JFA Celebrates 30 Years of Skate Punk

In 1981, Phoenix punk band J.F.A. (a.k.a. Jodie Foster's Army) released the Blatant Localism EP on Placebo Records. Remarkably brief — the entire record clocks in at six minutes, 34 seconds — the record defined the burgeoning skate punk scene. Though not Phoenix's first punk band, JFA introduced, with Blatant Localism, a new, Southern California-inspired sound to the scene: faster, shorter, and more focused than the "class of '77" Phoenix punks like The Consumers, and less oblique than International Language, Killer Pussy, and The Meat Puppets.

This weekend, the original lineup of JFA — vocalist Brian Brannon, guitarist Don Pendleton, bassist Michael "Chickenbutt" Cornelius, and Mike "Bam-Bam" Sversvold — will perform at Hollywood Alley, with Brannon and Pendleton performing in JFA, Cornelius performing with The Father Figures, and Sversvold performing with Asses of Evil. It marks 30 years of JFA, and 30 years of grinding, distortion-blasted skate punk coming from the concrete-paved banks, ditches, and abandoned swimming pools of Phoenix, Arizona.


JFA, dropping on the cover of the Blatant Localism EP, from 1981).
JFA, dropping on the cover of the Blatant Localism EP, from 1981).

Location Info

Map

Hollywood Alley

2610 W. Baseline Road
Mesa, AZ 85202

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Mesa

Details

JFA, Father Figures, and Asses of Evil are scheduled to perform Saturday, October 15, at Hollywood Alley in Tempe.

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This is Phoenix, not the Circle Jerks

Brian Brannon (vocalist, JFA): Punk was new and dangerous back [in 1981]. It was dangerous to be a punk, much less a skateboarder, climbing over people's fences and skating in their swimming pools . . . Just walking down the street, as a punk rocker, was an ass-kicking offense.

Mike "Bam-Bam" Sversvold (drummer, JFA, Asses of Evil): We were kind of the second generation, because the first generation was people like Charlie Monoxide and Ron Reckless, and people like those guys. They were more into the old, New York-style, gutter-punk guys with safety pins in their ears and stuff. We were full on into the Southern California-type punk, listening to Black Flag and the Circle Jerks.

Michael "Chickenbutt" Cornelius (bassist, JFA; guitarist, Father Figures): Back then, '79-'80 . . . [I] moved here in 1978. I was an ASU student in '78, and I had friends that were in the art scene at ASU, doing the strange art stuff, and the punk rock stuff going on then was kind of arty: art students with blue hair, and that kind of thing. It wasn't like the skate rock or harder punk that came around a little later.

Don Pendleton (guitarist, JFA): I knew Mike [Cornelius] was a good bass player, and I wanted to start a band with a good bass player and drummer — kind of like The Who. In January 1981, we went and saw this D.O.A. show, it was just amazing. D.O.A. was on fire; they played a whole bunch of songs really fast, really tight.

Bobby Lerma (Kludge; drummer, Father Figures): Phoenix's punk rock scene was really different than a lot of other punk rock scenes . . . It was everybody else that didn't fit in anywhere. It was the artsy-fartsy types.

Sversvold: [Brannon's mom] had sewn him this Tarzan loincloth, so he was like this Tarzan kid. And Mike — Phoenix was different back then — we had never seen a black skateboarder back then [laughs]. Don rode a Lonnie Toft eight-wheel skateboard. He had skated for Sims way back in the early '70s. He was the only hippie I had ever seen with a Black Flag shirt. That was about the point where punk rock and skateboarding merged . . . Don and I met at Knights of Pythias. We got to talking; he was like, "I just moved here from California, going to DeVry. I'm trying to start a band; I need a drummer," and I'm, like, "That's odd, I'm a drummer." We couldn't find a pen, so we just picked up one of the beer-soaked fliers, and I scratched my number into a flier with a house key . . . before he started recruiting us, [JFA] was going to be him and the Meat Puppets.

