The following interview with Reggie is from the September '95 issue of Beat Generation, published in Madrid, Spain and was originally printed in Spanish.
B.G.: Can you please talk about the bands you played in before forming the Beatnik Termites? I have the Reactions LP but I don't know about the other bands.
REGGIE: Pat's been in about a hundred bands. I was in a hard-core band, but I wasn't into the music too much and wanted to create a new sound, an original sound. When I met Pat at the university we had the same ideas; to add more elements of pop music. I had just heard the Descendents for the first time and was in love with this sound. We (the Termites that is) try to add as much pop and as much punk as possible, into every song...in just two minutes. A lot of critics say that we're too pop, but fuck it -- that's what we do.
B.G.: I think that you and Pat were studying at Case Western Reserve University when you were trying to form a band and that you met Brian through an ad in a record store, right?
REGGIE: Pat and I were studying at the local University. It's a geeky school and there were only a couple of punks who were students there, so we were a small group. We knew Brian's band the Reactions and they were a great pop band. When the Reactions broke up we asked their drummer Dave for Brian's phone number. We got together and talked about how much we loved the Ramones, and our sound was set...before we ever played a note together.
B.G.: Quickly you recorded your first record, a 12" mini LP with 7 songs and it was totally great, the sound and the songs. Why do you think you didn't get more success or media attention? Maybe because you didn't think very seriously about the band and put more interest in your studies?
REGGIE: Yeah, the 12 inch EP didn't get us much media attention. I think because it was a punk record, and punk is a sub-culture, not mainstream. Everyone thinks punks are a bunch of freaks. That was 1989-1990 and the popular sound at the time was that recycled disco and recycled hard-rock crap, only it was labeled "alternative" by the marketing guys at the at the major labels. We didn't fit into that scene because we're punk. Now with the success of Green Day the popular sound is "punk" and "power-pop" so there's more media and label interest in bands like the Termites. Fuck it. We don't care about such attention. We just want to play punk rock. Our fuel or catalyst has always been the fans not the music industry business. Punk music fans are the most loyal in the world. They love the music and will do anything for it. Punk is more than a style of music or a dress code. It's an attitude, a way of life (how's that for a clich?). There are people who come to every show that we play, no matter how far they have to drive or even if they have to call in sick from work or sneak out of the house without their parents knowing. There are people who search endlessly for our out of print records. These people keep us going. In that sense we are sort of elitists because we only like to have punks at our shows. Often there are curiosity seekers at our shows. People who hear our songs on the radio and think that they are going to go see a power-pop band. Then when they (the curiosity seekers) see us live they are appalled to learn that we are actually a punk band. There are a lot more of these people at our shows now that we're getting played on commercial radio. However, these people don't like punk so they end up hating the show.
B.G.: I haven't heard the bands that you were in prior to the Beatnik Termites, but I suppose that they weren't similar to the Beatnik Termites. How did you get that personal mix of surf and punk that made the Beatnik Termites sound?
REGGIE: I wouldn't say that we're a surf band. We're a punk band that plays pop songs. We just use some surf beats. I suppose that I've been influenced by every band that I've ever heard. When I was a kid I used to sit in front of the radio and stare at the speakers and listen for hours. I wasn't just listening but studying the music, attentively. I listened to music all the time when I was a kid. I never watched television. I suppose that the Termites aren't a very original band because I can point to every element in our music and tell you where it came from. For example, the surf element is in the drum beats. This was lifted from Bill Stevenson (Descendents, All). The guitar, well it's mostly lifted from the Ramones.
B.G.: The harmony vocals sound as much as the Beach Boys as Dion and all that early 60's "high-school sound".
REGGIE: Yeah, the harmonies are what make us different from most punk bands. Live we all three sing just about continuously so there are non-stop three part harmonies. The harmonies sound like mid-50s pop: Herman's Hermits, the Beach Boys. These are the same elements that the Ramones used when they first invented punk rock. I don't like it when I hear new bands that sound just like NoFX. It's punk rock twice removed from the original source. The Ramones are the fathers of punk rock.
B.G.: Talking about surf, one of the obvious components of your music is surf music, do you know or like modern surf bands like The Untamed Youth, The Boss Martins, The Surfing Lungs? And what do you think about the big amount of surf bands coming out lately? Are you familiar with such combos as Man Or Astroman?, Satan's Pilgrims, Impala, Phantom Surfers, The Tiki Men?
REGGIE: I've heard some of these names before but I've not heard any of these bands, sorry. I don't like instrumentals too much. We're all three into Agent Orange and JFA, but JFA is more of a hardcore band than a surf band.
B.G.: The other half of you is punk, but are/were you very deep into punk as fans? What do you prefer, the 70s punk (Ramones, Undertones, Buzzcocks) or the 80s hardcore (Descendents, Black Flag, TSOL, Circle Jerks)?
