1. Joined At the Brain
3. Wood Breaking Manifesto
4. One Watt
5. Punky Brewster
6. Production of Power
7. Purity Control
8. Suicide Cliche
10. Traction Reaction
11. Hand That Feeds
12. East Reed
13. Dim Bulb
I Hung Around In Your Soundtrack Pt. 8 by Justin Pearson
Jenny Piccolo “Lowest Common Denominator” 7” EP
When Three One G birthed its 8th release, it was a fairly decent time for vinyl sales, and a good time for what the label was subconsciously trying to do. Plus, I had no real understanding of financial responsibility, so I, along with Jenny Piccolo, decided to release an EP as a picture disc, which unintentionally assured that there would be no profit whatsoever. I just kept diving in headfirst, release after release, and dealing with the repercussions as they came. Now, I would never be able to pull of releasing a 7” picture disc by a band who was hardly ever playing shows and certainly was not touring. But putting out the Jenny Piccolo “Lowest Common Denominator” 7” EP seemed like a great idea, partially since the band had a buzz when the record came out, but also because the band was one of my favorites at the time it was released. The ironic thing about this EP is, it is easily the band’s best material and definitely the better of the recordings that exist. Due to the fact that none of us had money and were all still scraping by to record in cheap analogue studios (well before digital home recording were even an option), we often had to cut corners. Now, in retrospect, I wish we put more money into the actual recording and not the manufacturing costs. But what is done is done. The EP looked amazing and was the start of the band’s decline in functionality as well as its life force. So I am glad that it was documented and that it is part of what Three One G was becoming and has become.
Interview with Al Ruel: November 2016
Justin Pearson: Let’s talk about how the band came about, and the development of what it became. Everything back then seemed so stretched out in time, but in hindsight, the band was pretty short lived. By the time you released the “Lowest Common Denominator” 7″ EP, I think you hit your peak. The EP was so mean, and seemed extremely dialed in when compared to the the LP and then, later, the split with Asterisk. In my opinion, I think the EP was Jenny Piccolo’s best work, album wise.
Al Ruel: Yeah, everything seemed to come about with a bit more serendipity, too. Luck at first, then hard work. Now it’s just hard work and hard work. It seems like it was a major cross section of my life, but in reality it was like 3 short years, during a period crammed full of many other things for me, over 20 years ago. Actually, mostly hard work… The bands were the fun.
The band came together because everyone wanted to be in a band back then. I’d been hanging out with Brohinder (James) for a while, and loved his prior bands, Stumpy and Mohinder, the latter of which imploded too fast (like their live sets!). I barely knew Chris, apart from seeing him out skateboarding once or twice (he was good!). I was younger and James had a label / distro called Unleaded and would always be turning me onto killer 7″s… he’d be like, “you haven’t heard that?… you’d love that!” And he’d be right. James and Chris were old friends, and had been in a very short-lived band in between whose name I can’t summon… I saw them once in Santa Cruz, and saw James playing a smaller clear blue drum set, and thought to myself, “Why’d he trade in that big wooden Ludwig?!” I started playing drums under the impression that there weren’t enough drummers, and James oddly said he wanted to switch to bass, so we did the ol’ switchola. Can’t remember exactly how it came about, but probably just from hanging out, we agreed we wanted to start a band with Chris, me, and my old friend, Jeff, so we did.
James taught me how to play a particular beat that he used in Mohinder (sped up version of one popularized by San Diego bands like Chain of Strength, Heroin, Antioch Arrow, et al., all of whom had one excellent drummer after another). We all agreed we liked Rorschach (an influence soon abandoned due to lack of chops!). We had like 4 or 5 “songs” after one practice. He soon sold the blue kit to me, and I traded in the kick drum for a bigger one, and that was that.
As far as the “Lowest Common Denominator” 7″, I think you’re probably right…. It was always my favorite, too. Tight and fast. To state the obvious, you really couldn’t get into hardcore without collecting a lot of 7″s. For many bands, their best single statement is a 7″, and so many great bands only ever had one (John Henry West, Fury, Kitchener come to mind). That one is ours. But the split 7″ was recorded not long after, and to be honest I think the LP holds up well, too… earlier songs, but at least it’s a 45rpm and over with quick! If memory serves they were all recorded not too long after being on tour, which helps hone things. The last release probably suffered a little from rushing in the studio on winter break home from school with new songs… that, and down-tuning, which is a little muddier IMO (Chris really loved several German bands of the time… Systral, Acme, Luzifer’s Mob, Golgatha, etc). But listening now, I can’t really tell the difference any more. Some good “songs” sprinkled throughout, crazy mistakes all over the place!
JP: It’s crazy to think that one, you were not really a drummer before Jenny Piccolo, and two, that you just took cues from James. Both you and him were such impressive drummers for that time. I was blown away by Mohinder and when I heard there was this “new Mohinder band” when I went to see your (second?) show, I was so amazed by your drumming that I forgot James was also such a ripper on drums.
