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Free Beer interview: w/ Tony Guerrero-Guitar

How long have you guys been together? Well, it seems like about a hundred years! Seriously, by the time Free Beer got together it was already our 3rd punk band, first was Jerry’s Kids (SF) with world renown skate photographer Bryce “BK” Kanights (on bass) and then we formed Revenge and Tommy moved to bass and we got another now ‘skate industry legend’ Steve “Shrewgy” Ruge on lead vocals. I was on drums at that time in both of those bands and didn’t move to guitar until Free Beer was formed in 1981. By then we had already been experimenting with all kind of things musically. Mostly, we used to poke fun at stuff and just have a good time. We learned a lot of TV songs cause we used to all play guitar and try and learn all the jingles and commercials too, like Leave it to Beaver, The Munsters theme song, Tumbling Tumble Weeds, and The Adams Family and even did some of them at our shows. TV influenced us a lot I guess. and The lines up have changed? Actually, it was the same line-up all the way through till our end and even the reformation for our reunion gigs and release of the full length skate rock album was pretty much all the original members. Mike Cassidy on Lead Vocals (Always a character) Dan Magee on guitar, Tommy Guerrero on bass, Steve Tatum on drums, and me (Tony Guerrero) on guitar. When Free Beer broke up in around 1983-ish, and we reformed for the EMP Skate punk show in August 2001 when they asked us to come up there and play (Experience Music Project-in Seattle) I got my buddy Louie Senor (Vain and MCM and the Monster) to play drums with us. We didn’t have enough ‘old’ material for the skate punk album project and Tatum wasn’t up to play drums (as he hasn’t played in years), so Louie sat in with us on about 5 tracks (and all the gigs) that were original old songs that we never recorded so that we had enough material for the album. (He’s still pissed off at me for not giving him enough credits on the record, so I’m doing what I can to make up for it here and elsewhere) Louie is a really solid drummer and a fucking character! Louie was on tour not to long ago with The Swarm which is the new band formed from the old SF metal band Death Angel. That tour was with Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains) and M.I.R.V. He called me along the way to tell me crazy stories. Anyhow…I was stoked to have found all those old tapes that were in various places and was able to get everyone back together (and Louie) to record those old songs and remix everything in my garage. (To record your own shit is truly punk!) I recorded Mike’s vocals in my bathroom upstairs while I recorded in my garage. I laughed through the whole session!

What is the musical influences of you guys? Well at that time, it was a lot of different shit. Like I said, we were kind of a parody band to a certain extent and just like to make fun of stuff that happened during those times, and we liked to have a good time. Our main influence was beer, and drinking as much of it as we could. ; )  By the time Free Beer formed, we were all into different stuff by then, but before that we didn’t listen to anything that didn’t stray too far from punk. During and before, bands like Adolescents, Black Flag (Mugger the road manager was our bro-I’ll never forget when Henry Rollins was at my house watching TV and talking to my mom about god knows what!), Social D. Sex Pistols, Rush, Iron Maiden, The Clash, Specials, Madness, Motorhead, Los Olvidados, Drunk Injuns, Bad Religion, Devo, Ramones, Dead Boys, DOA, Avengers, No Alternative, and a ton of others. We listened to all that stuff and grew up on the scene playing with most of these punk bands at one time or another among to listening a lot of other stuff.

How did you come up with your name? You know, I don’t really remember. I have this old cassette tape recorded in 1980 from a live show that we did at the MabuhayGardens (SF’s first punk club) when we were in Revenge and Shrewgy belted out ‘Yeah, Free Beer’ and somehow I think that sort of stuck. Honestly, I think Mike Cassidy was at that gig and he was the one that brewed that name up before hand, so I think he came up with it. He’s a fucking character and has lived and (could have) died with beer! : ) We all did. Mike had a pony keg in the hood of his Volkswagon and the tap came out of the glove box! All of the guys in the band worked at liquor stores at or time or another! I remember this gig we did with Fear and we had a buncha generic beer (Remember that stuff?) and we stenciled Free on top of it and tossed it out to everyone. We just drank beer and had a good time.

What you knew first, skateboard or punk music? Skateboarding for sure. I was skating around 1974 just about the time of urethane wheels (I was on clay wheels on my first board-and didn’t know there was better stuff out there yet-but even so, I couldn’t afford them-I made most of my boards), so that was pretty much before punk hit the USA. I think we (Tommy and I) started getting into punk from our old skate team guys (who were a few years older) from the Alotaflex team (Berkeley) in the mid 70’s. (Nor Cal's equivalent to Dogtown-ask people who know, they will all agree that this was the best overall team in Nor Cal in every category. We kicked all of the factory teams ass. Too bad we didn’t get the notoriety-You know it was one our team riders –Tim Marting - that invented the Rock n Roll! Tim got a ‘Who’s Hot’ in Skateboarder magazine which was way cool!) Anyhow…skateboarding came first, then punk music.

