Punk super group, Crash Kills Four, brings together five musicians with a rich heritage in the punk rock scene. Former members of D.I., Adolescents, Doggy Style (and numerous other bands along the way) joined forces to form the current incarnation of Crash Kills Four. By the Barricade caught up with the band members prior to their August 1 show at the Redondo Beach VFW. Learn more about the band, their history and the upcoming album, A Raincoat and Shoes and Pornographic Blues, in the interview that follows.
- Alfie Agnew (guitars)
- Bosco Calabro (guitars)
- Mark Tolbert (Vocals)
- John Knight (drums)
- Jeff Milucky (Bass)
By the Barricade: Looking back what inspired you to get into the punk world? Did you plan to be a musician?
Mark Tolbert: I was in youth orchestras and then I heard The Ramones and that changed the whole deal. I decided, “Screw the cello; I’m going to start playing guitar.” I taught myself to play guitar and I have been doing it ever since, that was around 1980.
Alfie Agnew: I was the youngest brother in a sequence of brother musicians so when I arrived on the scene, drumsticks were put in my hand and I was “required” to me a musician. That is how I got into it.
John Knight: I saw some magazine on vacation with my dad that had the Sex Pistols on it. It was an article about how “bad” they were, but I thought that was cool.
Jeff Milucky: I was into 70’s rock music then I got turned on to the punk rock scene. There were some bands from where I was from that were early into the scene. At that time everybody in Huntington Beach picked up a guitar or a bass and learned how to play, so I did the same.
Bosco Calabro: When I was younger my cousin gave me a drum set and my dad bought me an acoustic guitar. But since we are in this town (Hermosa Beach), I saw Black Flag and Redd Kross practice at the church and I was just a little grom watching them play. I did get shipped off to Fullerton later, but I thought they were awesome and they inspired me. I thought, “They don’t care and they make noise and it sounds bitchin’ and I want to do that.” Low and behold 30 years later I am still doing that.
By the Barricade: There are lots of prior connections between the members of this group, what is it like playing together now?
Jeff Milucky: We are old now. (All: *laughing).
John Knight: It’s really easy. After you play with people for a long time there is an unspoken language that develops. It makes song writing easy, it makes playing together easy. It makes just being in a room together easy. We just know each other really well.
Mark Tolbert: It’s phenomenal for me because these 3 (John, Alfie and Bosco) were in D.I. with each other and a multitude of other bands. I was mainly in Doggy Style before and I played in a lot of different bands too, but that is where we connected because we always played shows together. I used to go to see them but they probably didn’t ever come to see me. We were that band that you either really liked or you hated a lot. It was always fun and “bubblegummy.” I always wished we had more of what they had, more musical “umph.” Ours was a “show” but the music was “Eh, whatever.” I had a blast doing it, don’t get me wrong. It was a lot of fun, we had a lot of great memories but that is where we all connect from. We all were from that Fullerton area, I grew up in Placentia next door to Fullerton. With him (Alfie) you were instantly in awe because he was an Agnew whether it was Rikk or Frank or him, I thought he was just born to play guitar, “watch him go.” I was always staring at the neck of his guitar because I played guitar too but I thought, “Shit, I can’t do that.” I hadn’t met Jeff until we actually got this together but John and Jeff go back a long time. They played in bands together.
John Knight: A long time! Going on twenty years.
(At this point in the interview a back and forth discussion ensued between John and Jeff about what year it actually when the two started playing together).
Jeff Milucky: That’s what happens when you get old, you can’t remember. We started playing in ’87 probably and we played on and off into the mid 90’s.
John and Jeff: We did The Relics, Rik L Rik, Tin Pan Alley and then we did Curb and something else in between.
Bosco Calabro: I always have a connection between these two (John and Alfie) even before we were playing in D.I. together in a band, we were playing together. It is awesome that we are older now and get to do this for fun. We are back together playing rad music and writing new music. This record that is coming out is a collection of our old music and now we are preparing to record all of the new songs that we wrote together. This is just saying, “This is what we were, here’s a present, we like our album and hope you like it.”
By the Barricade: How did your band name come about?
John Knight: From a Fullerton guy named Jim Goodwin. When Bosco and I left D.I. and picked up Brad and Wade, who were in a band together. Bosco and I went out searching for a guitar and bass player. We saw them and migrated them from the band they were in and Jim gave us the name. He said, “I’ve had this name for years, Crash Kills Four and you guys are welcome to it.” Then he recorded us a couple of times in the 90’s. He worked at Paramount and some nice studios. He would get us in during the off hours. We would show up at one o’clock in the morning and record through the night; four songs real quick. One thing led to another and here it is.
By the Barricade: In your recent interview with Eric Blair for Blairing Out, you guys reference how this band is more about having fun rather than making it big because you do all have other lives. What is your day job or what do you do when you aren’t playing?
