ceremony in Las Vegas, where her track “Cuando Vuelvas A Caer” was nominated for Best Alternative Song.

This is your first solo album, yet it oozes with confidence. How did you find your own voice so quickly?

I had a decent idea of what I wanted for this album and since I worked on the record over a period of two years, I had time to listen to the songs many times and was able to change whatever I wasn’t completely happy with. I do think that during that time I learned a lot about myself and allowed myself to make mistakes. That freedom helped me try out things that I would’ve probably not tried if I continued to be such a control freak. I think in the end that’s exactly what you need to feel–you need to feel free.

Until a few years ago you had only performed as part of a band. How do you feel you have distanced yourself from past projects?

I think it helped when I left Mexico. It was a good thing for me to meet other people and see how we could work together. The people that I ended up working with had nothing to do with the bands I had played with in the past and knew nothing about them either. I also knew that I didn’t wanna sound like I did when I was a teenager playing with Tijuana No!. So much time has passed since then that my musical interests have obviously changed. While playing in Julieta’s band, I learned a lot–but I also knew that as much as I love her music, it was her music and I was ready to make my own.

You mix a lot of biographical songs with politically-charged songs. How do they connect?

They way I write politically-charged songs now is very different than how I did when I played with Tijuana No!. A lot of the times I try to tell a story sometimes in the first person. I write about things that affect me as a human being–it’s hard for me to ignore what is happening in my country for example. I feel saddened by the increasing violence in Mexico and when I talk about it, I do it from my point of view. I also talk about immigrants and the struggles that I see them go through. This has been always important to me because I come from a city where the border is very present. I grew up watching people try to cross that border every single day and in a way it becomes part of who you are.



RIP brendan mullen

October 14, 2009

Brendan Mullen died on Monday and with it, a piece of LA punk history. Not only did he skip out on the UK to co-own Hollywood hardcore-hole the Masque which was in 1978 what dingy-homegrown-music haven The Smell is today, but he also used that to catapult himself into a lifelong career as the only booking agent in town who actually gave a shit about the music. We interviewed him back in 2007 for our Masque 30th Anniversary Issue and discovered that New York sucked even back then and he still owns 95% of his old records. Flea wrote “an appreciation” of Mullen for the LA Times and it made me cry openly on the blue line as it rolled through South Central. I obviously didn’t know him personally, but his is a name that comes up again and again when talking of the underground’s don’t-give-a-fuck early days and because of him bands like X, The Germs, The Dogs and The Zeroes are still (in one incarnation or another) playing shows.

RIP Brendan Mullen