Nardwuar vs. The Sonics



Eminating from Tacoma Washington, The Sonics unleashed a monster two headed single The Witch / Psycho in 1964, which stands as one of the greatest, if not the greatest recording of the punk variety ever documented. If you don’t believe that, you will after listening to it! Although well known in the Pacific Northwest during the 60s, in the years since their break-up in 1967 scant information surfaced as to what The Sonics were up to. They were like ghosts. Legends blowing in the wind. This was pretty much remedied with their reformation in 2007 when they started doing interviews again. It took a while, but after 6 years of trying, I finally was able to ask The Sonics questions I had fantasized about for decades, when they made an appearance at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver, BC, Canada!

Nardwuar: Who are you?
Rob Lind: I’m Rob.

Nardwuar: From
Rob: I’m Rob from Charlotte, NC and I play the saxophone.

Nardwuar: Of the…?
Rob: Of the Sonics.

Nardwuar: Of the Sonics! And Rob, who else is in the Sonics?
Rob: On my immediate right, my best friend, and bass player and lead singer, Freddie Dennis.
Freddie: I’m Freddie, the bass player. I’m from Seattle, Washington.

Nardwuar: And beside Freddie we have?
Rob: Besides Freddie we have Larry Parypa, one of the original Sonics. Lead guitar player from Bellevue, Washington in the high-rent district.
Larry: Wellevue, we call it. Wellevue.

Nardwuar: And beside Larry we have?
Rob: Beside Larry we have my grandfather. [laughs] No, beside Larry we have Gerry Roslie, the white Little Richard, the original singer, keyboard player for the Sonics and he lives in Tacoma, Washington.

Nardwuar: Hello Gerry!
Gerry: Hello

Nardwuar: And beside Gerry we have?
Rob: Beside Gerry we have our newest acquisition, Dusty Watson, our drummer. Fantastic guy. Long travel guy. He’s from Los Angeles, California.

Nardwuar: Hello Dusty!
Dusty: Hey, nice to meet you.

Nardwuar: Welcome to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada!
Dusty: Thank you.

Nardwuar: The Sonics are in the house!
Rob: In the house, yes we are!

Nardwuar: I heard that were like these Halloween pumpkin outfits you have. [Nardwuar hands The Sonics a record]
Larry: We bought them here!

Nardwuar: Is this the Halloween pumpkin outfit?
Larry: Yes it is. They’re orange and we bought them here and we bought some Beau Brummell coats here also.

Nardwuar: Can you please explain, you can’t really see it. What’s going on here in this record? The Sonics Unreleased?
Rob: The orange suits we called those our pumpkin suits. Like Larry said, they were made by tailor here in Vancouver. We only used them for shows. Like, we’d open for the Beach Boys or open for Jan and Dean, we use those for shows. They were real…loud.

Nardwuar: So, you’re kind of happy you can’t see them?
Larry: [Pointing to the Record Label on the back of the record] This guy, he’s a crook. The guy who put this out is a crook. Never paid a royalty to anybody in his life and he laughs about it.

Nardwuar: So, I’m bringing back bad memories? The pumpkin outfits and this.
Larry: It’s just a fact. You don’t want this.

Nardwuar: There’s some amazing photos and you mentioned her name earlier, Jini Dellaccio. Can you tell me about these pics? [Nardwuar hands them a copy of the recently reissued “The Witch” 7” that include full colour Jini Dellaccio pics]
Larry: She’s ninety-six years old and she’s still doing this.

Nardwuar: And there’s a documentary about her called, Her Aim Is True.
Larry: Right, wow! Look at that! [point to his head in the picture] That’s before some girl tore my hair out in the front and it never grew back. Right there, that’s it! Otherwise, I’d have bangs still.
Rob: That’s true.

Nardwuar: What gig was it ripped out at? Do you remember?
Larry: Yeah, at the Coliseum in Portland.

Nardwuar: Because you said you were British?
Larry: Tell ‘em Gerry! Tell ‘em it’s true!
Freddie: That’s why his hair is all gone up here.
Gerry: And also, he said one of them girls grabbed his hand and went glumpb! …on her hooter. [laughs]
Dusty: Her hooter?
Gerry: What you call ‘em down in California? Scratch the hooter… [laughs]
Larry: Can you imagine what I’d look like had that not happened?
Rob: Yeah!

