Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Don't you understand? I'm a 'punk-rock god'" / A (sarcastic and serious) interview with Channel 3

Mike Magrann, top, and Kimm Gardener of Channel 3. (All Cat Rose photos)

By Andy

One particular night at the Cuckoo's Nest in 1981 was a lot more cuckoo than usual when Channel 3 took the stage.

This punk nightclub in Costa Mesa, Calif., was known not only for its raucous gigs, but frequent brawls between the hardcore set and the cowboys/rednecks who frequented the bar, Zubie's, across the parking lot.

There was no violence on this evening, but it's safe to say that CH3 singer Mike Magrann was in a raging mood when the band hit the stage. Fueled by some alcohol and his 21-year-old angst, the lanky, wobbly singer tossed his guitar aside and went full-grip onto the microphone stand during the set. It won't go down in history as one of the band's stellar performances, but I will always remember it well -- I was nearly banged in the head on numerous occasions by the flying mic stand. But that's punk rock for ya … those were dangerous and glorious times at the Nest.

Fast-forward to the present day, and I'm sitting across from Magrann as we discuss the history of CH3 after a razor-sharp and top-notch set at El Corazon in Seattle. The band, which nicely straddles the line between punk and rock, opened with "Best of Intentions" and concluded with "I Got a Gun."

It's nearly 1 a.m. and there are still more beers to be tossed down the hatch for the boys of CH3. Magrann and I have a good, insightful chat before I move on to guitarist Kimm Gardener, who provides another bookend-full of answers to wrap up the CH3 story (as much as I could grasp at 1 a.m. with last call approaching, anyway!).

Cheers to CH3:

Magrann and drummer Alf Silva.

** It's been a long time. I first saw you guys in '81-'82 at Godzilla's and the Cuckoo's Nest (in Southern California). What's changed since then and now? You guys are still doing this... what keeps you rolling?

Mike: It's weird in Southern California, cuz every goddamn band is playing again. I think we're a bit spoiled. I think we learned that punk rock has become almost like the blues, man. I mean, bluesmen, they don't stop. And maybe because it wasn't based on your pretty-boy image or the rock-n-roll lifestyle-- and I think punk rock has become that (blues-like). It's like fuckin' Charlie Harper (of the UK Subs, age 68) out there rockin' away. It's heartening to us-- we can still come out here and play and people show up, you know?

** You still having just as much fun as you did back then?

Mike: We do have actually much more fun nowadays than we used to because back then, it was just like, "search and destroy, we're coming to town, we want every fuckin' drink and drug and fuck every girl." And nowadays, it's like we come into cities and there's people that we've known for 30 years, and it's just like coming and visiting with friends and getting reacquainted with the city and all that. It's amazing how we get... free vacations is basically what we do.

Kimm: If we didn't have fun together, it would be the last thing we do.

** You guys all have wives and kids...

Mike: We do. Full-time jobs, wives and families. The band is kind of like our bowling league. Once a month, we're like, "Hey! You know what? We're going off for the weekend." We're out on Friday morning, we're back by Sunday evening and back at the desk by Monday morning.

** What do your kids think of dad still playing the rock?

Mike: It never fails, and we've talked to every punk-rock dad out there, and the kids are just like, "Dad, you're so lame." (Laughter) And I'm like, "Don't you understand? I'm a 'punk-rock god.'" And they're like, "Dad, come on, your hair is grey." So, you can never win over a teenage girl.

Kimm: My kids are very supportive of it, and they kind of love the rock-n'-roll thing. And you know what? How could you not? I think rock n' roll is such a key thing about life. I grew up in the age and era of KISS and Aerosmith and knowing that that was important stuff... we're small time to that, but it's good to have them know that music makes a difference in life. Music's the soundtrack of life. What you hear affects how you do things. We hope that we're part of it.

**  You and Kimm have known each other since grade school (second grade). What keeps you guys together and having such a good camaraderie still? You guys on stage are making jokes, smiling at each other.

