The Last: Condensed History of Rock
The Last is an LA band that combines all
kinds of rock 'n' roll (folk rock, surf, hardcore, sixties punk,
rockabilly, British Invasion, you name it) into one high-powered,
single-minded conglomeration. The band consists of Joe Nolte (guitar,
vocals), David Nolte (bass), Vitus Mataré (keyboards),
and John Frank (drums). The group has released four singles ("She
Don't Know Why I'm Here"/"Bombing of London," "LA
Explosion"/"Hitler's Brother," "Every Summer
Day"/"Hitler's Brother," and "Every Summer
Day"/"Slavedriver"), one album (L.A. Explosion),
and will soon have a new release on BOMP Records.
This interview took place at the Whisky
August 25th, and included Joe Nolte, Mike Nolte (former backup
singer for The Last), Top Jimmy (local scene fixture and R 'n'
B singer, who wandered into the room with Jill), Amanda Toy, Lizanne
Salmi (moral support) and Gwynne Garfinkle (me).
Gwynne: Why was The Last formed?
Joe: For fun.
Gwynne: For fun?
Mike: For kicks.
Joe: We didn't have anything else to do.
It was either form The Last or become accountants.
Mike: Or electronic engineers.
Joe: Yeah, electronic engineers. Now, when
I was eleven, I saw a Beatle double-feature, and I said, "I
wanna do that." So that's why The Last got formatted. Except
that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, unfortunately,
because I was only ten years old in 1966. So by the time I could
play electric guitar, it was already like '68, '69, which is too
late for rock 'n' roll, so I had to sit out the seventies.
Gwynne: If only you had been born ten years
Joe: Yeah, but there was too much competition.
I mean, the Beatles would've happened anyway. So right now it's
great, because there are a lot of good bands, but there is no
band that's really great right now. The field is wide open, so
we came along at the right time.
Gwynne: So when did you first start any
sort of band?
Gwynne: Which was...?
Joe: I forgot. We did Monkees songs. I
had punk rock bands in junior high, we called ourselves Dead End,
things like that. Played heavy metal, Seeds and stuff. I've been
playing in and out of bands since '68. Twelve years. What am I
doing? Wasting my time. Mike was smart, he just sat and wrote
songs. Mike was gonna be a singer-songwriter.
Gwynne: How come so few of the songs are
Mike: Oh, my songs? Joe tears them apart
and throws 'em in his songs.
Gwynne: What about "Pallbearer?"
I heard all this stuff about "Pallbearer."
Mike: Vitus tore that one apart. Everyone
takes turns on me. Terrible. I have no objections, though. I like
standing in the shadows.
Gwynne: How long do you think it'll take
for the Last, and other bands like the Last, to get popular?
Joe: Could take a month, could take two
Mike: Only God knows.
Joe: And He's not telling. No, those
kinds of things are even foolish to talk about, 'cause people
who are doing it because they think they can make money out of
it, or go into it with a real calculated attitude like "Oh,
this is new wave, if I play this type of music I can get popular"
have a totally wrong attitude. The true artist, people who are
really good or people who have to do it and would have to do it
whether there was a scene or there was any market for it or not,
you know, the only people that count, you gotta feel the burning
that just has to come out. And what's wonderful about right now
is that you can do it and make money, maybe, at the same time,
so you can keep doing it... retire at the age of 29, become a
Mike: It's the only way to go.
Joe: Do you want this to be a serious interview
Gwynne: Oh, whatever...
Joe: Okay, good.
Gwynne: She needs to be entertained.
Joe: Right, the whole reason we're doing
this is to entertain Amanda.
Gwynne: After all, she just got back from
Gwynne: Okay. Do you think that
Gwynne: He said, interrupting. Do you think
that teenagers have changed since the sixties? Why don't they
want to listen to stuff like "Satisfaction?"
Joe: Well, teenagers change,
but they change back. In terms of demographics...
Mike: This is a Joe Nolte interview.
Joe: You can talk about the record-buying
public, which starts with the eight or nine year olds. And, pretty
much, eight or nine year olds are trying to be just like the junior
high kids. The junior high kids are trying to be just like the
high schoolers. The high schoolers are trying to be like the college
kids. the college kids are just having fun. The college kids are
the real variants. You know, there's something cool happening,
they'll get into it. What happened in the sixties was all the
college kids were getting drafted, sent off to war, so they were
very politically aware, and very into action and things like that.
They weren't able to kick back like their counterparts in the
early-to-mid fifties. You know, there was a lot of stuff we take
for granted now: relative integration, freedom of speech, lack
of censorship, all that stuff did not exist. America, prior to
the mid-sixties, was very repressed and so there was a need, you
know, college kids felt all this repression and wanted to do something
about it. Rock 'n' roll just summed up their frustrations musically,
and lyrically, for that matter. so they were a very politically
aware generation. They were very much into rock 'n' roll, and
very into drugs, unfortunately, and what happened was that things
got crazier and crazier and came into a head in, say, 1970, when
a lot of people started dying, people got killed by the National
Guard, a lot of the rock heroes died, people died at Woodstock
and Altamont. You know, lots of horrible things, and all of a
sudden, it's like everybody just turned to each other and said,
"This is stupid, it's not worth it, we've gone too far, let's
kick back," and blam, next thing you know, the big sellers
of 1970 and 1971 were Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Carole King,
Joni Mitchell, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. You know, the
real mellow stuff. It's like people somehow thought that they'd
been listening to too much rock 'n' roll. Subconsciously they
thought, "We've been listening to this stuff too much, and
we have sinned, and now we're being shot for our sins, so we will
mellow out and be nice." And things got worse and worse.
