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Jeff Moehlis: The Mau Maus Chaos Machine Is Coming to Town

Legendary punk-rock band will give its first-ever performance in Santa Barbara

Rick Wilder is the frontman for The Mau Maus, a legendary late 1970s/early 1980s L.A. punk rock band that recently re-formed and released the album Scorched Earth Policies: Then and Now, which includes songs recorded in 1983 with Doors guitarist Robby Krieger and new recordings from 2011.

The Mau Maus will be giving their first-ever performance in Santa Barbara on Sunday at Whiskey Richards, 435 State St., thanks to Electric Sex Enterprises. This interview was conducted by email.

Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming show in Santa Barbara?

Rick Wilder: Punk rock insurrection meets nuclear horror show circus. ... This is the re-ignition of the most storied and certainly the most notorious of the original wave of L.A.’s punk rock explosion. In essence, you will get to experience the prototype of raw power/punk bands.

JM: Can you tell us a bit about the rest of the band that will be joining you?

RW: This isn’t a band, it’s a well-oiled chaos machine. On bass is Scott “Chopper” Franklin of Cramps/Charley Horse note, Michael Livingston of the Livingstons [on guitar] and Paul “Black” Mars former L.A. Guns frontman [on drums].

JM: Have The Mau Maus ever played in Santa Barbara before?

RW: No. Unfortunately, back during the late ’70s/early ’80s, having been banned by much of the venues in Southern California (due to police pressure), it was difficult to book out-of-town shows due to our reputation. It was hard to fight the power when the bottom feeders were in charge of the food chain.

JM: How would you describe The Mau Maus’ place in the L.A. punk rock scene back in the day?

RW: Let’s just say, we are still that band, literally, that to a great extent initiated and played the eye of the hurricane, ground zero of the Western North American punk rock movement. I am referring to the original Masque in Hollywood. What’s “our” place, from where I’m standing, we’ve been told we own it. We may have had the lifestyles of gypsy pirates and, especially, this lineup. We are the Jesse James/Cole Younger gang of that Wild West shootout. I, personally, am mad with the fact this band never — I mean never — sold out.

JM: Back then, did The Mau Maus play much outside of the L.A. area, and if so, did the audiences get it?

RW: One has to take into account that there was no Internet. The closest we came to getting the word out were the fanzines, like Flipside, Back Door Man or the independent music mags, chiefly Slash. So, having said that, it was not a rural thing. It was an urban thing. We played where the virus was breaking out, like San Francisco. Plus, to be fair, not only our lifestyle but the overall perception of the punk lifestyle was against us.

JM: What were/are the goals of The Mau Maus, both “then” and “now,” and have they been achieved?

RW: Our goal: Reach for the stars even if you find yourself in a gutter. Per ardua, ad astra. Roughly saying, “Through difficulties to the stars.” It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you finish, and don’t compromise who you are. On achieving it, thanks to this release, I feel like, well, at least now it’s out. And they can’t take that away from us. We bloody well outlasted the bastards (most of the offending record companies). However, I can’t speak for the others, but I’d like to get what I consider our due. But, now it’s looking better and it’s still a work in progress.

JM: The new Mau Maus release includes tracks recorded in the early 1980s with Robby Krieger. How did you end up working with him, and what did he bring to the music?

RW: We have mutual friends in Paul Picasso, who set up the recording. This is punk rock ‘n’ roll, so he definitely brought something to the rock ‘n’ roll end of it.

JM: The Mau Maus recorded with Krieger, X recorded with Ray Manzarek. Why do you think that the former Doors were so receptive to punk rock?

RW: They were working with a singer that wasn’t necessarily a punk-rock type (a la Iggy [Pop] or the New York Dolls), but he was a rebel, so it’s natural they’d be attracted to this sort of music.

JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything related to The Mau Maus, the L.A. punk rock scene, etc.?

RW: Well, one problem we’re running into with the Internet and other media outlets is the band out of the U.K. called Mau Maus. I went to London in 1978 and spray-painted our band name everywhere, and then this band came out a few years later hijacking our name. So when searching out our music, the only record we have that is true Mau Maus is Scorched Earth Policies: Then & Now on Ratchet Blade Records. Anything else is not Mau Mau Approved!

Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.

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