Four hours before showtime, and Justin Warfield, the lead singer of the neo-New Wave band She Wants Revenge, has his hands all over some chick's panties. Okay, several chicks' panties, to be precise. Apparently, this is what some Rock Gawds do in their spare time. Um, you know, prep merchandise.
"Gimme me a sec, I've got to finish counting these," Warfield requests as he's thumbing through a big stack of red-and-black undies with She Wants Revenge logos on them, taking notes. "Really glamorous, huh?"
Reckon they'll be peddling the panties at the band's merch table. I'm not sure why Warfield's doing this himself out beside his tour bus, at the moment parked behind Scottsdale's Martini Ranch. Doesn't Geffen Records have, like, interns or groupies for this kinda scut work?
Warfield resembles some hybrid of Gene Simmons, Iggy Pop, and Anthony Kiedis. It's a common enough look for his hometown of La-La Land. Every third dood on Melrose looks like this back there, black pants, black tee, black toboggan, and all. But not every third dood on Melrose has a hit record that critics have compared to Interpol and Joy Division, or a video directed by Johnny Cash-channeler Joaquin Phoenix. Seems like every time you turn on the radio these days, you hear the throbbing, murderous beat of SWR's "Tear You Apart," and you're also likely to hear the danceable tune dropped by DJ Dirty Dave over at Hot Pink! or William Fucking Reed over at Shake!. With that kind of recognition, you'd think the only panties Warfield and his partner Adam Bravin, a.k.a. DJ Adam 12, would be stacking would be those just removed from some hottie.
I sit in silence as twilight creeps and Warfield mumbles numbers. Jett's not with me. I can't trust that bisexual bizzatch to tag along whenever I do one of these pre-concert Q&As. She'd run off with the band -- any band -- in a New York second, ditching me like Brad dumped Jen. So she's meeting me about an hour before SWR takes the stage. I'm beginning to wonder if Warfield's gonna be doing the band's laundry next when the boyish Bravin strolls up to us. He and I ease over to another part of the parking lot to conversate, while Warfield tallies knickers.
"I understand you and Warfield were hip-hop heads before teaming up," I comment. "You're a DJ and he's a rapper. That blew me away, because your album has such an '80s, post-punk feel."
"We don't just come from hip-hop," replies Bravin, a soft-spoken cat with a graveyard tan and a gentle, nebbishy demeanor. "I've always DJ'd and listened to every kind of music. It just happens that hip-hop was the first music I started producing. Same for Justin. But while I was making hip-hop, I was listening to Depeche Mode and The Cure. I wasn't completely focused on hip-hop, and I think I can speak for Justin. Neither was he."
"When you guys first hooked up, did you think your first album would have this kind of sound?" I wonder.
"When we first started working together, we made hip-hop for about six months," Bravin explains. "And we learned a lot about each other, including what else we were into, like all the bands we grew up listening to: The Smiths, The Cure, Bauhaus, Depeche Mode, all that stuff. We were fed up with hip-hop because we grew up in what we consider to be the golden age of hip-hop, and hip-hop today is a lot different. We had a lot of emotions to express that you can't really express to the same old club beat. So we kind of made the record that we'd like to go out and buy, but wasn't out there yet."
Talk about being fly for a white guy, Bravin's sold beats to none other than Dr. Dre, and he's DJ'd for Prince at a club the Paisley Potentate once owned in El Lay called Glam Slam. Bravin calls Dre the "nicest, smartest gentleman you'll ever meet." Prince, though, sounds like an enigma.
"He ever serve you pancakes, like in that famous Charlie Murphy story on Chappelle's Show?"
"Never saw the pancakes," says Bravin. "Prince is a really super-quiet guy. I don't think he's very comfortable around other people. But I can say this: He's the one person I've ever felt a real aura around."
Bravin still DJs, BTW. He usually DJs the band's after-parties, though, unfortunately, there isn't one tonight because they're eager to head back to L.A.
"Why did you call the band 'She Wants Revenge'?" I ask.
"We wanted some sort of femininity to the name," answers Bravin, as Warfield sidles up. "I said 'Girl Revenge' one day, and he said 'She Wants Revenge' . . ."
