Got You Covered takes a look at the nominees in the Best Cover Band category of the Beijinger's 2015 Reader Bar & Club Awards (vote here through May 17). This time around we talk to Darryl Pestilence, guitarist for The Bastards of Imperialism, which primarily play originals but earned a nomination for their special occasion gigs when they pay tribute to some of those that have inspired them, such as classic 80s punks The Ramones, Roky Erikson, Jim Carroll Band, and notorious poop-slinger GG Allin.
The Bastards of Imperialism
The Lineup (many members go by nicknames professionally for personal reasons):
Kevin “Double-K" Kasal – Drums and vocals (American)
Pedro Pachak-Robi – Bass (American)
Longlong – Lead guitar (Chinese)
Darryl Pestilence – Rhythm guitar (American)
Sample Set List:
“I Think of Demons,” Roky Erikson
"People Who Died," Jim Carroll Band
"Bite It You Scum," GG Allin
"Gates of Steel," Devo
"Strychnine," The Sonics
Where you can see them next:
Tonight (May 8) at the Rynostock Music Festival at The Garage
May 15 at School Bar, as part of Luv Plastik’s EP release
May 21 at DDC, tribute to recently deceased friend and musical cohort Jonathan Sokoloff (100 percent of the proceeds going to the cost of sending his body back to the U.S. to be laid to rest)
June 6 at the Beijing Drunk Fest 2 at DMC
TBJ: What's the key to playing a good, faithful cover song?
Daryl Pestilence: Heart. There are bands that do the cover thing as a business. But The Bastards usually only do all covers on special occasions like Halloween or the 40th anniversary special for CBGB’s at DMC. At a regular show we might play three covers out of thirteen song set, comprised mostly of originals.
But the covers we do perform are songs that are near and dear to us, and intrinsic to what we're all about as a collective. We celebrate artists that matter to us and I'm pretty certain people coming to our shows are mostly unfamiliar with artists like Roky Erickson. We keep the torch lit and hopefully turn people on to artists like that.
I kind of despise the idea of a cover band in the traditional sense. They're commercial constructs. Bastards of Imperialism are not. We're not out there playing covers because we're there to collect rent or fun money. Every single cover we've included in our sets is something we want to play. Something beloved. We do hope people enjoy those covers, but to be blunt: we play what we want to play and with few exceptions we are doing it for us. If the audience is down with it, then even better! We have been very fortunate that Beijing has been very welcoming to us, so that has worked out for us. We're incredibly flattered to be considered for the nomination of best cover band, although I wasn't aware that we were nominated for an award until a friend pointed it out to me! That alone means somebody's noticed and appreciated what we do.
Video: The Bastards play GG Allin's "Bite It You Scum" at School Bar in this gig from last July
Which of the cover songs that you have played is the most challenging? How do you overcome that challenge?
We keep a lot of Ramones songs in our mix. A lot of the virtuosos out there dismiss their songs as being simple, but once you challenge these shredders and tell them to play it straight like Johnny Ramone, complete with everything on the down stroke and with all of the odd time changes, all of a sudden these Yngwie Malmsteens end up conceding that it's not as easy as they thought. The minimalism is lost on them. They wrongly assume that simplicity means “lack of talent,” not realizing there was a lot of thought put into those deceptive, three chord wonders.
Tell me about the joy of playing a cover song versus the joy of playing one of your originals.
I'd say familiarity, but most of the songs we cover are pretty obscure for locals. Every cover we do is selected because it means something to us. We're not pegging covers to kowtow to the audience. We play what we want because they're awesome songs we adore. It's out of joy and keeping the torch lit. So, the joy is in keeping the torch lit, and staying true to what made a particular cover so inspiring in the first place.
Has covering songs inspired or informed your original material?
They most definitely informed our original material. These are songs that turned us on to music, so like any musician learning an instrument you zero in on being able to play those songs you hold sacrosanct before you find your own style. I think it's cause-and-effect. These great songs made us want to play, so when I'm writing the music for our originals, it comes from all of those years and all of those records that informed my personal tastes. Lyrically: that's a different matter. Our original lyrics come from world events and my daily life.
You typically only do all cover shows for special events. What have those gigs been like?
The Halloween show was at Temple Bar was great because Kevin, our drummer, and I are big into Halloween. It's the one holiday we hold sacred. So, we wanted to do something special and in the spirit of the night. We comprised a set of horror-themed classics from the The Ramones, The Sonics, Gwar, and Roky Erickson & The Aliens. We also had our friends King Nekro (Guiguisuisui) and Spike Li (Demerit) performing with us. It was all about one big party, and getting the night set off right for our friends the Beijing Misfits, who performed nothing but Danzig-era originals with none other than Little Punk mightily slinging the verbals.
DMC held OMFUG-Fest in December to celebrate the anniversary of the birth CBGB-OMFUG. Most Chinese “tribute” shows are basically a band coming in and performing 90 percent originals and one or two token covers. Longlong, our lead guitarist, and I joined forces with Cedric from Devils at the Crossroad and we blitzkrieged through a dozen-plus Ramones classics. We consciously omitted the one bloody Ramones song lazy local punks only seem to know, “The KKK Took My Baby Away", and dug deep into their 20-plus year career for great songs most can't remember, or don't even bother to get to know, but genuine Ramones fans would know off the top of their heads. Our friends Spike Li and Zhao Kai (Bedstars) joined us on a couple of songs. It's not coincidental, either, that Bedstars would be the only other band on the card that went in and brought an entire set of genuine NY punk covers. Some of us take this stuff seriously. It's our “mass,” at the church of punk rock.
What’s next for the Bastards?
The next month is a big month for us because we're about to start working on our first album. We're also going to undergo a serious aesthetic change-up during the summer. Our music will be faster, darker, harder and meaner. Folks will have to check us out this fall to hear for themselves.
Follow along with all of our 2015 Reader Bar & Club Awards coverage here.
Images courtesy of the Bastards of Imperialism
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