Tell us about the influence of the skateboard in your music and your life. Well, I think the music side came from my dad’s side of he family for sure. My grandfather and grandmother and all his brothers were musicians. Although we didn’t grow up around that side, somehow it was just hereditary I guess. Skating kept us out of trouble; I mean at least we weren’t bored kids with nothing to do. My mom totally supported our skating and even music. We used to drive her and my aunt and uncle crazy rehearsing in the garage, and building crazy ramp contraptions in the back yard, or even in the front of the house on the street. Skating kept us out of trouble for the most part. Still, we’d go out to all the gigs and raise hell at night. We used to brawl from time to time but you know this was before guns were prevalent! I’ve had my fair share of getting into shit with people. But we were young and so what’s a few bloody noses, bumps n’ bruises you know? When you are young, you re invincible and do stupid shit, but that’s part of growing up. Hopefully, you know the boundaries. Music and skating will always be a part of my life.

What bands you usually touring back in the 80’s? Who did you liked to play with?

Oh man, Social Distortion, Black Flag, Bad Brains (Man those guys used to get us stoned-They had the biggest joints!!) Adolescents, The Stains, LA’s Wasted Youth, Dead Kennedy’s, DOA, Bad Religion, Circle Jerks. Minor Threat, Fear, Suicidal Tendencies, Angry Samoans, and the Misfits to name a few. There are just too many to name. I think we played with all of the cool old bands at least one time or another. I think we had more fun playing with our bro’s than any one band really. We just felt privileged to be able to play period. We were a mess. Skating and chaos ruled our world.

The band have plans to record a new album and touring around? Nope. That’s it. No more. We aren’t going to re-hash this outfit. We just wanted to put out some old music that we had lying around. We thought that it was cool and good to do for nostalgia sake. We don’t want to be like some other bands that reform and rehash their youth. We have all moved on to other things, either professionally, or musically. We thought that we were going to put together a skate punk tour called the ‘Trilogy Tour’ after the release of Skate punk 1,2 & 3 with Los Olvidados and Drunk Injuns just to support the records, but that never happened-Too many conflicting schedules I guess. Maybe one day, when we are really old we will!! : ) I’m just stoked that Jello Biafra and Uli of Alternative Tentacles Records thought it would be cool to do this series. You know they just added JFA as vol. 4 to the series? Way cool. I wonder who will be number 5?

What bands do you like of the new punk rock scene? Well, I think the term punk is used loosely now a days and also there are so many different styles/variations now that a lot of bands sort of morph the punk attitude into what they are doing even if it’s not straight forward punk. I’m still stuck in the ‘old school’ world of punk (Bands mentioned above) but I’m very specific and biased to what I like to listen to. As long as it isn’t the bubblegum produced shit you hear on the radio, then I’m probably OK with it. (They give punk a bad name). Just give some kid a guitar, learn how to make a barre chord, add some hair die and a few tattoos and you’ve got insta-punk! LOL. Anyhow, I like a lot of the rock bands that incorporate the punk attitude though. Supersuckers, Hellacopters, Turbo Negro, Backyard Babies to name a few. Bands I like are ones that can really play guitar.

Been a band from the 80’s, how you compare that scene comparing with today? There are too many of them and hard to differentiate who’s who. Even though you play punk, you still have to develop your own sound. You know of some of the reviews I have read about Free Beer, It was kinda cool to hear what people had to say about Mike’s vocals and that it wasn’t a stereotypical vocal for punk. I totally like that. I think that you have to be unique and create your own sound. I think the most important element is the vocalist. They have to be unique to stand out in today’s mish-mosh of punk bands. Sometimes it can all sound the same. Maybe I’m just getting older, but there was something special back in the old days, since I remember going to school and being the only person (or one of 2 people) that was into punk rock. I was truly an outcast by the time I hit high school. Today it’s all mainstream. Back then you had to search the music out and listened to anything that was remotely punk or different, cause the choices were pretty limited. You couldn’t even get Docs or Creepers back then! Your buddies who were fortunate enough to be able go to England had to buy those shoes for you. I also felt like I belonged to this special group that only understood who I was. You know that when we first discovered the ‘underground scene’ in San Francisco (When it was truly underground) that skaters and punkers didn’t mix too well. The punkers that preceded me thought of us as ‘jocks’ to a certain extent. I mean, anything to do with any type of activity was deemed a ‘sport’ so back then we hid that we skated until it became more accepted. We were new on the scene in the late 70’s. BK says that we were the 2nd generation of punk rockers. You know the Sex Pistols already came and went by the time we formed our first band in 79’.