"I like the turns of phrase in your lyrics," I state, complimenting Warfield. "Like, 'She tastes like a tear,' or, 'She smells like 2 a.m.' Do you carry a notebook around with you and jot those down as they come?"
"I just write when I have to," states the gravel-throated crooner, too cool for school. "I write other stuff outside of music, but I haven't had time to in over a year. I don't carry a notebook. If something ever does come to me, I'll just leave it on my answering machine."
"There seems to be this theme in the record about relationships having some danger attached to them, whether emotional or physical," I observe.
"I hope not physical," Warfield responds.
"But on the album, there's, like, a girl in her underwear holding a knife behind her back, there are allusions to S&M in the lyrics, and there's even the name of your band itself," I argue.
"That's symbolic and metaphoric," he informs me. "People can draw into it what they want, but most of the imagery behind the band is not what you'd expect when you hear those words 'She Wants Revenge.' We don't want to go comic book, or larger than life. We like things to be pretty stripped down, like we feel our music is, and the lyrics. I think the only dangers in relationships are of people being vulnerable. I would never take part in a relationship that had the threat of physical danger."
Dark has fallen and people have lined up outside Martini Ranch, some even approaching us to ask us if we could scalp them tix. We cut the confab short, and I go outside and wait for the doors to open and the J-Unit to appear. When she finally does, I see she's gone blondie on me.
"Blondes really do have more fun, Kreme," she confides, as we order libations from the patio bar. "Both the dudes and the dolls can't keep their paws off me."
"At least your hair color matches your IQ now," I crack, as the first of two opening bands fires up a set. "C'mon, let's get busy before it's too crowded to talk to folks."
For some reason, Martini Ranch seems bigger from the outside than inside. The joint has sort of a weathered look, with two bars in a main room facing the stage, a loft overlooking it, and a big patio outside. We do a little tour and spot some familiar mugs, like William Fucking Reed with his gal Celine, and Dirty Dave, both fans, as I've mentioned, of SWR. Jett bumps into two pals of hers from way back, DJs Ross and Kathryn, who've just started up a Britpop/dance night at Club Dwntwn on Fridays called Lushlife. Ross explains that for one price clubbers get access to both Lushlife and Tranzylvania next door. The Jettster gets deep into discussing her new hairdo with 'em, as I chat with this couple Pete and Platinum.
"Platinum?" I ask. "Like the metal?"
"It's her stripper name," smirks Pete.
"I'm not a stripper, that's my real name!" she exclaims. "I'm a nurse."
"She's a stripper-nurse," kids Pete.
"Right, and you're a doctor," I snark back at him.
"I am, actually, an anesthesiologist," he says, nodding. "We're supposed to be in surgery tomorrow morning."
"For real? Where at?"
"University Medical Center in Tucson," he states. "We've got to drive back right after the show."
"Wow, you've got real jobs," I reply. "A lot of us losers don't even have to get up in the a.m."
"Nah, we're the losers," he joshes. "That's why we have to get up in the morning."
I rub my chin: "Good point."
I've lost Jett, so I cruise by the main bar for another bevvy and watch SWR crank out the jams. By this time, it's packed, and people seem to be feelin' the tunes as SWR proceeds to play just about every track off their eponymously titled CD. I'm not paying close attention to my watch, but I'd guesstimate the set lasts about 45 minutes to an hour. The music's cool, just like on the album. But I personally find their performance slightly staid. The boys seem a little ragged. Maybe they've been on the road for too long a stretch.
Three-quarters through, I go hunting for my AC/DC armpiece and find her outside on the patio frisking it up with this hella-hot redhead named Trish and her brunette bud Stef. Seems Trish is a DJ at this new indie radio station KWSS (www.kwss1067.com). She has a Thursday night program from 10 p.m. to midnight called "Can You Really Hear Me?" where she and her guests do stuff like play nekkid Twister and strip poker on air.
"We like to say it's not the size of the antenna that matters, but how you use it," Trish the Temptress tells us. "We broadcast out of Scottsdale, but you can't pick us up everywhere in the Valley right now. You can always hear us on the Internet, though."
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"Kreme, Trish wants me to play naked Twister with them on air," Jett reveals.
"I'll lend you my razor, then," I offer.
"Yeah, 'cause without it your fellow Twistees are gonna find out you're only a blonde from the neck up."