Because of the mellow years, say '69 through '71, people forgot
what rock 'n' roll is all about. And when rock 'n' roll came back,
it was fake rock 'n' roll. You had the heavy metal bands, you
had Led Zeppelin, etc., etc., that were not really rock 'n' roll.
They were going through all the motions, they played real loud,
they did all the right tricks, but there wasn't any gut feeling
there, there wasn't anything that made you want to jump up and
down and go crazy. You know, it was stuff that you could sit back
and smoke dope and go to the Forum with ten million other people
and mellow out to. The seventies was the Me Generation; they just
wanted to relax and get their hot tubs and make money, nobody
gives a shit anymore about the fact that America was slowly but
surely becoming a police state. And that came to a head...
[Top Jimmy and Jill appear]
Joe: Jill and Jimmy... We're having an
interview here, with a world-famous, yet unknown, fanzine.
Jill: Sounds exciting.
Joe: It is. anyway, it took seven or eight
Jimmy: Wow, how exciting!
Joe: Innit! So anyway, things basically
work in cycles. You have the fifties, which is real--
Jimmy: It's like the weather, man, it comes
every two years.
Joe: (laughing) It's like Jimmy, you know...
[Jill and Jimmy exit]
Mike: Was that Top Jimmy?
Joe: That was Top Jimmy. The famous Top
Jimmy. You ever seen Top Jimmy?
Gwynne: Yeah, I saw him once.
Joe: Great... Anyway, things go in cycles.
You have the forties, which was real exciting, the early forties,
with the war on, you know, and everybody was real hip and there
was lots of real exciting big band music and jazz stuff to listen
to. And then the war got over and people relaxed and kicked back
and listened to stuff like (sings), "Love is a many splendored
thing..." and garbage like that. But then people got bored
with it, so the next cycle, the fifties, happened, the first rock
'n' roll cycle. Then that started to peter out, and then the British
Invasion came along and really gave it an extra surge of speed,
so you had a classic rock 'n' roll era from '63 to '67. Then that
gradually petered out and you had ten years of boredom. And then
the punk thing happened and gradually evolved into new wave, and
we're on the verge of the third great rock 'n' roll cycle, and
we've got this new generation, the new wave generation. We're
seeing maybe half the teenagers now, and three-fourths of the
junior high kids, and all of the kids that are in elementary school
now are into this stuff. And I think it's very exciting and I
hope they all buy our records and we make a lot of money because
I'm tired of flipping burgers...
Mike: And I'm tired of living in Inglewood,
and I'm tired of working a forty-hour week, and...
Joe: We just moved to Inglewood.
Mike: And I'm tired of--
Gwynne: You're sick of it already.
Joe: We've got to do another set tonight.
[Jimmy and Jill return. Everyone talks
about X, 'till finally we remember that this is an interview.]
Joe: Ask Mike this one.
Gwynne: Okay. Mike Nolte, how would you
[Everyone talks at once, drowning me out.]
Mike: Shh! This is a question for me, so
everyone shut your mouths!
Gwynne: How would you describe the Last's
Mike: How would I describe the Last's music...
Jimmy: It's the end.
Mike: Thank you. He explained it.
Gwynne: Next question?
Mike: Next question.
Gwynne: Not counting horrible jobs that
you hate doing, if you could not be a rock singer, what would
you want to be?
Mike: A director of films.
Mike: 'Cause I admire Alfred Hitchcock,
and I admire his films, and I wanna do just that.
Jimmy: Aw, I thought you wanted to be a
truck driver, man. Shit.
Mike: That's my second choice.
[Everyone starts talking about truck driving
Jimmy: Next question!
Joe: Next question.
Gwynne: What's you favorite Last song?
Joe: Mike, you answer.
Mike: My favorite Last song...
Joe: "Be Bop a Lula."
Joe: 'Cause I didn't write it. 'Cause it's
fun, because I can scream and everybody--
Jimmy: Because if Gene Vincent came out
today the fucking assholes would rip him apart because his fucking
words don't mean anything. You know, it's just cool, it don't
say nothing, it don't mean nothing, it's just cool. Excuse
me, I'm talking for the Last.
Jimmy: It doesn't have to say anything,
mean anything, be anything, it's just cool.
Joe: There you go. That's why "Be
Bop"'s cool, because it communicates--
Jimmy: It's like cool shoes, man, you can't
go hiking in them, because they're cool. Because they're
cool. You know, they don't serve any functional purpose,
they don't last long, you can't do anything with them but they're
Joe: Or to put it another way--
Jimmy: To put it another way, "Shut
Mike: My favorite Last song is "Snake
in the Grass."
Joe: I'll write all these words, that have
all these poetic implications and all these different meanings,
layer upon layer of stuff, and then you can do "Be Bop,"
which communicates, and says as much to people, and has maybe
like five words in the song. Pure expression for the sake of expression,
and you don't have to use words that have more than two syllables.
Jimmy: It's just your straight fuck-music,
you know. Just your basic hump-sound.
Joe: That's it, it's the hump-sound.
[interview by Gwynne Garfinkle; photos
by Gwynne Kahn]