Beer, pot, chicks and porno flicks
On the eastside of Washington, where the trees die off and the world turns flat and brown, lie the Tri-Cities: Richland, Kennewick and Pasco. Each city is fairly small — their populations never exceed 40,000 — and they lie in the middle of nowhere, an hour away from Yakima and two hours away from Spokane.
Richland is where America produced most of its nuclear bombs, at the Hanford Nuclear Facility, and now much of the economy depends on the cleaning up of the site’s hazardous waste.
Richland also has a vibrant music scene, which produced notable musicians Nate Mendell of the Foo Fighters and glam rock band Loudermilk, who once toured with Motley Crue. In recent years, residents started a permanent music venue, which serves as a tour stop for semi-famous bands like Vendetta Red and These Arms Are Snakes.
In my four years living there, three of them were spent in the Ninja Boners. The Ninja Boners were a thrash/punk/ska band made up of me and three of my friends, all of whom hated the city, the music coming from it (mostly grunge-lite crap) and every minute spent being a teenager. This is what I remember of those days, written down for my own memory’s sake, accompanied with photos from Hanford High School’s yearbooks.
I first met Jed my sophomore year of high school, in an honors English class. We were two class clowns and we made each other laugh more than the other students.
I don’t know how our first conversation started, but I distinctly remember discussing porn, specifically our own collections. While describing the scenes depicted in the magazines’ letters section, we realized we owned the same issue of Hustler. We bonded.
It was a strange pairing. For one, I was a nerd; I wore Hawaiian shirts on a daily basis, played the bass drum in marching band, and just before I met Jed, I had stopped playing Dungeons and Dragons with my Boy Scout troop. Jed was a bully/former star football player. In his junior year of high school, he ran for student office, won, and got kicked out a few months later for smoking dope on a field trip.
Other than porn and “retard” jokes, we both loved music. I played drums in a local punk band and he had aspirations of being the next Ace Frehley. We would spend most of our time together talking about bands like Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys, and I got him into the bands like Propagandhi, Moral Crux and F.Y.P.
When talk of playing music together first came up, it was Jed telling me we were going to jam. I tried to change the subject. I really didn’t want to play with him, for two reasons: 1. I had a band already, Five Second Revolution, and though we had only played three shows in our two years of existence, I thought I was too busy to start another band. 2. He was an asshole! The nerve of him not to ask me, but actually TELL ME that we were going to jam!
Jed always got his way (the spoiled brat). The first time we played together was on my 15th birthday party. I had set up a show in my parents basement with four other bands: Five Second Revolution, the Prude Sluts, the Dreamtime and Mary Killer. Jed told me we were going to play that afternoon, before the other bands.
We played one song, “Detroit Rock City,” and because I had never heard KISS before that point, I just played a fast 4/4 beat along with Jed’s noodling. Maybe two people watched. As the song reached the five-minute mark (I never knew when to end it), the other members of Five Second Revolution, Mike and Jesse, came into the basement and starting moshing. They got a little TOO into the music and Mike ended up pushing Jesse into a wall, leaving a 3′ X 3′ crater. I ended the song screaming at them, “What the fuck?! My parents are going to be pissed!”.
Jed would go on to start another band, the alt-rock group Raven’s Idea, which featured mutual friends of ours. I even tried to play bass for them but didn’t join up because I didn’t have a working bass and couldn’t actually play. Later, Jed and I would jam again, this time after drinking a mushroom concoction that my friend made me. Instead of noodling and spending three hours on a conga solo, Jed improvised speedy punk riffs and I played as fast as humanly possible. The next thing I knew we were looking at a TV Guide and trying to think of a band name with “boner” in it.
Justin and Trent began attending our high school early the following year. Justin came from Vancouver, WA; Trent from San Diego, CA.
I had a PE class with Justin and I began talking to him because he wore Sex Pistols and Ziggy Stardust t-shirts. After we started hanging out during lunch, girls started coming up to me asking “Who’s your friend? My friend —– has a crush on him.” Justin couldn’t care less. He preferred to occupy his time smoking dope and being mean to the girls who had crushes on him. Justin became infamous after he took a paper carton full of ketchup-soaked fries and smashed them onto the head of a blonde preppie named Kendall. She cried and he was suspended; one of the first of many suspensions for Justin.
Trent and I had a math class together. He was probably the only person at our school who had heard of ska before me. Trent was also the poorest kid I knew; he was the first person I had met who lived on welfare and food stamps. But he was resourceful and he supplemented his taste for ska-fashion with little money. Instead of buying skinny black ties, he cut out strips of black cloth and tied them in windsor knots around his neck. He also made a pork pie hat by dyeing a red fishing cap, the kind Gilligan used to wear, black. It worked, sort-of.
At some point I found out that both Justin and Trent played instruments — Justin played guitar and Trent played bass. (Trent was also in a band called the Penny Dreadfuls.) We played together once and I came away thinking that Justin could not play the guitar to save his life. But Trent, well, Trent was the best bass player I had ever seen. I later asked Trent to play bass with Jed and I. At our first practice, everything clicked.
Jed and I wrote almost all the songs for the Ninja Boners. We were heavily influenced by bands like the Vandals, DFL and FYP (we utilized their signature drumbeat – snare/hi-hat/snare/hi-hat – often.) Our first songs had names like “Alien Butt,” “Butt Pirate” and “Butt Jizz.” I also remember having songs like “I hate the DMV” and “Long Butt Hair (is a pain in the ass.)” We even covered Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” which we renamed “Sunshine of Your Cunt.”
