Martini Rocks

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' . . ."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons