16 Apr 2014

Irene Dogmatic (SST / The Beautykillers / The Kahunas)

“I got into punk because of being part of the 'scene' around the SF Art Institute in the late 1970s. There was a band called The Mutants, and I used to go to their parties, and started writing lyrics of my own. Someone suggested that I would be more likely to get those songs played if I had my own group, so I set to work to do that. I was involved with three different groups during the late 70s and early 80s. The only one which ended up with vinyl was SST. We performed a lot, and had an EP produced by Rough Trade. I became discouraged with the group though because I could never be heard (my lyrics) and one main members was slightly mad, so I quit. Then I formed a group called The Beautykillers. This was a very good group with lots of accomplished musicians. One of them went on to play with John Cale, Sparks and The Call, among others. Another ended up having a lifelong career in music in Europe. Another is a computer whiz, and still plays good guitar. The last group, The Kahunas, was more fun than accomplished. It consisted of four women and four men. One woman played trash can! We had fun and played a few gigs.”

The Beautykillers, 1978 (Irene Dogmatic is far left)
“I guess the thing that attracted me most about punk was that anyone could do it, and I lived in a loft, so we often practiced at my place. Also, at that time, there were lots of places in and around SF where you could perform without being famous or having to pay for the space or anything like that. I guess the only similarity to the hippy days was that the punk movement was the energy movement of the 80s whereas the hippies was the one of the 60s. Also the obvious rebellion aspect.”

“The early punk scene that I was part of was largely made up of students at SF Art Institute and their friends, although there were lots of other people too. Almost every sort of person you could think of, from those totally into the 'look' with piercings, weird hair and attire, to people who just dressed odd to perform, or who dressed normal and were more or less normal. There was a lot of drug use, and some people died as a result. I wasn’t close to any of them, but I knew of them.”

Irene Dogmatic in her glorious punk days. Anna Banana
“SST was a group in the late 70s. Probably 1978 or so. I can’t remember for sure how I met Susie [Henderson]. I may have put an ad in ReSearch, Vale’s magazine. I met Bobby [Vitaliano] thru Susie, and I think I met Matt [Markham] thru her too, but I am not sure. Ted [Falconi] was already on the scene.”

“SST played at The Mabuhay Gardens, The Berkeley Square, at parties, and to be honest that is all I can remember. Most of the so-called clubs that punk bands played at in the day were pretty much holes in the wall, or else restaurants or bars that they let you perform in at night. I think the first gig was at a party in Oakland, but I don’t remember much about it, except we were loud and everyone said they couldn’t hear the lyrics. The most memorable gig was in LA at an art space — don’t recall the name — for Mother’s Day. We drove down, stopped at the Madonna Inn on the way for a coffee, and Susie and I saw a UFO over Malibu Canyon on the way. At the gig I wore a dress with a doll in my stomach and cut open the dress and threw the doll at the audience as part of the act. Some girl caught the doll and was thrilled!”

SST, 1978 (Irene Dogmatic is far right). Rick Soloway
“I met Rick Soloway through the Correspondence Art Movement. He had taken photos of me before SST, and seemed like a natural to photograph the band. He also took photos of the band Pink Section, and another band which I think was called Inflatable Boy Clams. He has a big website, and has a lot of his photos posted there. We are still friends, and he is still a very good photographer.”

“The SST single was recorded at the studio of Tommy Tadlock, who had the connection with Rough Trade Records. He released it, I think, and I did the cover art and packaging. It was recorded in SF. I can’t remember much about the actual recording session. Tidal Wave Records was owned by Tommy Tadlock. I think Ted Falconi made the connection with Tom. Tidal Wave was Tommy Tadlock as far as I know…” Irene Dogmatic

“Super-inept hippie punk / DIY from California with lotsa early punk scenesters name-checked on the sleeve. Ted Falconi pre-Flipper on guitar.” Johan Kugelberg

SST s/t 7” EP (Tidal Wave Records, 1978)

SST – Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

SST – Autistic

SST – Empty
Endless thanks to Th Rockin' Rex! for uploading the whole 7" back in the day.

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Excerpts taken from an interview with Irene Dogmatic in March 2014. It will be published in its full-length in the third issue of Making Waves — to be released soon.

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