No Age Talks All Ages Venues, Substitute Teaching, and How to Be a Vegan on Tour

Categories: Q&A
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No Age is guitarist Randy Randall (left) and drummer Dean Allen Spunt
One pleasure of interviewing touring bands over the phone is getting to talk to them from random places. When we spoke to No Age's Randy Randall, he was standing outside a Flying J truck stop somewhere between Boise and Salt Lake City. So it was natural that, along telling us about the celebrated all-ages venue where his band got its start -- and how it hopes to have its own space one day -- Randy also related some of the haphazard adventures of being a vegan on tour in Meatland U.S.A. (We also talked about his favorite Mission burrito.) No Age, the celebrated L.A. noise-punk duo of which Randy is one half (except on tour, when they add another member), plays at Oakland's New Parish tonight with local faves the Fresh & Onlys.

No Age started out at the Smell, a now-well-known all-ages venue in L.A. How important was that venue and the all-ages scene to the development of the band?
I don't think I would be playing music today if it wasn't for the Smell. It was the first place I went to that, as an audience member, I felt like I could get up on stage -- like, 'Wait, I'm not that different from the people performing.' It was a very welcoming and open environment that knocked me out of playing music in my bedroom and into performing music for the first time in front of people. Also, the way it's run, just the bare bones, DIY attitude of that space, kind of taught us what needed to exist in order to have a show. This is all you need, you don't need all the lights, and the security, and the bar and stuff. You just need a room and a P.A. and people, and you've got a show. How to play a live show and what to expect from a live show -- it's all rooted in the Smell for us.

That must have helped you developed a stage presence, having no lights or gimmicks.
That reminds me of this thing that happened: Don Bolles [drummer of the Germs] -- I was talking with him a few months back, and we were talking about the Smell, and he's like, 'Oh yeah, that place sucks. It's loud and cavernous and the sounds just echo off the walls, and you can't hear anything.' And I was like, 'Yeah, I think that's how we learned to play.' It makes sense -- I realized the guitars had to be loud in order to be heard in that cavernous room. The music and the way we created our sound -- live and on the record as well -- was sort informed by that stage and that room. It isn't the best live sounding room, but we sort of had to accommodate that, and we thought that's how everything should sound. So now when we go out on tour, all these years later, it's like, 'Wait, there's monitors? What's a monitor? Why do I have to turn my guitar down?' We sort of make it work on different stages, but in the beginning it was a shock, because we've always been used to the Smell.

How old were you when you started going?
I was 17, when it was originally in North Hollywood. I went there when I was still in high school. It was a far drive from my part of the suburban wasteland of L.A. Going up there, it definitely felt like going to a different part of town. It was realy exciting and great, and kind of scary, but also fun.

Were you surprised when the whole scene blew up and started getting national attention?
We sort of took it all with a grain of salt, and didn't really take it too seriously. It was nice that attention was paid to the Smell and the bands that were coming out of Southern California that we were friends with. But we weren't 100 percent believing in the hype of it all. One of the things that's so great about the Smell is, it hasn't changed. With the attention and everything that it's gotten, it's stil the place that it was six, seven years ago, and there's a certain kind of griminess to it. It's not a very romantic location, it's not fancy in any way. I think people hear about it and go down there expecting something else. [You] enter through an alley and talk to a homeless man, maybe there's some kind of human excrement out in the alley, and you get in there and there's no bar, some 14-year-old kid is stamping your hand and taking your $5. What it really caters to are the people who care about music and care about new music and hearing new bands that have a lot of passion and a lot of energy. So if that's something you're into, you'll find it there, but if you're looking for the new Studio 54 or something where all the kids hang out, Hollywood people hanging out, you're not going to find it there.

What's the craziest place you've played -- you've got some crazy ideas listed on your Myspace page?
We're not trying to find the wackiest place to play, but one show that always stands out in my mind as a 'Whoa, what the fuck' moment was when we played three years ago during the SXSW fest in Austin -- we played on a footbridge at 4 o'clock in the morning. Someone brought a generator out there and set up a minimal P.A., and we played with Fucked Up. It was so amazing, there was just so many people out there on this little footbridge. There was moments when it felt as though the whole thing might collapse. It had this air of danger to it -- I had to look around while we were playing and go, 'Is this a good idea?'

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