CHANNEL 3 – interview by liz ortega
The mighty 80’s introduced a wave of new music-music that was unyielding and non-conforming. Punk rock was making its way through CA, managing to taint every single straight-laced society-including the peaceful suburban community of Cerritos. Nowadays, if you drive through the tire-marked city streets of Cerritos, you will notice the luxurious and pricey homes in clusters, and not to mention, there’s always the chance of racing some noodle with a lowered Honda Civic or Acura down Bloomfield Ave. As lead vocalist, Mike Magrann recalls it– “Cerritos was all dairies and they started putting track houses and then it was all young white middle class families. Those houses were brand new–they cost like $35,000 for a 6-bedroom house. By the mid eighties, those houses cost like $500,000 and the only people that could afford to move there were the Orientals. What’s odd about Cerritos is that it was a very intergraded… I don’t know about it anymore.“
But before the Acuras and Civics became popular, there wasn’t much to do around town. Out of sheer boredom and the urge to play rock music like their bone idols, Cheap Trick and Aerosmith, a group of young men set out to change the world (or maybe they just wanted to have something fun to do in Cerritos). The most magnetic and electrifying foursome, Channel 3, surfaced sometime in the 1980s. Childhood friends, Kimm Gardener and Mike Magrann along with the rest of CH3 set out to join the punk rock movement with other LA punk pioneers. Their disorderly, bratty punk rock sound spread like a wild brush fire. They were relentless in their conquests and made certain they would leave a permanent scar and with the release of their first LP, Fear of Life, in 1982 (Posh Boy Records), CH3’s popularity became evident. They went on and released countless albums/EPs/ and singles and have toured extensively nationally and abroad. Since then, the band has gone through many line up changes and have finally settled with drummer, Alf Silva and bassist, Anthony Thompson. I met with the entire band one Tuesday night at a local Long Beach bar and we all got pretty tanked on the Heineken. Cheers!
LIZ: I see we’ve got some new faces in the band. How long have you been in the band?
ALF: I’ve been in the band since 1993.
LIZ: Oh, you’re not that new…how long have you been in the band?
ANTHONY: Last November…
LIZ: How do you like playing with these guys? Were they a favorite while growing up?
MIKE: Growing up? He’s the same age we are!
ANTHONY: No, I just had a couple records. They were good–I liked them.
ALF: Hey, way to pump us up, man!
LIZ: But what exactly is it about these guys that you like? Hold on, is he the youngest member? How do you feel having someone so young in the band?
MIKE: Yes, he is. We just take the young guys, kick their butts, and throw ‘em out!
LIZ: So, Mike and Kimm started Channel 3 at a young age, right? How was the childhood–your upbringing? Why did you convey so much anger and frustration in your music?
MIKE: Kimm and I went to Catholic school since we were 12 and we can’t really remember what happened. We had a typical suburban upbringing…
LIZ: Dude, you lived in Cerritos, CA!
MIKE: You laugh? It wasn’t real anger…
LIZ: Were there a lot of Asians in Cerritos back then?
MIKE: Not then, actually. But before you keep going, I’m half Asian.
LIZ: That’s good to know.
MIKE: What happens when you cross an Irish with a Japanese? You get a cheap drunk! Cerritos was all dairies and they started putting track houses and then it was all young white middle class families. Those houses were brand new–they cost like $35,000 for a 6-bedroom house. By the mid eighties, those houses cost like $500,000 and the only people that could afford to move there were the large Oriental/Vietnamese families. What’s odd about Cerritos is that it was a very intergraded…our Homecoming Queens were black. There was a lot of brothas and sistas in Cerritos. I don’t know about it anymore.
LIZ: You didn’t answer my question.
MIKE: WHAT! No! I was the only Oriental back then!
LIZ: Mike, is that why your lyrics were so angry?
MIKE: Yes! Yes! They made me do laundry! No, no, you see, the places where I would go to–I’ll be with my Japanese family–and I’d see people looking at my little grandma and they’d never suspect me of being part of that. So, I could be part of the disgust and anger the way people treated minorities but at the same time I’d be invisible to that because I wouldn’t look like a minority. So, that allowed me to go behind people, tap them on the shoulder, and say “Hey, you got a problem with that? Fucker!”
LIZ: Well, I think you look Hispanic, and that’s a beautiful thing.
MIKE: Simon!(Spanish slang for “Like totally!”) I get that a lot.
LIZ: Was your family traditional Japanese? How did they feel about you playing in a punk rock band?
