MID-CITY — Looking for a good ride on Saturday night?
If that peaks your interest, you may want to check out Hellride, a “live only” all-star outfit made up of a trio of iconic rockers playing this weekend at the CENTRAL Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Hellride is comprised of Stephen Perkins, Mike Watt and Pete DiStefano — all noteworthy in their own rights.
All three have made names for themselves playing for legendary bands Jane’s Addiction, fIREHOUSEand Porno For Pyros, but have put that and any egos aside to create a band that is as much about rock royalty as it is about just rocking out.
The three artists share a mutual love and respect for musical experimentation and exploration. Since their Porno For Pyros days — and coincidentally years before Watt got a gig with Iggy Pop — the guys were yearning to do something together, but due to hectic schedules they weren’t able to get together to write new material. Songs by The Stooges, featuring Watt, became a starting point.
“As soon as Mike started playing with Iggy I called him and said, ‘Hey if you want to discontinue the Hellride I totally understand,’” Perkins said. “But his opinion was, ‘we’re taking a whole different angle on the songs, and it’s something I think is still relevant to on-stage shenanigans.’”
Hellride grew out of Watt and Perkins’ more frequent collaborations in the jazz-punk improv milieu. Indeed, Hellride’s entire set list is devoted to playing and reinterpreting the music of Iggy Pop’s The Stooges by way of jazz legend John Coltrane. And when Perkins says “jazz” he’s referring to the improvisational interpretations not the music itself.
“We’ll do a verse and a chorus, maybe another verse and a chorus and then we’re off to the races, kind of like a ‘Live At Leeds’ by the Who, full-throttle energy,” Perkins said.
It is always “live, without a net,” and the band, which plays locally in Los Angeles area clubs, is always trying new stuff on stage. This approach keeps all the members on their toes. When they’re going into musical grooves, they are feeding off each other with no set guidelines or boundaries.
“There’s always that moment where we’re all searching at the same time and it could be a great train wreck, but sometimes a train wreck is fun to watch as well,” Perkins said.
It’s about having an improvised musical chat.
“A lot of music today loses that conversation between musicians,” Perkins said. “I learned that early from John Densmore and The Doors. Morrison would say something and Densmore would react to it on the drums, and I think it’s so important to bring that lyrical content to the surface of any gig or session, allowing that musical conversation to stand as its own moment in time.”
You might even say the band itself is like a jazz solo in that the members rotate in and out depending on who’s on tour — for this upcoming show at the CENTRAL, Wayne Kramer from MC5 will be subbing for DiStefano.
“It’s unfortunate that Peter couldn’t make the gig, but we got lucky that Wayne Kramer was available,” Perkins said. “He’s a punk-rock poet, and has both a lyrical sensibility as well as that understanding of raw power.”
Those unfamiliar with The Stooges’ music may simply think the set is a bit of exciting, unusual punk rock, but if you’re a fan and know the tunes you will truly appreciate the dynamics and innovation going on.
“We want to thread the themes of the songs through the experience, through the jam and at the same time we want to always be searching and break new ground, not just for the sake of breaking new ground but because we need to as artists,” Perkins said. “If I were a painter I wouldn’t want to paint the same thing year after year, day after day. We don’t want to sound the same each night.”
Sounds like it should be one hell of a ride.
Check out Hellride Saturday, Feb. 12 at the CENTRAL, 1348 14th St. in Santa Monica. Opening bands include Silver Needle, JayaR and River of Suns. Tickets are $8. Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.thecentralsapc.com.