By David Ensminger
For another current interview and photos of Agent Orange by David Ensminger see here:
As a member of a bridge band, like Social Distortion and the Adolescents, that spanned both the first punk wave and emerging hardcore, how did you see the scene or genre change?
The hardcore era took over pretty quick, and once again I think it was mostly due to the press. You can trace this all the way back, well I don’t know about New York, maybe they were a little bit ignored, but by the time the whole thing was picked up by the English press, God, everybody knows what they did with that. In the States, especially in L.A., one of the big things right off-the-bat was, I don’t know how people remember this, but there was a LA Times article where they coined the term “slamdance.” In the same article, they said we were a band “banned forever,” along with other bands as well. The article said all these bands had been blacklisted from all the clubs. I don’t think a blacklist really existed until they printed that article. It was like, “It’s well known that all these bands are banned…” So, for me, I felt like, I don’t care. If they don’t want us, I don’t want to go there anyhow. We’ll find some place to play. I just had a “never give up” attitude, really, no matter what happened like that. I just figured that Agent Orange would find some way somehow to keep playing. I always looked long term at things. Yeah, maybe we’re banned this month, but we’ll just get out of L.A. How about that? That’s a novel concept (laughs).
Steve Soto stresses that media coverage ended up bringing in a thuggish mentality because the “violence” was highlighted by the press. All the people that were psychotic or had violent tendencies started showing up.
I think that was inevitable anyway. Yeah, advertise it as such, who’s going to show up with a flowerpot on their head? They are going to show up with a leather jacket and a switchblade. That’s what everybody thought it was. If you didn’t know, you certainly weren’t going to come unprepared. This whole false picture that the press painted, a lot of kids followed it. You still see it in out of the way places. I hate to use any place as an example, especially now, because it took a lot of years, but basically everyone is pretty well clued in who needs to know. There was a time when we would fly to… I am going to use Alaska as an example, even though it’s not a great example. There’s probably other places. Out of the way places where you fly in and some kid would meet you at the airport with an orange Mohawk. He just cut it that morning because he made damn sure he was going to fit in, no matter what. Agent Orange is coming and it’s going to be punk as hell. Then they took one look at us and they’re like, “Oh man. These guys look so tame” (laughs). Cause it’s not all visual. That’s not what it is all about. Plus, some people think they really need to … Well, punk rock is a visual thing as well. It’s just funny (laughs).
In early Flipside, you describe the rivalries between Huntington Beach and places like Riverside.