MIKE: They were into it. Actually, my Japanese side of the family, I had a lot of people that were really cutting-edge, like back in the old days of the Atomic Cafe…maybe because they all lived around Downtown, LA.
LIZ: So, they were supportive. What about you, Kimm? Are you part anything before I go on?
KIMM: No, I’m just a white guy!
MIKE: No, come on, you’re half Dutch!
KIMM: No, our families were very supportive. We were ordinary kids growing up and we were into music all along. We always went to concerts and we liked bands like Cheap Trick as we were growing. Really, some friends of ours from high school were in a punk band and they played with the Germs. We went and saw them and it was a change–they just kind of changed our whole point of view about the whole thing. We were listening to Rodney on the Roq on Sunday nights and Mike and I were already learning how to play guitar. Our parents had always been supportive, but I think they were kind of curious when we started shaving our heads and doing things like that. Back in the 1980’s, that was a strange thing to do.
MIKE: Kimm and I are both the youngest kids. We both come from big families, you know, 4-5 kids. So, by that time, our parents were burned out on raising kids. The last kids kind of get all the freedom.
KIMM: The party was always at my house on the weekends…my parents were retiring, so that gave us a lot of freedom to play music and drink beer and just get into a whole lot of trouble.
LIZ: Now, what about you , Anthony? Were your parents any different?
ALL: He’s a hillbilly!
ANTHONY: Yeah, I’m a hillbilly, I come from the mountains. I was the youngest, too. They pretty much put up with it all. They’d been through a lot with my other brothers, so they pretty much let me go.
ALF: Yeah, same with me. I was the youngest in my family and I had an older brother–he was the one who did well in school. I didn’t do so well and after a while, they gave up on me and just excepted whatever I was into.
KIMM: Yeah, Alf grew up in Cerritos, too. So, Alf knew the band from the very start and even though he’s a couple years younger than us, he was there the whole time. We’ve known each other for so many years.
ALF: Yeah, they’ve been kickin’ me around for a long time!
LIZ: We’re seeing this old school punk rock revival with TSOL, Adolescents, Agent Orange, etc. Are you guys latching on to that resurgence in punk rock? Have you guys been playing around?
KIMM: Those guys are friends of ours and the Adolescents didn’t play until November. We never really stopped playing…
MIKE: We’ve played every year at the Doll Hut. Our whole thing was that we weren’t going to play for money. We would just play every year. And we’d still practice, drink beer, and screw around. But after doing the Doll Hut one year, we did a benefit show with TSOL for Surf Rider, then we were offered other great shows…
KIMM: The thing is, we launched our web site like about 1 or 2 years ago and we’ve been playing, it’s just that you haven’t seen us the last 3 or 4 months play in this area because we’re recording the new record. That’s why we’ve been kind of quiet the last couple of months. You’ll be hearing lots of us …
MIKE: We’re going the whole SKA direction!
ALF: SKA is going to be big!
LIZ: You mean, it’s coming back? Neat!
ALF: SKA and Slow Jams!
LIZ: Slow Jams! That’s cool because I know “you’re easy–easy like Sunday morning!” Tell me about this new record–when is it coming out? What’s the title? Give me details!
(This is where Mike ignores my question and starts talking about EMO)
MIKE: We have been called the “God Fathers of Emo,” you know?
LIZ: Really? I thought it was Face to Face?
MIKE: Well, who do you think taught those guys!
MIKE: You’ve never heard any of our records, have you?
LIZ: Never. Except “You Make Me Feel Cheap” is probably my favorite CH3 song.
MIKE: Well, that’s emo-ish! Ok, the new record–actually, we don’t have a name for it, yet.
LIZ: Is this new record going to have your signature sound? Is it going to have that bratty punk vibe as your previous work? Or will you be experimenting with different styles like many bands are doing?
MIKE: It’s pretty much a throw back to a lot of our early stuff. We’ve always written the same way it’s just that by the mid-80’s, we got signed to a bigger record company and they started putting tons of money in production. Suddenly we have a whole team of producers and songwriters and all that–that’s when it changed everything.
LIZ: Who is releasing the album?
KIMM: We’ve been talking to couple record labels…
LIZ: Oh, so you don’t have a label yet?
MIKE: Yeah, thanks for bringing that up!
KIMM: We’re talking to a few people…
LIZ: In spirit of the song “You Make Me Feel Cheap,” what really makes you feel cheap?
(Everybody points to Mike)
MIKE: Why are you giving it to me? Well, you know, after sex, I just like to cuddle but some girls just get up and leave. It just makes me…I take shower after shower and I just can’t get clean.