Mark Tolbert: I’m a headhunter. Companies assign me to find them engineers. He (John) was a headhunter for one day.
John Knight: It was funny because he came and did backing vocals for us on this record and while he was singing, I thought he should be singing lead. I talked to the fellows and then called him up. During the call I asked him what he did and he told me that he was a headhunter. I told him that was funny because that was what I was doing right then.
Mark Tolbert: I said, “Oh, are you?” He said, “Yeah, I’m hunting your head, right now.”
Jeff Milucky: I have a metal casting business. I make jet engines.
John Knight: I am a landscaper by day.
Alfie Agnew: I am a professor of mathematics at Cal State Fullerton
Bosco Calabro: It’s pretty much all music for me. Right now I am remodeling my house. It’s been under construction for quite a while. I’m not in a rush to fix it, stuff needs to be done, but other than that, its music. I have been gifted to where I don’t have to worry about certain things which I thank my father for. Other than that it is music, hanging out with my friends, going to the beach.
By the Barricade: You mentioned how it is different playing with this band now because you really don’t have to go out and try to make a name for yourself. What is it like to play because you know people want to see you?
Alfie Agnew: It is awesome. It’s a real advantage. Back in the real old days we had people who wanted to hear mostly because we were the background music for the party. Placentia, Fullerton, North Orange County was always happening. Every weekend there was something going on and there would be people who wanted music. Nowadays people want to go because they recognize some of the music, it’s cool.
By the Barricade: You have history and reputations and people want to check it out.
Alfie Agnew: We don’t have to work as hard as as we did in the past. There is some interest and it is nice.
Mark Tolbert: There are people who really liked what we did before and when we got together they were wondering what that would be like. We are fortunate that people do want to hear it, otherwise we would just be playing in a garage together.
Alfie Agnew: I remember for example when Johnny and Bosco and I were first in D.I., Casey (Royer) would have this big International Scout, it was a big SUV type of thing, before SUVs. We would get a couple of bottles of peppermint schnapps a bunch of flyers and a bunch of glue and paste Orange County with the flyers. You don’t really do that so much now. Of course you have the internet so you don’t need to do that.
Mark Tolbert: I have no idea. You don’t hear anything about expectations and that was never a concern anyway. These guys decided to record the songs that never were released. There were YouTube recordings and stuff, but we wanted to really record these songs. We don’t really give a shit what people think about. They wanted to record the songs at a high quality. It turned out that I am the most proud of this of any of the albums I have recorded before.
By the Barricade: The album contains some songs you have had for years. What is it like for you to look back at these songs having the life experience and perspective you have now?
Mark Tolbert It’s amazing for me because I was always a fan of what these guys were doing. I’ve been friends with Bosco since we were teenagers and we have been talking about being in a band since we were 18 or 19. I even stood in with D.I. for a show here and there. He and I have written songs together. For me this is really fulfilling. I was already a fan of these songs and I had them in my head. When they asked me to do them I instantly knew what I was going to do and I didn’t have to spend an incredible amount of time in the studio doing it.
John Knight: It’s not different to me, it’s just playing for me. I’ve been playing for 35 years so it’s just the same for me. Different songs, same deal; pluck on the strings.
By the Barricade: Crash Kills Four is considered by many to be a super group. If you had any super power what would it be and why?
John Knight: I would fly.
Jeff Milucky: I want to win the Lotto.
Mark Tolbert: I want to be able to shit money.
Bosco Calabro: What are you going to do if money is irrelevant. What are you going to do with all of the cash?
Mark Tolbert: Money is relevant. But if not it would just be the weird thing that I do.
Bosco Calabro: I would be superman. Here look (at this point he pulls his pants down just a bit to reveal that he is wearing superman underwear).
By the Barricade: Given your perspective of playing music through the years, what advice do you have for up and coming aspiring musicians and bands?
Mark Tolbert: Do what you do and keep it original and don’t do what you think the other people think will be cool. Don’t be a cookie cutter. Do what you do period.
John Knight: Just play. Have fun and play or don’t do it.
Bosco Calabro: If you are not having fun playing what are you doing it for?
Jeff Milucky: Go for it and play as much as you can. My 22 year old son is a drummer and actually plays a lot of instruments. It’s unfortunate for these kids today. They don’t have as many places to play as we did. Play in as many bands as you can and just have fun. Go for it.
By the Barricade: Anything else you would like to tell the readers of By the Barricade?
Jeff Knight: Come see our band. We think it’s a good band and these are all really old songs we are playing now. We are in the process of writing a bunch of new songs and they are ones we think are good and hope people will like them. Buy our record; it will be out in about 3 weeks.
By the Barricade: How will people be able to buy your record.
Jeff Mulicky: Come to our gigs and buy it. Five dollars for 15 songs, you can’t beat it.
Bosco Calabro: Music is awesome.
Alfie Agnew: Check out the new album. I hope you enjoy it. Come see us!