Nardwuar: So, there we have, again, the amazing Jini Dellaccio pic right there, of you pre-getting-hair-ripped-out. Where did you end up in the rafters? Like you were in the rafters at some gig?
Rob: Which night?! [laughs] I did that a lot.
Larry: Wenatchee! Who’s the lead singer to Paul Revere and the Raiders?

Nardwuar: Mark Lindsay?
Larry: He used to do that. He’d climb the rafter ya’ know and hang. So, we played in Wenatchee the night that Rob did that.
Freddie: Now Eddie Vedder is doing it.
Rob: And I was real successful doing it except the one time I got up in the rafters and I couldn’t get down. [laughs]
Larry: And we got off the stage and left you up there. [laughs]
Gerry: Turned off the lights. Shut the door.
Rob: And the rafter were full of horrible dirt and cobwebs and pigeon poopoo. I was up there going, “Guys! Guys!”

Nardwuar: Did you have the mic with you? Have many songs did you sing in the Sonics?
Rob: In those days I probably sang fifteen or something, because there was just Gerry and me. We used to do three sets. So, I would do the blues and the Rolling Stones songs to give Gerry a break. So, yeah, I didn’t sing as many as he did, but out three sets, doing sixty songs, I might of done fifteen. Something like that.

Nardwuar: You introduced me to Frank Zappa!
Gerry: [pause] What were we smoking? [laughs]

Nardwuar: In fact, I was so excited, I actually interviewed Jerry Dennon, and when I interviewed him I said, “Question, Jerry Dennon, was Gerry Roslie a big Zappa fan?” And Jerry Denon said… Absolutely! So, I guess I’d like to find out were you a big Zappa fan? How did you find that song, Gerry?
Gerry: What song?

Nardwuar: “Anyway The Witch Blows.” [laughs]
Gerry: Oh, “Anyway The Witch Blows?” [laughs] Yeah, it was off Frank Zappa. (Song is actually called “Any Way the Wind Blows”)

Nardwuar: So, you’re to blame for that one too?
Rob: Well, it was actually a pretty nice song. It was our attempt to commercial or something, but it was a nice song. It was well done.

Nardwuar: It was the first Zappa thing I ever heard, so thank you! I really appreciate that.
Rob: Yeah, sure!

Nardwuar: However, Phil Spector emailed you guys? Is that true?
Rob: Yeah, we just got a one line email from him that said, “I always wanted to record you guys.” I think that was from where he was incarcerated. So, maybe he wasn’t himself. [laughs]

Nardwuar: “The Witch,” actually was—believe it or not—in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a number two hit! It was a number two hit!
Rob: Well, it was a number two down in Seattle and Tacoma also.

Nardwuar: We had “Psycho” go to number five.
Rob: Well, we didn’t find out for thirty-five years that “The Witch” actually was actually number one, but the big rock station in Seattle, KJR, wouldn’t do that. They actually put Petula Clark’s “Downtown” as number one and “The Witch” as number two. It turned out we number one by a long shot, but the local disc jockeys wouldn’t play it during the day. They didn’t want to scare the housewives and so they only played it during high school hours, from four to six, something like that. They couldn’t make it number one. The program director, thirty-five years later, said well, yeah, actually “The Witch” really was number one, we just couldn’t do it. None of us understood what the big deal was, because if you listen to the lyrics in “The Witch” there’s nothing nasty, there’s nothing suggestive. It’s fine, it’s just words, but they thought we were summoning up demons from hell or something. I don’t know what they thought.

Nardwuar: Here we are in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, with the…
Sonics all together: Sonics!

Nardwuar: Now I first got into the Sonics because I walked into a record store in Vancouver, Zulu Records, and I said, I would like hear “Louie Louie”! Because I had heard that there was this great song called “Louie Louie.” And the girl behind the counter said you have to check out the…
Sonics all together: Sonics!

Nardwuar: The Sonics version! And I was forever changed. Now, I would like to ask you, Sonics, what would have happened if I asked the girl behind the counter, and I ended up getting this particular recording, right here. [Nardwuar hands the Sonics a record ] “Louie Louie” by Little Bill and The Blue Notes.
Larry: Oh yeah, that’s probably the first version, from the Northwest anyway.

