Lookin' for a Hero

Local punk preservationists pogo back into the spotlight after a four-year absence

Eager to reclaim a bit of their past glory, the band has been rehearsing diligently for three months. For Bourne, the time spent prepping for the show has been a crash course in Punk Drumming 101.

"There's something about this kind of music. It's not very difficult, but it's unique. And Jeff's had to change his whole style of playing," notes Shelton.

Bourne regards his turns with the Heroes and with the equally trash/punk-oriented Beat Angels as welcome challenges. "It's like having to unlearn a bunch of stuff in terms of my own style, so there is a work ethic involved, but the bottom line is it's a lot of fun."

The Glass Heroes: From left to right, Jeff Bourne, Steve Shelton, Keith Jackson and Steve Davis.
The Glass Heroes: From left to right, Jeff Bourne, Steve Shelton, Keith Jackson and Steve Davis.
21st century men: Sugar High greets Y2K with a CD release party.
21st century men: Sugar High greets Y2K with a CD release party.

For Davis, a onetime bassist for legendary psychobilly combo Hellfire, the problem wasn't having to unlearn any one style, but rather to relearn his instrument from scratch. "After the Heroes broke up, I basically retired. I mean, I kept all my equipment, but I literally didn't touch my bass for four years," he says.

The rehearsals have produced some new material, but Jackson insists that the New Year's Eve set will stick mostly to Heroes chestnuts such as "Get Out Alive," "King of the Day" and "Long Hot Summer."

"We had originally planned to learn about 14 songs, but Steve has been kicking my ass to get us to learn like 25 songs, so we'll have them all ready to go." Fittingly, the band's set will also include a pair of covers -- the Saints' "(I'm) Stranded" and Chelsea's "I'm on Fire."

Noting the subtleties in the evolution of the band's style, Jackson says, "The way we sound now, it's more like the Clash or street rock. It's not Oi! so much, because I m not a huge Oi! fan -- unless it's like Cock Sparrer. Our stuff leans more toward Chelsea, the Professionals and, um . . ."

"REO Speedwagon," Shelton jokes.

There's genuine camaraderie between the four men. It's apparent that the niggling "band" bullshit that hastened the Heroes' dissolution the first time around has subsided. And, yes, the group finally has its own rehearsal place.

"We have a spot in 'Metal Alley' -- Palm Lane and I-17," says Shelton, referring to the west Valley practice space that serves as a home to a seeming army of retro metal bands of the Dokken/Iron Maiden variety.

It took only one rehearsal for the Heroes to realize that their Pistols/Professionals skronk made them seem like pilgrims in an unholy land.

"The first time we rehearsed, we played a couple songs, and when we were done, it was complete silence and everyone had their head out the door," says Jackson, laughing.

"I didn't know if they were pissed off 'cause it was too loud or if they didn't know what to think 'cause we've invaded their territory," adds Shelton.

For Davis, the Metal Alley experience has been a weird nostalgia trip. "It's like you've stepped into a 1980s time warp. I see the girls hanging around there, and they've got on zebra pants and big hair. And you hear all this screaming banshee music."

It's an ironic comment considering the Heroes' own retro appearance. But even the most challenged arbiters would agree that both musically and stylistically, London '77 beats Glendale '87 hands down. More important, the dichotomy underscores Jackson's point about why the Heroes formed in the first place -- to preserve and prove the timeless nature of the early Brit punk that fuels the band's sound.

"The '77 punk thing comes and goes, but it never really goes away. And for me, my Detroit roots -- the MC5, Stooges -- that stuff is always there, but there's a huge English influence on me that is hard to get rid of," says Jackson, who spent his youth being weaned on BBC music programming broadcast on Canadian television that eventually filtered onto Detroit airwaves.

And while few would argue that the Heroes are breaking any new ground, too much of the band's own identity and spirit are invested in the music to simply dismiss it as mimicry.

"I've always felt you can sound anachronistic but still be progressive in a way," says Shelton. "In this band, or even in the [Van Buren] Wheels, what we're doing is going back through rock 'n' roll history and picking things up. But you're reinventing it in the process and bringing your own experiences into it as well."

The band members are tightlipped about the possibility of further gigs. "It's a reunion. For how long it lasts, who knows?" says Jackson. "I've worked with so many people in so many bands, and the relationship between the three of us especially, and with Jeff fitting in also, is really amazing. In all the time we've been together, we've never had any problems, arguments, strife -- nothing. Having been in bands my whole life, I can tell you that's pretty rare."

Shelton agrees, adding: "It's not really about any career goals. It's been so much fun so far just getting together and doing something. The process of the work and the enjoyment that we get playing with each other is the only thing I want out of this."

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