Mike: In any band, I think the personal chemistry is much more important than any type of musicianship or business relationship. We're just best friends, so if we weren't doing this, we'd probably be on the same softball team or something else. Throughout the years, we've had session guys come in and out of the band, and if you don't click, it doesn't work. So, this lineup of the band, we can all travel together and just hang out-- everybody's on the same level. It's so crucial for a band to be able to do that. (Drummer Alf Silva and bassist Anthony Thompson round out the band, which has a stellar new single and EP, "Land of the Free," out on Hostage Records.)

(Kimm and I) We kind of look over at each other and it's like, "Can you believe we're doing this at 50 years old, man?" It's great.

Kimm: It's uncanny, because we're still best friends-- we don't talk every day, but we e-mail every day. We hang out with each other and our families. When we tour with the four of us, we have two hotel rooms (and Mike and I share a room) because we know each other so well -- it's like brothers.
We've had many, many brawls over the years, and like any good relationship, you have to be ready for the good and the bad that comes out of it.

Bassist Anthony Thompson

**  You guys have gone through a lot of changes. Obviously starting out in the early '80s as a hardcore band and then you went with the hair and the cowboy boots and wrote some rock songs. Do you still embrace every phase of Channel 3? Are you proud of everything?

Mike: You see that tonight we played everything, and we love every phase of it. I know a lot of bands who kind of shy away from their "sellout years," but for us, we had a blast in those (mid-'80s) years. People say, "Oh, you guys were metal" or something, but we really (weren't). The look changed a little bit and we tried to expand, but we always wrote songs...

** Good songs, the whole way, I think. I was on board with you guys the whole way. I loved it.

Mike: Production really changed things, you're like, "Oh, this isn't a punk song, this is a rock-n'-roll song." The producers would try to polish it up a little but, but we play 'em live -- we play "The Last Time I Drank" (and "Indian Summer") ... they're just Channel 3 songs to us.

We're suckers for Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, all those bands. Eventually, you write a song that's more poppy and then there's people saying, "Oh, you know what? Maybe you guys are more than a thrash band. Maybe we can do this, why don't you guys grow your hair out?" ...that kind of shit. But it always comes down to, we're all the same four dudes in the garage writing those same songs, gettin' drunk, just hanging out with each other.

** I know that you're an English major from Long Beach State -- and obviously, lyrics are crucial. Where do you get your inspiration for that? A lot of straight-forward things, a lot of tongue in cheek in there at times...

Mike: When you're a college kid in school, it's like, "Oh man, I've got such important things to say." Punk rockers in general, they tend to feel more and inspect things more, and back then I had the English-major curse of saying, "I wanna be profound." Probably since then, I've backed off a bit. If you're gonna write a song, you might as well put something that might catch somebody out there. And through the years, it's flattering and heartening that people write letters and they send e-mails and go, "That song just spoke to me." Wow -- that's the biggest compliment I could ever have.

**  I noticed that you were wearing your Bukowski shirt earlier... the Bukowski Tavern out of Boston. My wife and have been there, as well. There was a Bukowski reference in one of the songs on the last album. How did he come into play?

Mike: Bukowski's an easy reference now, and we almost had to back off when all the hipsters got onto Bukowski, but I've been reading Bukowski for years. Actually the Bukowski reference was in the "Jim Harrison song," (who is) one of my favorite writers, and so it's always great when somebody catches that stuff (the line is "Save me Chinaski!"). But Bukowski represents the punk rocker. That's the man.

** The legacy of Channel 3, how would you like to best be remembered as?

Mike: It's the songs that are gonna have to exist and speak for us. (From vinyl to CD to digital and online) We started thinking, "My god, it's just gonna live forever." For better or worse, we're gonna have a body of work out there that people will look at and we hope that it just comes through. We're just a couple of kids that fuckin' had a blast.




  1. Love these guys. I am ashamed to say that I never have seen them play live. I have ordered the new single. Looking forward to listening to it and the bonus download tracks that come with it.

  2. Great interview. I would also like to see them live. If only they would play Boston again (hint hint)