Nardwuar: So, I got your version, I didn’t get the “Louie Louie” Little Bill version. Would I have been changed if I’d have heard that?
Larry: Not as much as hearing ours. Ours is much more menacing. This was calypso. Then the Wailers came out with their version that was probably the most heavily copied. Which was great.

Nardwuar: When was the first time the Sonics encountered Jimi Hendrix?
Larry: Spanish Castle. He wanted to sit-in. He had his own equipment, too. We said, “Get the hell out of here!”

Drawing by Mitch Clem!

Nardwuar: Gerry, we’re back here with the Sonics, but for a while there you the Sinderella version of the Sonics, the Invaders. The Gerry Roslie effect. What was that?
Gerry: Well, that was some guys that came up and said, do you wanna do some songs on an album? They said, can we call it the Sonics? I said, no don’t call it the Sonics, I don’t want to do that. They said, okay, we’ll call it the Invaders. Then when they put the record out, the guy puts it out like that [as the Sonics], and I said, well what’s this Sonics on here for? Well, the guy, the promoter, in L.A. said that would probably sell better. [laughs] No kidding. That was bad news.

Nardwuar: Did you do any gigs with them? How long did that last?
Gerry: We never even played as them, with a band! I came into to the room where they had the recorder and all that. I was just singing the tracks, I never played with that band.

Nardwuar: At this time, Larry, you were involved in this particular band, Charlie & The Tunas! {Nardwuar hand The Sonics a record]
Larry: [Looking at the band photo on the back of the record] You notice how everybody’s necks were crooked. We changed members so much that all we ended up doing, is we had black on white (pictures), so we just cut the heads off and replace ‘em.

Nardwuar: See, this is for Sonics completeists. What can you say about Charlie & The Tunas?
Larry: It’s just a nickel and dime band. This was after I hadn’t played since ‘66 and this was some time in the ‘80s. It was a way of getting back and trying to learn to play again. It was fine though.
Gerry: [looking at the record] Holy…did you have a beard?
Larry: Look at that neck!
Rob: You’re the bearded guy?!
Larry: Yeah, I had a beard.
Rob: Holy mackerel, you look like the Unabomber!
Larry: Look at this neck! You can tell his neck is not on right. [laughs]

Nardwuar: You weren’t paying attention at this time Rob, because you were flying airplanes?
Rob: Yeah, I was someplace else. I had never heard of Charlie & The Tunas, but that’s no big deal ‘cuz they never heard of me either.

Nardwuar: So, you were a commercial pilot?
Rob: Yes.

Nardwuar: So, did you meet any Sonics fans at all when you were doing your commercial piloting? Did you ask them up to the front?
Rob: All the time.

Nardwuar: Who did you run into? Did you actually really carrying Springsteen around and then he found out that you were in the Sonics inadvertently?
Rob: I didn’t carry him around, but I flew him from Los Angeles to West Palm Beach, Florida, yeah. He and his wife.

Nardwuar: And then he found out you were in the Sonics? Like, did you tell people, “Hi! It’s captain…”
Larry: “I used to play in the Sonics!” (mockingly)

Nardwuar: I guess I was just curious of people you encounter…
Rob: Springsteen did a show in Seattle and he said I’m going to do a song by the Sonics and I’m not talking about the basketball team. He did “Have Love, Will Travel.” So, I was flying him and his wife was asleep, it was the middle of the night and we’re halfway across the country, and I walk back and he engaged me in conversation. I said, “I’m glad I had a chance to talk to you because you did a nice thing for me and some friends of mine and I wanted to thank you for it.” He said, “Oh, what was that?” I said, “Well, my name’s Rob Lind, I’m the sax player in the Sonics.” And all he wanted to talk about was how Larry got that fabulous guitar tone out of his amp. So, we had a good conversation. He’s a very nice guy. His wife is a very nice lady. Nice people.

Nardwuar: Over the years, did you encounter anybody else that liked the Sonics in that way when you were flying them around? Even in Vietnam? Were there any pickup bands you played with in Vietnam?
Rob: Yeah, there was, but it had nothing to do with the Sonics. I flew people every once and a while. I flew the Beach Boys. I flew the manager of the Eagles and a couple of the guys from the Eagles.

Nardwuar: Did you get to control the onboard music at all? And like pump some Sonics there?
Rob: I had nothing to do with that. I was just sitting in the seat, minding my own business.

