Gotta Have the Phunk

Valley rap-rock pioneers return with a new record

Of the many acts swept up in the mid-'90s' record company signing frenzy that hit Phoenix, few stayed very long in the major-label fold. Of those, only the Phunk Junkeez, inked to Interscope in 1995, are still standing with contract intact. This week, the rap-rock pioneers return with the release of their fourth album, the aptly titled Sex, Drugs & Rap 'n' Roll.

Sex . . . is the first offering from the group -- which celebrates its 10th year together in 2001 -- since 1998's Fear of a Wack Planet. Unlike Wack, which was helmed by Lee Popa (KMFDM, Killtrain), the group produced the new album itself, with the assistance of engineer/mixer Jeff Poe (Guns 'N Roses, BulletBoys). While Popa's surprisingly glossy production left some Junkeez fans perplexed, the new record is brimming with the kind of back-to-basics sound that marked the band's '95 debut, Injected.

"That was basically the point," says Junkeez bassist Jumbo Jim of the group's decision to self-produce. "We'd built our own studio since [the last record] and we decided we get better, truer results without anybody looking over our shoulder. We started doing some rough tracks and got such a good reaction to that, we decided to keep it going in that direction."

The Phunk Junkeez are back with their first album in nearly three years.
The Phunk Junkeez are back with their first album in nearly three years.
Ramona the Pest rolls into the Valley.
Ramona the Pest rolls into the Valley.

Also aiding in the effort is new guitarist Danny P. (of locals the Surf Ballistics), as well as an impressive roster of guest performers. The leadoff track and first single "What's Next?" features the booming pipes of Cypress Hill's Sen Dog, while local hip-hopper and Know Qwestion MC Pokaface turns up on "Lockdown." Elsewhere, Nick I from SoCal reggae outfit Common Sense throws his vocals into the mix on "Strugglin'."

"It's just happened that we got so many good guests. I mean, we didn't sit down and plan it that way," adds Jim. "But I think the results turned out good without being too much. It works like just another part of the record."

Meanwhile, the Junkeez are turning up on a handful of other projects. The band's song "Mole People" was recently chosen as the theme for the USA Network's extreme-sports program, Core Culture. A collection of cuts from the show, including "Mole People," will be out in March. The band also contributes a cut called "Party People" to the soundtrack of Sugar & Spice, a feature film starring American Beauty jailbait Mena Suvari (for the benefit of the cineasts reading this, the film is a cheerleader/heist movie, kind of a cross between Bring It On and Stanley Kubrick's The Killing). The Phunk Junkeez will also be offering up their version of "I Love It Loud" for Relativity Records' upcoming KISS tribute comp. The disc, titled Kiss Your Sister, will also feature Kiss takes from the Foo Fighters, White Zombie and the Replacements.

To celebrate the release of Sex, Drugs & Rap 'n' Roll, the Phunksters will be hosting a performance party at the Bash on Ash this Friday, January 26. Opening the bill will be Backside and the Voodoo Glow Skulls. The show begins at 9 p.m.

Stock Rises: Despite the feverish level of pre-show hype, last weekend's Scotti-Stock concert certainly lived up to the heightened anticipation. Nearly 1,300 folks turned up on a pleasantly cool winter night at Nita's Hideaway to watch 12 bands and several dozen guests pay tribute and raise money for injured local musician Scott Moore. Though the turnout was slightly smaller than had been anticipated, those who attended did not go away disappointed, as the event saw no shortage of exciting, compelling and downright strange moments.

Among the highlights: Dead Hot Workshop's Brent Babb taking the stage (sans guitar) with the Gas Giants for a run-through of Tom Petty's "American Girl"; Peacemaker main man Roger Clyne leading Dead Hot through the group's anthemic "A"; Grave Danger's tomato-tossing escapades; a stage full of guests joining Truckers on Speed for an AC/DC romp.

The night was capped by a pair of emotionally charged performances from Moore's two bands, the Beat Angels and Piersons, the latter ripping through an hourlong closing set featuring guest spots from former Piersons Doug Nichols and Michael "Johnny" Walker.

Of special note was an early indoor appearance by longtime Valley vet Damon Doiron, who jumped onstage with Gloritone for a cover of the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer." Doiron, decked out in an oversize David Byrne-style jacket, literally seemed possessed by the song, in what was arguably the most memorable moment in an evening full of them.

More important, the atmosphere offstage matched the goodwill onstage. Moore's cause drew contributions from everyone from the Phoenix Mercury to the state Attorney General's Office to the Hells Angels (no, the event did not turn into Scotti-Mont). In all, it was a heartening show of support for a well-regarded denizen of the local music community.

The next step for organizers is to go through tapes of the event to see if there is enough material to put out a live Scotti-Stock CD. Early indications are that there will be enough tracks and that the album should be ready in relatively short order. There is also word that there may be an accompanying limited-edition video of the event available as well.

Organizers expect the total amount of proceeds from the concert and CD to approach nearly $20,000 -- money which will significantly help dent Moore's sizable medical bill. New Times will keep you posted on any developments with the record and video releases.

Über Crooner Bids Adieu:Stephen Ashbrook, front man for Satellite and his own eponymously titled combo, has announced that he will be leaving the Valley permanently for the greener pastures of Portland, Oregon. Ashbrook says the decision is motivated in part by his connection to the region -- both his and his wife's families reside in the Pacific Northwest -- as well as a desire to explore musical opportunities there. Ashbrook recently signed on with a new Los Angeles-based management firm and plans to begin work on a follow-up to his 1998 solo effort Navigator.

The singer-songwriter adds that he hopes to continue making regular visits to the Valley, playing both solo and full-band gigs, even after moving in the spring.

Ashbrook's local "farewell" will take place during his popular weekly happy-hour slot at Long Wong's on Mill. The singer will run through his normal acoustic set before being joined onstage by mates from Satellite and a handful of guests for a Last Waltz-type showcase. The Ash-travaganza will take place on Thursday, March 29, starting at 6 p.m.

Pest Control:Over the course of five years and six albums, Berkeley, California's Ramona the Pest has quietly become one of the more intriguing developments in the Bay Area. Led by indie chanteuse Valerie Esway, and frequently accompanied by a collective of musicians including guitarist Lucio Menegon, the group has been earning raves for its dark and atmospheric pop. Ramona the Pest's latest effort, the self-released Little Knives, combines the best elements of its more obvious influences -- Cowboy Junkies, Lisa Germano, Geraldine Fibbers -- into an intriguing 12-song platter.

The group will be hitting the Valley for a pair of performances this week, first on Thursday, January 25 at the Willow House, and then a January 27 bill at Modified with local fem-punkers Über Alice. Showtime for both is 9 p.m.

Mojo Risin': Country star Dwight Yoakam's longtime bassist Taras Prodaniuk brings his fine eclectic roots combo, Mojo Monkeys, into town to open a Saturday, January 27 show at the Bash on Ash in Tempe for Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers. The Mojo Monkeys features Prodaniuk and a cast of estimable career sidemen, including drummer/vocalist David Raven (Carlene Carter, Paula Cole, T. Bone Burnett) and guitarist/vocalist Billy Watts (Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne). The group frequently appears with other L.A. music-scene notables, including blues harpist Hurricane Jake.

The band is represented by one long player, 1999's self-released effort Hang, a fetching mix of swamp, bayou blues, country and boogie-woogie stylings, featuring guests like fellow Yoakam alums Pete Anderson and Skip Edwards and blues-rock legend Delaney Bramlett. The Mojo Monkeys' opening set at the Bash is set to start around 9:30 p.m.

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