Jed and I booked our first show at the local senior center with FYP headlining. By that time we were still singerless. Trent sang on a majority of the set and Justin made a guest appearance singing on one song, I think “Sunshine.” About 20 of our friends watched and most of them sat on the floor.
We tried another singer before Justin, Jed’s good friend Zach. During his “audition,” when he should’ve been singing, he smiled uncomfortably at Jed and screamed “fuck you” at our friend Masaru, who later became “the Ninja Boner.” He wanted us to cover Minor Threat, which we couldn’t do because no one listened to them any more (they were so ninth grade).
Justin “the dope king” became our full-time singer because he could improvise lyrics, or at least make sounds that imitated actual words. He snarled, he screamed and chicks thought he was hot. Thanks to Justin, we would have fans.
Ninja Boners practices were the coolest after-school activites in Richland. We practiced in my parents basement using a PA and bass cabinet I stole in broad daylight from our high school band room. Since my parents hated the “racket,” they stayed away all afternoon. We and all our friends took full advantage of these long periods without supervision. We’d practice for half an hour, smoke dope on the back porch and then watch punk videos or the stacks of porn videos my friend Shawn gave me. One tape I had called “The Moscow Dog” became infamous around school.
Around this time we recorded our demo, “Songs For Your Butt.” We planned on recording in a studio but there was one studio in the Tri-Cities and it was ridiculously expensive. Instead, our mutual friend Nick recorded us on his dad’s 4-track, using Shure SM-58′s for each instrument (I think he mic’ed the PA.) It took us maybe an hour to record. The cover featured a picture of me holding a rosebud between my butt cheeks, which earned me the nickname “Asshole Rose.” The sides were numbered “6″ and “9″ and on the “9″ side we wrote quotes, such as “Fat Bottom Girls Make this Rockin’ World Go ‘Round – Queen.” Only our friends and bands we liked received copies.
Here are the highlights of the demo (feel free to download):
1. The Ninja Boners’ Theme Song: Yes, we had a theme song. Justin and Trent thought of the mantra — “Beer, Pot, Chicks and Porno Flicks” — and we all agreed that was what we cared about most. Other than the chorus, Justin had two lyrics for the entire song: “Jed and Kevin will fuck your mom, me and Trent will steal your alcohol” and “The Ninja Boners say ‘fuck you!’” Like the rest of our songs, Justin filled the space with random noises.
2. Butt Pirate: This is a song Jed penned that I always liked. Probably the only mid-tempo song we had. I don’t think Justin had a single lyric for this song.
3. Two Times in a Row: When I was 15, I started having sex. The second girl I ever had sex with was named Mandy and one adventurous weekend we had sex two times in a row, two days in a row. Pretty inspirational for a 15-year-old. I wrote this as a love song, but without having any clue of what being “romantic” meant. In the break in the song you can hear me comment, “Mandy is a pretty cool chick.” Trent later added the “How’d I know you were a big stinky ho?!” line. Mandy wanted to kill me when she first heard the song but by then she was dating one of my friends.
4. Last Caress: One of four covers we did. Justin loved the “raped your mother today” line which is why he sings it twice. The other covers we did were “Sunshine,” Hagfish’s “Stamp” (which Jed made us cover) and F.Y.P’s “Vacation Bible School.”
5. Go Ninja Boners Go!: One of two songs where Jed sang and Justin played guitar. Our friends loved this song because they could understand Jed’s lyrics, since Jed had actually written them down. Our second attempt at a ska breakdown, which we still couldn’t pull off, only because I couldn’t play the ska drumbeat.
We played few shows because if we wanted to play, we had to put the show on ourselves. Not only was there no permanent music venue in Richland or any of the Tri-Cities, but no one wanted to book us. If we wanted to play or set up a show for a band we liked, we’d borrow money from our parents and rent out the local community center.
For our second show we opened for Tchkung, a tribal/industrial band know for their leftist politics and exciting live show; during their set, one of the singers used a metal grinder on a barrel, which made sparks that shot all over the crowd. After the show, they bitched at Jed’s mom because they didn’t get enough money.
We later opened for Seattle’s tribute to Motorhead, Zeke. It would be the second time I would have a bad run-in with Zeke drummer Donny (I also put on a show for them when I was in Five Second Revolution). For once we drew a decent crowd and we gave them quite a show. Not only did we play every song we had ever written, we held a contest between Jed and I to see who had the nicer ass. (Who do you think won?) Our set went well past an hour.
During the last song of our set, I noticed Donny standing on the side of the stage, staring at me like he was going to get violent. As I started taking down my drums he came up to me and told me that I was “totally unprofessional.”
“You were saying earlier that you want to book the Descendents (my favorite band at the time.) Well, I can tell you right now that Bill wouldn’t have any of this shit,” he told me.
I was 16 and I didn’t even have a driver’s license yet; my dad had to pick me up after the show and haul our equipment home in his truck. I didn’t even know I was trying to be professional.
That night we would’ve made money, but Zeke’s roadie, a huge biker-looking guy named Rand, bullied us out of another $50. It would’ve been the only time we made money, even during our tour.
Stay tuned for Pt.2, The Tour.