Nardwuar: [Nardwuar hands The Sonics a record] The Sonics, original, original, Northwest Punk…
Larry: Oh, this is the same guy that doesn’t pay royalties, isn’t it?

Nardwuar: Original Northwest Punk!
Larry: Yeah, a crook called us punk, I’ll be damned. How bout that?

Nardwuar: And this was issued in the ‘80s or late ‘70s, and this was sort of like the punk revival. Was this when you sort of realized what was going on, because you, Larry. It goes back to Hooters doesn’t it? You picked up Cavalier Magazine, a nudie mag?
Larry: It wasn’t Hooters. It was just a café next to a music store. Yeah, I was going through it(Cavalier), I wasn’t looking at the pictures at all. I was making sure I didn’t look at the pictures. All of a sudden there was an article there about the Sonics. It was something about people in the audience in New York City, yelling to do certain songs.

Nardwuar: Which is pretty incredible.
Larry: And then I found an Italian magazine. I couldn’t read it, but I knew it was about the Sonics. Then we started hearing more and more about it all the time.

Nardwuar: But as I mentioned, I was obsessed by the Sonics. I put on a gig in the 1980s and look at the gig ticket. [Nardwuar hands The Sonics a gig ticket] Look who’s on the gig ticket there, Larry.
Larry: Woah! Before I got my hair ripped out. Wow.

Nardwuar: It was a gig called “Live at the Church” with my band, the Evaporators, a band called the One Eyed Jacks, and another band called the Four Sticks, named after a Led Zeppelin song. So, we have Live at the Church!
Larry: Your band was in there?

Nardwuar: The Evaporators! Yeah, still going today. So, it’s all been started by the Sonics. You are to blame for me, Nardwuar The Human Serviette.
Larry: Wow, I didn’t think you were that old.

Nardwuar: I’ve been in the game a long time. Actually, how old is old?
Larry: Ask Rob.
Rob: I can’t remember. [laughs]

Nardwuar: People have come up to you Rob, haven’t they, and said, “You’re not a garage band.” You’ve said, “Well, we’re not a Farfisa band.” What can you tell people about that, you’re not a Farfisa band?
Rob: I’m not familiar with that term.

Nardwuar: I think you were talking about in Greece?
Larry: We went in to do out sound check, and before we went in the owner was really nice, but sort of scared. We did the sound check, he came out to me and was almost crying, saying, “That’s not garage! That’s not garage!” So, I told him we don’t play garage. We play Sonic music. So, we played that night and the audience really liked it. Then he came and slobbered all over me. Just really happy.

Nardwuar: Now, I was wondering, lastly here, Dusty, you are in the rock’n’roll band now known as The…
Sonics all together: Sonics!

Nardwuar: Does Dusty forget he’s in the Sonics? Because if you forget that you’re in the Sonics, things could go horribly wrong. Like you did some drumming for the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., the rap band?
Dusty: Yeah, the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. They called me, “Angel Dust, hey, Angel Dust.” So, yeah, that was a pretty interesting gig. [laughs]

Nardwuar: That’s pretty cool. You drummed for the Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E., you drummed for the Queers. What do the rest of the Sonics know about you?
Dusty: Um, very little actually. I try and keep that all separate and keep that all away from them. I don’t want to scare them or anything. I’m a little worried about scaring them off. Actually, when I first saw you guys in Italy, we were on the same festival, The Beat Festival, with Gianni, the Titty Twister. He…

Nardwuar: Um, the what?
Freddie: Titty Twister, that is.
Dusty: Anyway…

Nardwuar: Oh, do I ask Gerry about the Titties? [laughs]
Dusty: So, we go to play a festival together and we were having fun. We saw each other the next day. It was pretty cool. And then I saw them again a couple of years later at the Ink and Iron Festival. I was playing with another band there. Of course, I was doing like Sonic fills, nothing like Bob Bennett (original Sonics drummer) snare drum rolls. So, I like to put them in anywhere I can. Rob was standing out in front me and he goes, “If we ever need a drummer, we’re going to call you.” And I said, “You better damned do that.” And sure as shit, he did.

Nardwuar: Well, thanks so much Sonics from Tacoma, Washington. Keep on rocking in the free world. And doot doola doot doo…
Sonics: Doot doot! [pause] Nardwuar! Sonics!

Drawing by Mitch Clem!

Thanks to Matthew Hart for the Transcription and Mitch Clem for The Sonic’s Drawings!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to top