Storied Phoenix Punks The Feederz Unite Just in Time for the Trump Presidency
What’s the meme going around about old punks never dying? The punch line is something along the lines of them just standing in the back of the venue. For Phoenix legends the Feederz, there is no more standing around in the back. They’re stepping to the front to reclaim their place at the top of the local and national food chain.
“It’s time to go to war. Things really are that bad,” says Frank Discussion, the lead singer for the Feederz, who have recently reunited for a new EP on Slope Records. “It’s either grab your ankles time or time to fight back. I’m not talking about marching in circles and whining. That hasn’t done anything in 50 years, and it’s not going to do anything this year.”
Understanding what the Feederz are about is like thumbing through a psychology textbook. Think of the Feederz, who originally got started in 1977, like this.
The urge to destroy things is powerful in some people. Some people take action on a regular basis to tweak the world around them, sometimes at almost imperceptible levels, to enact beautifully destructive change. The battle is not necessarily about good and evil for these folks, but more about uncovering truth, even if it is ugly, harsh, and unacceptable. Discussion, who is a founding member of the Feederz, embraces his role in the world with a casual aplomb reserved for those who know their purpose and place completely.
Early on, the Feederz were known more for some audacious acts of media manipulation than for their unique take on punk rock, which was just exiting its infancy when the band initially began playing together. When asked about the band’s first gig, Discussion tells a tale of the press conference they decided to schedule. This was really the first act of defiance, in a way, that preceded the band’s career of doing things their own way.
“I wrote a communique once [and yes, he really does talk that way], and we delivered them to the news stations. It was about how we were going to ‘bring it down.’ There was a press conference at the Monkey House (a house Discussion shared with his roommate, artist Bill Drummond). It essentially gave all the press in Phoenix orders. They all showed up, with a few cops, of course,” says Discussion, with a bit of a grin on his face.
“We had a whole list of fucked-up things. Out of all those things, one of the talking heads, Mary Jo West … out of the whole thing, she picked up on us denouncing the discrimination of gays. She said, ‘Are you fellas gay?’ I just looked at her and said, ‘Don’t be a silly cunt.’ The cameraman cracked up,” Discussion recalls.
As the band’s legend began to grow, Discussion, now a married father of twins living in Tampa Bay, Florida, began occasionally brandishing automatic weapons, involving insects (sometimes alive and glued to his head) in the act, and writing the occasional letter on behalf of the Arizona Department of Education. The final one prompted Discussion to move to California before Phoenix law enforcement could move in and throw him in jail for distributing a letter, supposedly from Carolyn Warner (then head of the Arizona Department of Education) proclaiming school was boring, among other things. This move helped bring Discussion together with DH Peligro of the Dead Kennedys to work on the 1984 Feederz record, Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss?
“He’s a great drummer and a great guy. It’s great to be working with him again,” Discussion says.
For Peligro, who is still playing with the Dead Kennedys, acting, and occasionally writing (he has a killer autobiography out called Dreadnaught: King of Afropunk), it was a big surprise getting the call about playing with the Feederz again, but not an unwelcome one.
With a smile and a warm laugh, he says, “I had done a podcast with Cris [Kirkwood] in Los Angeles, where I live. He texted me and said they were doing a new Feederz record. I hadn’t seen Frank in years, or Crusty Bob. I didn’t see it coming.”
After a decade of relative inactivity, Feederz are back to take a bite out of Trump’s America. Discussion, along with bassist Clear Bob (Dan Clark, a.k.a. Johnny Macho of Exterminators), and drummer Peligro recently reconvened in Phoenix at Premier Studios with engineer Jeremy Parker (who has worked on albums with Evanescence, Mudvayne, and others) and producer Cris Kirkwood (member of the Meat Puppets and Exterminators) to record four songs for an upcoming series of releases on local punk label Slope Records. The mood in the studio was upbeat, the enthusiasm boosted by the reunion of old friends and former bandmates.
Over the course of five days, Feederz quickly got reacquainted, rehearsed, and began laying down tracks, two of which will appear on a 7-inch record, WWHD: What Would Hitler Do?, that will come out in several weeks (actual release date has not been determined at press time). The songs “Sabotage” and “Stealing” are definitely Feederz music, but nothing like anything on earlier releases. Feederz fans will immediately recognize Discussion’s trademark snarl over two mid-tempo songs whose titles are meant to inspire two of Discussion’s favorite things, and his crafty guitar lines snake around Clear Bob’s bass like a cat burglar stalking a prized diamond. Peligro, who is one of the better drummers in punk history, holds down the beat with the precision fans have come to expect over his 35-plus-year career.
“It’s turning out. Not that I came in with any preconceived ideas, but we’ve grown musically since back in the day. I’ve lived all over the world, and the influences are there. There’s some Brazilian influences in there, African influences. It works,” Peligro says.
For those familiar with the Feederz classic Jesus EP (1980, Anxiety/Placebo) (whose title track also appeared on the great 1981 Alternative Tentacles compilation Let Them Eat Jelly Beans), or full-length LPs Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss? (1984, Flaming Banker), Teachers In Space (1986, Flaming Banker), and Vandalism: As Beautiful As A Rock In A Cop’s Face (2002, Broken Rekids), the WWHD 7-inch will undoubtedly become an instant favorite. It is very refreshing that an established band can come back from an extended layoff and deliver the goods, and under the watchful eye of Kirkwood, Feederz did exactly that. Two additional tracks, “You Don’t Know Why” and “Insurrection,” were also recorded and will appear on a full-length Feederz LP, to be completed this summer.
Feederz will return to Phoenix in late May for an official record release show with Exterminators and more bands to be announced at the Pressroom on May 25 before heading to Las Vegas for the Punk Rock Bowling Festival, which is headlined by Iggy Pop this year. This will mark the first time Feederz and Iggy Pop have played together since a show at Dooley’s in Phoenix in 1980.
“We wanted to try and have [the first EP] out Inauguration Day. It was just too close, in terms of time. I just wanted to give him a little inauguration gift, the fuck. If you look at Trump, though, there is a silver lining. The government has pretty much lost whatever shred of credibility it had. Things are already that bad. There is nothing to wait for,” says Discussion with a gleam in his eye.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Phoenix, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.