It was definitely a strange time for us all. I agree about the material on the different albums, specifically from the LP to the EP, and I think a lot of the issues we all were facing was mustering up enough cash for a decent recording, then trying to actually get it manufactured. I remember when I started Three One G, and up until about the time that The Locust and Jenny Piccolo did that U.S. tour (which was my first full on U.S. tour, and I assume yours too), I was going to community college partially to get financial aid, which paid for most of the stuff I was doing with Three One G that could not be scammed or stolen.
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room for us all who are familiar with the band and were lucky enough to see you guys live. How did your extremely amusing banter during your shows come about? I don’t think I have ever laughed as hard as I did when you all would play. You were so sharp and had such a good-bad attitude. The three of you each had your own personality, it was almost like a TV show at times. I always wondered how it didn’t erupt into something bad, aside from the one tour we did where Chris up and left for a Greyhound bus home, as we all laughed at him since none of us made enough money for him to even get a bus from the East Coast to the West.
AR: Yeah, like the Three Stooges! I think a lot of that was my fault. Kind of class-clowning around… very regrettable. Those guys were all serious, pomade and pegged pants, and I was another beast altogether. There were some cringe-worthy moments to be sure, but most of it was just joking around. James describes it pretty well… On tour it got ugly sometimes because we were stuck in a van too long. Started out fine, nearly homicidal 2 weeks in, totally mellowed toward the end… at home we almost never fought. I got along with Chris real well, despite being very different people. love him. miss him. he’s around here somewhere… lives in Portland now.
Thanks for your kind words about the drumming. Yeah, James showed me a few things early on. I admit there was a bit of a formula to it and just a pinch of thunder meat, which goes a long way. I got faster quick, but I wasn’t exactly playing anywhere near the realm of my heroes or a lot of stuff I listened to.
JP: Great reference! It was definitely part of the show for a lot of the audience. The comedy aspect sprinkled in among the sheer brutality of super short songs was brilliant in my opinion. As for the political slant, you all seemed to have the same political ideologies, and definitely came off as extremely educated, more so than the run-of-the-mill fast blast-beat type bands of the time. Where were you all drawing musical and political influences from if you don’t mind me asking? And artistically, where were your influences stemming from?
AR: Re. politics… I was reading Chomsky and listening to Dave Emory on KFJC 89.7 where I attended junior college, and before that attended a high school that emphasized catholic social justice teaching and even vaguely taught liberation theology (you know, like the sort suppressed by the church in Latin America for not towing the narrow moral vision mostly espoused until late). In fact, one of my high school teachers, Mr. McCrystle, taught a course called “Conflict in the Modern World” which was rather formative in my world view and future studies, and he was a punk in a former life, which was at that point probably just a few short years for him, and for me a lifetime… Some of the artwork from the “Information Battle to Denounce the Genocide” LP is from from a New Yorker article by Mark Danner (eventually expanded into a book, “The Massacre at El Mozote” ) which I read in that class. Do you remember, on the first Locust/JP tour, a book called “Cry the Beloved Country” sat mostly neglected on the dash of our used, 15 passenger, white, econoline van that entire long, dreadful, mesmeric summer month? I’d sworn I would finish it despite having graduated, and finally DID. It was mandatory reading in that class, and I had resorted to reading the Cilff Notes for the term exam in an act of desperation (probably the one and only time I did that, and for a course that I loved no less!). If memory serves, that teacher went to college with Milo (or so I like to remember it), or at least lived with him at some point. Black Flag played at their house. I hipped him to Los Crudos. He said the “punkest” show he ever saw was The Pogues, and I believe it. Oh, and I was also listening to a lot of Born Against, Fugazi and Man is the Bastard like the rest of us.
JP: I was wondering where the art concept for the LP came from, and that makes total sense. One thing I did love was the constant evolution, or at least the fact that the band was really changing things up, from the art, to the music, and everything else that was lumped into the life of that band. You all were one of those bands who set the bar for that type of music, and as far as I’m concerned, a band is only as good as its drummer, and man, you were punishing through and throughout. The footage of you all from Three One G’s “This is Circumstantial Evidence” DVD, which was shot on that same tour you referenced, was just amazing. It captured the power of the band, as well as the absurdity of the shows.
Why do you feel the band had to stop being a band, and why do you think it was never possible to pull it together over the years when you all talked about playing again? Even just to record or play a show or two? Part of me thinks the world still should have Jenny Piccolo, and part of me thinks that the world just can’t appreciate something of that magnitude anymore.
AR: Yes, that was a good show. There is also similarly convincing footage from a show at Huntington Beach Library… I think we opened for Men’s Recovery Project and Man is the Bastard that night. What a show (nothing to do with us)! We stopped being a band because I moved a few thousand miles away and we had to start facing certain realities. Playing a reunion show under the same circumstances in the 18 years since would’ve been an even more unfortunate mistake. I’m still sorry we equivocated there momentarily a while back and left you hanging, but it was probably for the best.
JP: Well Al, nonetheless, you all made your mark in music history, or certainly in a lot of people’s music history. Me being one of those people.