LIZ: I’m being serious here…when you wrote that song, what was going through your mind? What is the story behind that song?
MIKE: It was just a “boys got feelings, too” sort of thing. Why are you laughing! I was fuckin’ 17!
KIMM: Do you know who the girl is in that song? That’s Rodney Bingenheimer’s girlfriend. That’s why we got so much airplay–on KROQ.
MIKE: And we never knew, we never met her, we never heard it. We got home, the record is playing, we heard it the next week on Rodney on the Roq and he put that girl’s voice in there without us even knowing.
KIMM: They just called and said “Listen, you’re going to hear the song and they added this girl’s background vocals.”
LIZ: Her vocals sound right off a porno…I mean, I don’t watch them, but I’ve heard them.
MIKE: But you know, since it was Rodney’s girlfriend at the time, he’d play it two or three times each show.
KIMM: He was scared we were going to beat him up. Well, he didn’t do it–Posh Boy did.
LIZ: How’s you current relationship with Posh Boy?
MIKE: I’d say we get along…[Posh Boy] still presses our records. Throughout the years, [Posh Boy] has made our music available. We had one of the longest relationships with them.
LIZ: Who inspired you musically? Who was a major influence in your adolescence?
ALF: The Ramones, the Pistols, all the LA punk bands. I used to play to the Adolescents, that’s how I learned to play drums. I liked Judas Priest.
ANTHONY: When I was growing up, my older brother got me into punk rock like the Sex Pistols, the Damned, X, MC5, Iggy Pop and the Stooges…the whole British stuff.
KIMM: As Mike and I would say, you really hear undertones of other stuff. People have said we’re like the Ramones meets the Clash. That’s probably a good analogy of what we sound like. If you look on the first record, Mike is wearing an Aerosmith shirt. That’s when we first saw Aerosmith in 1976. So, again, people like Aerosmith, Cheap Trick…we used to see Ted Nugent and stuff like that. Once the LA scene started growing, we were all involved with each other. All the bands used to hang out and listen to each other’s records. So, things started happening and you really start being influenced by each other because you hung out so much. It was a unique time. People try to recreate that now…it was a good time. Even when we weren’t playing, Mike and I still hung out together.
LIZ: Well, now the years have gone by–you’re a little bit older, a lot more mature. How has that changed your lifestyle? Before you were care-free and did what you pleased. Now, you can’t really do that since you all probably have children…
KIMM: Yes, I have a little boy.
MIKE: I’ve got a little girl.
ALF: I’ve got two boys.
ANTHONY: NO KIDS!
ALF: That’s only because he’s gay!
LIZ: So, Anthony, what really makes you feel cheap?
ANTHONY: When the guy won’t cuddle!
MIKE: You know what the thing about getting older is? The only thing that changes is that it’s a hell of a lot harder to try to get four guys together to start planning a tour…it hasn’t changed the music at all.
LIZ: How are the fans now? Compared to how they were back in the day?
MIKE: You know, a lot of old timers are really loyal to us. It’s weird to see all these old punk rock bands come out–a lot of the 40-year-olds are showing a lot. The most surprising thing is that the young kids are really into it. The hear the names of these bands and they want to go out and see them. They seem to have an easier time getting to shows than when we did when we were kids. So, yeah, it blows our minds every time. The kids are really into it…
KIMM: It’s strange because you see a whole new generation of kids that know the songs, they know all the words–their knowledge of the music scene is much different than it was 25 years ago…it’s great! It makes you feel very grateful that the kids still come and we get a lot of people that we haven’t seen in years that still come to the shows and that’s always fun.
LIZ: Today, we see less violence and disorder–there’s a lot more security and strict rules to play by.
MIKE: There’s a lot more control with the established clubs. Before, shows were usually at a place you’d rent for one night with no security, no insurance and all of that–anything could happen. Now, you have a show at House of Blues and nothing is going to happen. If you’re slammin’…security is right there to stop you.
LIZ: Do you think these strict measures take away from the energy of the show?
MIKE: There’s definitely not the sense of danger anymore. It used to be that anything can fuckin happen. We’ve had people jump on stage and hit us in the face, we’ve have water mains break and flood the stage, we’ve had singers from other bands grab fire extinguishers and spray the audience…
MIKE: I mean, that shit doesn’t happen anymore! The music is still very energetic and maybe there’s more attention from people watching. (This comment was longer, but background noise muffled that.)
LIZ: What’s the most memorable show or experience you’ve ever had?