Brannon: It was good to have so many diverse bands like that back then — you know, Killer Pussy, Meat Puppets, Feederz, Grant and the Geezers, which was a rockabilly band, International Language, which was an art-punk band — and have them all on a show with a skate punk band. And no one thought twice. It was, like, "This is punk, and punk is about doing something different and doing what you want to do, doing what you're into, and making things happen."

When we first started, our goal was to play hard, fast, short, and intense. I talked to Tom Waits one time, and he told me that, "Music where the beat is slower than your heartbeat kind of mellows you out; music where the beat is faster than your heartbeat kind of jazzes you up." We were trying to play about 10 times the heartbeat, to really get people stoked. [Like] "I'm going to grind the hell out of that coping right now . . . I'm going to go friggin' way high in that pipe."

At that time, that was a pretty new concept in Phoenix.


"Surf punks? We're not. Skateboard? We do." — "Beach Blanket Bongout"

Pendleton: Everybody skated. It was all about skating. It's all about really loud, big, fast guitars. When you look at the Dogtown era, all those guys listened to Aerosmith and Ted Nugent, because that was the biggest, loudest guitar you could find. When the Sex Pistols and Ramones came out, it kind of flipped overnight. Because, Ted Nugent was not the gnarliest thing anymore. Surfing is about this peaceful, flowing thing. [Skating] is full-on aggression, right?

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11 comments
teknik1200
teknik1200

Great story! I was living in Michigan in my skater days. This makes me feel a bit old I might say. I got a JFA tape with my Thrasher Magazine subscription way back in the late 80's

Michael Brooks
Michael Brooks

Great story. I'm gonna miss the show and I'm a little bummed. Big class reunion for all the knuckleheads I used to hang out with back then. Have fun boys!

Jellyroll
Jellyroll

Well done! That's a huge story to tell in three pages so, obviously, everything the sources couldn't make it in. I think if a reader was paying attention, they can easilly see the context of Mr. Locker's comments; that they were intended to relay the lack of organized, legal skate spots back in the '80s. Kudos to the New Times and the writer for recognizing this as an important part of Arizona's musical and cultural history.

Guest23
Guest23

Great interview and article. Those were some great times back then at Mad Gardens.

But what's up with rob locker's egocentric, irrelevant, and out of place statement about how he has skated more shit than anyone cares to hear about? So what, from what I know of the individuals in the room, most of them could claim the very same thing. It just came off as a sad "hey, look at me" moment.

Rob Locker
Rob Locker

I agree with egocentric, irrelevant and out of place in the article. I answered a lot of questions and that answer is from a question that said what was your favorite skate spots in the eighties. Didn't feel like typing a book. Let me just add that I remember and APPRECIATED every spot and am still shredding today. -Rob Locker

Guest23
Guest23

My apologies Rob, I completely forgot to take into account the editing that the PNTs does to writers articles and the inteviewer as well. I should have remembered when I was interviewed by PNTs and their selection of quotes out of context made me look like somewhat of a dork. Jason, please be more careful in the future as your intention failed imho. I will say that Robs honor and integrity remain high with his humble response.

Jason P. Woodbury
Jason P. Woodbury

Furthermore, I plan on using more quotes for a blog post on Friday. Rest assured, I wasn't trying to paint anyone as egocentric, just include as many diverse voices as I had space for.

Jason P. Woodbury
Jason P. Woodbury

Hey Rob, I appreciated that everyone took time to contribute. I used that quote to try and express exactly what you said, that you guys "made" and appreciated your spots. Sorry if it seems out of context or choppy. I easily could have used everything everybody said, but I didn't have space for it all!

Rob Locker
Rob Locker

Here is the rest of the answer they didn't bother to publish: All I will say is that I appreciated and enjoyed every last one of them and I didn't then and today I still do not take that shit for granted. What drives me nuts today is we now we have a whole generation of skateboarders that take all the awesome stuff they have to skate for granted, like it's their god-given right to be there and act like an asshole. They have no idea what it's like to have NOWHERE to skate. That is what is so great about being a skateboarder from my era. We wanted to skate so bad we made it happen, at all costs. Everything we skated back then had a very limited life-span. That's where the appreciation comes from. These municipalities can take these million dollar skateparks away in a heart beat, kids today don't understand that.

 
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