The Sonics: Play Macefield Fest on Friday
  • And they're from Tacoma!
The Sonics are one of the greatest, if not the greatest garage rock band in the history of music. Predecessors of punk, and better than the Brits, they boiled over out of Tacoma in the '60s. They remain scalding today. Paste Magazine named their version of “Have Love Will Travel” as the greatest garage-rock song of all time. As far as music in the NW is concerned, the Sonics are pillars in the foundation. You must see and hear them live, and ingest them into your chest.

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The Sonics play Macefield Music Festival this Friday, October 3, at 8 p.m. on the KEXP Main Stage. Come pay homage to the overlords of garage. They’re kindly gents, who were nice enough to talk:

Larry, sometimes I think your guitar solos can take you over. They become a beast, with its own mind. Instead of you playing the solo, it plays you instead.
Larry Parypa (guitar, vocals): Solos are interesting. Sometimes they follow a strict format and I know exactly where it’s going. But the fun ones are an exploration, and I have little idea where they will end—those are the ones that carry the most risk, but they stir my juices.

When you all do a cover, like “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” you make it your own. What’s the strangest song the Sonics have ever covered?
Gerry Roslie (keys, vocals): We did a song to "Jingle Bells" called “The Village Idiot.” That one is kinda fun.

Freddie Dennis (bass): Weirdest song the Sonics ever did for me is “Vampire Kiss.” I love doing the old '50s song “Transfusion,” too.

Have you ever thought about covering “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy? Or “Live Wire” by Motley Crüe? Or “Human Behavior” by Björk? Please cover all those. What’s a song you’d like to cover in the future?
Gerry: I've always wanted to do "Shout" by Otis Day & the Knights. It was in Animal House. Great movie.

Dusty, you played with Lita Ford. Please tell me one Lita Ford story.
Dusty Watson (drums): The first time we played together was at a studio in LA. I guess it was my audition. Ray Marzano, rest in peace, was on bass. Lita was in jeans, tennis shoes, and a plain gray sweatshirt. It was her long, straight hair surfer-girl look. She was just putting her band together. We played three or four songs, and she put her guitar down and came over to me, grabbed my hand and shoved it underneath her sweatshirt and said, "No one has ever made my tits sweat like that!" She dragged me out of the studio and we went and tore up the town. I don't really remember much about what happened that night, but the next day we went back to the studio and learned some more songs. I figured I was in the band at that point [laughs].

The Sonics played Mexico City this past June. How was it? Mexicans love you guys.
Larry: It was incredible. I was shocked by the level of enthusiasm. Our transportation after the show was parked maybe 100 feet from the venue, but it took us half an hour to get to it because the fans wanted to touch flesh to flesh. When we finally reached the hotel, they were also there waiting for us.

Gerry: The building we played in looked like it had been a church. It was old, maybe 200 years old. It was hotter than Hades in there. Our soundman, Jim Anderson, told us the walls were dripping. The people knew all the words.

Freddie, please tell me about your horror film collection. What are your favorite ones?
Freddie: My horror film collection consists of all the old Universal series, Bela Lugosi’s Dracula, Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein. Then lots of silents including Nosferatu, Phantom of the Opera, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, to name a few. Bram Stoker's Dracula with Gary Oldman is a good one. My love for horror movies came at a young age and has never withered.

Rob, you’re a pilot. What are the similarities between flying a plane and playing a saxophone?
Rob Lind (saxophone, harp): I’d say there’s no comparison. In military aviation, you can get killed. But the more I think about it, actually, there are some comparisons. In the early days, in rural areas, when we'd sing and flirt with girls in front of the stage, the large dudes with biceps and the cowboy hats who were standing right behind them glaring at us with their lips moving and no sound coming out made it pretty clear they were looking to get violent with the long-haired rockers from the big city. These dudes would down a bunch of beers in somebody's pickup truck out in the parking lot. We got very good at backdoor hasty departures [laughs]. In Portland one time, we had a car chase. There were some guys who weren’t too happy with us weirdos. So, there was danger involved in playing with the Sonics. Slightly different than flying a plane.

When is your new album coming out? What’s it like? What will the album be called?
Freddie: It’s got the Sonics' stamp on it—screaming vocals, big-drum sound, burning guitar riffs, wailing sax. All the ingredients for a good time. Don’t have a title as yet. March 15 hopefully for the release.

Gerry: It feels really "Little Richard"–like, early rock 'n' roll.

Rob: Jim Diamond of Ghetto Recorders is producing. It’s high energy, and keeps coming at you like a chain saw. No off-tempo songs on this one. We’ll be introducing six of the new songs during our set at the Macefield Festival later this week.