KIMM: I don’t know…
LIZ: Or the most fucked up show?
KIMM: Ha! We don’t remember those! (Laughs)
MIKE: On the road, we’d do a lot of shows where we’d go on stage and play two or three songs and go “Thank you, Goodnight!” and walk off. We’d forget we were playing…
KIMM: We went to NY the first time and there was like 1000 people there at the show. Just to go to NY when you’re kid is pretty memorable.
MIKE: One of our last shows we played in the mid-80s was at the Verizon Amphitheater when we opened for X and the Chili Peppers. We just kind of showed up and didn’t really expect anything–but we got a whole trailer to ourselves and deli tray and all that. They just told us to go out there and play. We had a great time–all our friends showed up and we were never invited back to do a show that big again.
LIZ: Did you at least take pictures?
MIKE: Do you know there’s a jacuzzi back stage at the Verizon?
LIZ: Well, no…I’m not cool enough for the back stage at the Verizon.
MIKE: Well, the promoter goes “I don’t think anyone’s ever been in there.” Sure enough, one of our roadies takes off his clothes and jumps in there. It wasn’t even hot…just to say that he’s been in the jacuzzi back stage. He’s fuckin’ going in there and it’s green and it looked like a mosquito breeding ground…
KIMM: We played in the middle of a tornado…there’s been some really strange things we’ve been able to do over the years.
MIKE: Back in those days, there were shows in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles,–but you had to get across the country. Some nights, there weren’t so many people there, so we’d buy a bottle and pass it around the crowd, sit down and introduce ourselves to the audience.
KIMM: People would have a show at “the club” and you’d get to “the club” and it’s the guy’s basement of his house! It’s like a club he has on the weekends for his friends! So, we’d go and it would be like “Ok? Well, let’s go get some beer–it’ll make it look a lot better!” There were a lot of funny places we got to play. (Laughter)
LIZ: If there was one thing you would change about each member, what would and be?
MIKE: Anthony doesn’t like to cuddle.
ALF: I don’t think I do enough cocaine. I would like to do a little bit more.
LIZ: I know you’re snorting coke off the cock!
ALF: No, but I do suck cock for cocaine, yes.
MIKE: Wow! Mom won’t be able to read this interview for sure!
KIMM: I’ll be on time, ok!
MIKE: I wish the rhythm section was red-headed and could keep time. I wish Mike Magrann was two people and so does Kimm.
ANTHONY: I wish these guys were younger. I wish, uhh, uhhhh….
MIKE: Oh, he‘s doing the mumble. Anthony just wishes Alf wouldn’t leave so quick and would have more time to cuddle!
ANTHONY: I want you to cuddle with me more!
LIZ: What’s in store with Channel 3? Any cool things going on with the band?
KIMM: The new record is going to come out and we’re playing about and we’re just going to keep on…
LIZ: Keep on truckin’!
KIMM: (Laughs) Yeah, I don’t think that’s the word I was looking for, but ok.
MIKE: We‘re doing a few short little tours this summer.
LIZ: So, I’ve noticed you kids aren’t jumping on the wagon–everybody’s seems to be sober. You guys are drunks just like me! I thought we were extinct!
MIKE: We’ve always known the alcohol is a precious thing to be guarded and nurtured and–loved. That’s why we could not have serious drug problems because we knew one thing–we wanted to drink for the rest of our lives.
LIZ: There have been many line-up changes with CH3…
KIMM: There have been many people in CH3. Jay Lansford was in the band for many years. Jay was in the Simpletones and the Stepmothers. He produced the Agent Orange records–Jay was involved with all sorts of stuff.
MIKE: We probably went through 14 drummers and along the way, about 8 eight bass players.
LIZ: Why are you particular with who you want to remain in the band?
MIKE: A lot of people just don’t seem to fit and Kimm and I always do this. A lot of guys are like “Oh, man. Fuck this. I can’t practice every night.” They come and go…
KIMM: And in a way, the band is a test of our friendship–Mike and I have been going to school since the second grade, so it’s like “You’re doing something different, that’s cool. But you’re doing it without us.”
LIZ: You guys are like connected to the fuckin hip.
MIKE: We’ve known each other since second grade, you didn’t know that?
LIZ: I’m trying to know the saga of CH3, Mike. That’s why I’m doing this interview.
MIKE: Well, we use to be called Channel 6, but we cut out the Ska…
LIZ: Thank you so much for getting me drunk and for making me laugh. Any final comments you’d like to share?
MIKE: Anthony’s not really gay!
ALF: And I really don’t suck cock for cocaine.