Nor Cal and So. Cal was also very different in that respect. The HB (Huntington Beach) punks would come up to SF and school us that it was cool to surf/skate and be a punker. I mean, they were kind of like us in some ways cause we could all relate not only with punk music but skating as well. Tony Alva and his brother Mark used to come up here quite a bit, and so did Duane Peters. Duane lived in SF for a while and we used to hang out quite a bit while he was here, then he was sort of out of punk, and on to other music styles (Yeah, I know the skeletons in his

closet! : )  Man, that guy got me in all kinds of fucking trouble. I don’t even think he remembers most of the shit that went down in SF! : ) Steve Olson was around quite a bit too. He’s another fucking character. That guy always makes me laugh. I think the first time I saw any variation of slam dancing it was from Mike Marine “X-Head” (He was in the movie ‘Decline…’) I saw him doing the HB Strut. I think this is where slam dancing came from. I forget what gig we were at, but when the lame ass people were still pogo-ing, these guys were strutting and that was something new. That’s definitely where slam dancing came from. It was violent for those times. No one picked you up when you fell!

Everybody knows about the important relationship between skateboard and music. All the guys in the band have skating? YES! How we all met was through skateboarding at the skate parks. Actually, Tommy and I were born and raised in San Francisco, and all our buddies were from all over the place. It was skateboarding and music that brought us all together. Skaters were always sort of the outcast and so was punk music so it’s inevitable that these two radical driving forces would eventually come together. Before punk and skating it was rock music. I think the Dogtown movie pretty much explained how that all went down and how you could see that punk would eventually come into play with skaters. It was inevitable. A match made in HELL.

How you define the term “Skate-Rock”? Well, if I were to quote the Godfather of Skate Rock – Mofo, I think he told me it was just a buncha skaters that also happen to play music. When he found out that there was this common thread and found out how many skaters had bands, that’s when he put the Thrasher Skate Rock action plan together. No one can ever say anything about skate rock without mentioning Mofo who is in my opinion the Godfather of the category. If anyone out there doesn’t know who Mofo is, I suggest you open your Skate History 101 and find out! Skate Rock definition to me is just that. A band that skates. It doesn’t necessarily have to be punk. Just listen to the first 3 Thrasher Skate rock tapes & records and see how diverse it really was.

Your brother, Tommy Guerrero, a famous pro skateboarder from Bones Brigade era, had influents a generation at that time, and played at the band. Now, how you and Tommy has feeling the nowadays skateboard scene? Pretty stoked. Tommy still skates (as do I) and works in the industry with Real/Spitfire etc. (Deluxe Distribution) Skating is soooo insane now and I’m glad that it’s finally getting the notoriety it deserves, but on the other hand it’s so popular now that it’s also kind of a drag. Skateboarding is something that we as skaters that were the die-hards/pioneers of the sport now see every Tom, Dick and Harry with an Indy t-shirt on just blows me away. Before you would be able to identify with someone when they had a skate t-shirt on, but nowadays there’s so many ‘armchair skaters and wannabes, that it just sort of loses the mystique that skateboarding was. It’s good for the growth of the industry and businesses and the sport altogether I guess, but like anything that you are into that you thought you sort of took ownership of, when it becomes too popular, it loses that special something. When we skated, there were very few of us and it was special. I think we knew every skater in San Francisco in the early days and you knew right away you had a common bond/kinship that no one else understood or knew. I think there were only about maybe 50 of us total, and that was a lot! It’s certainly not that way today. The same thing happened to punk music. Still, skaters and punkers are doing better than they ever had before, It’s all a safe and accepted thing now because the mainstream recognizes it, so I guess it just depends on how you look at it. Besides you can’t help when you were born, so if you were born later and just old enough to discover skating and punk music and just because it happens to be popular now, then you don’t have much of a choice how you feel about where it is now anyhow. If that’s what drives you, then that’s what drives you. Just be true to it, to yourself and understand it’s roots.

Send a message for the readers.

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And check out my new band The Loyals ‘77-82’ coming soon.


Rock on.

Tony & Free Fuckin’ Beer