REGGIE: We love both 70s punk and 80s hardcore. The Ramones are, of course, our favorite band. It's difficult to imagine where music might be today if the Ramones hadn't revolutionized the direction of the entire music industry. There was hard rock like Black Sabbath, but it never would have evolved into heavy metal like Anthrax it wasn't for the Ramones. What I'm saying is that the Ramones were a punk band, but the impact that they had was much further reaching, even into heavy metal. They took pop songs and assaulted them with a brutal delivery.
B.G.: When you (Reggie) finished your studies you left Ohio and went to New Jersey to live. Did it seem the end of the band?
REGGIE: This isn't quite the way it happened. I moved to New Jersey after I finished my first degree at the University. I returned to study again and that's when we first got the band together and recorded the 12 inch EP. It was recorded in 89 and released in 90. A year later we released the "Ode to Susie and Joey" 7 inch. So there's been no interruption.
B.G.: But one year later you came back to Cleveland and the Beatnik Termites did started again and released the single "Termite Hop." Can you explain a little bit about this period? I don't see big differences between the 12" and the 7" (I think both are great.)
REGGIE: There's not much of a difference between any of our records. We still have the same goals for our sound as when we started.
B.G.: But for the following three years you didn't release anything except a couple of songs on compilations. Why? Not enough time for the and? Lack of interest or motivation?
REGGIE: It's difficult being a do it yourself band without any help or label support. Basically this means that we have to do everything ourselves and it's a lot of work...we pay for our own recording, buy blank tapes, get sequenced production masters, have them mastered, test pressings, have it pressed, send the shit back when it's fucked up, get artwork from the artist, get typesetting, have the artwork made into printing films, print the jackets, stuff the records, get distributors, shipping (I spend a lot of time and money at the post office), get a photographer, have photographs printed, book our own shows, keep track of and pay bills. Unfortunately this leaves little time for drinking beer and writing songs.
B.G.: What are your current occupations/jobs apart from the band? Is it difficult to have time to practice and play having stable jobs? Do you know you play in a "punk" band? Is it right that you (Reggie) are a chemical engineer, Pat a computer programmer, and Brian works at the Fire Department? Can you give a do-it-yourself guide to our readers to produce a poison (maybe Sarin gas like those folks in Japan) or an explosive at their houses and blown the town away?
REGGIE: I have a doctorate in chemistry. Pat is a computer consultant. Brian is a fire-fighter. You won't catch me running into any burning buildings. Where I work is a very conservative company...a bunch of white shirts walking around. These people don't really know or understand what punk rock is. It's boring and I hate it. The place is full of conservative ass-hole twits -- everyone climbing the corporate ladder. I want to shot my boss with a machine gun. Yeah, I've made explosives before. It's easy.
B.G.: Do you have any other hobbies apart from the band? Sports? Drinking beer? Pot? Surfing?
REGGIE: I'm into music and cinema. Mostly horror movies, but there has to be tons of bloodshed, violence and death. Zombies are cool. The Evil Dead I and II and Dead Alive are my favorite movies. Pat's too. Sports are for jocks who must prove that they have inflated testosterone levels in order to get laid by chicks with fluffy hair. Drinking beer, well of course. Pot, I prefer coffee. Never surfed but would love to try.
B.G.: Two of your records have Japanese-type cartoons, is it a coincidence? Do you like "Manga" comics? Do you like other types of comics?
REGGIE: We're going to keep putting cartoons on our covers. I guess the two Japanese style cartoons are a coincidence because they were done by two different artists. But I'm sure you'll see more of it in the future.
B.G.: What can you tell us about the Cleveland scene? Lots of bands and clubs to play? We only know a few bands over here. Like The Gaunt, New Bomb Turks, Cowslingers?
REGGIE: For many years there was nothing in the Cleveland scene. In the past few years it's exploded with great new bands like The Unknown, Dreyfus and 30 Lincoln to mention only a few. In Cincinnati there are the Twerps, the Slobs, Tugboat and the Connie Dungs. There are some great new clubs in Cleveland like Speak in Tongues. It's very exciting right now.
B.G.: You have appeared on several compilations, but I think the most important one has been "Punk USA," I think it'll make lots of people to know and love the band.
REGGIE: Punk USA on Lookout Records has certainly been the largest exposure that we've gotten. Now the Shredder Records compilation is getting a lot of exposure.
B.G.: This compilation is supposed to be made by Ben Weasel. Were you approached directly from him? He use to be more into hard and political punk than pop stuff, do you think you fit well with bands barking "fuck police" and this kind of stuff?
REGGIE: The first time I heard Screeching Weasel was the "My Brain Hurts" album and it blew me away. What a great fuckin' record. So I sent them one of our 7 inches just to be friendly and all. A few weeks later Screeching Weasel played Cleveland and I introduced myself to them. This is when Ben asked us to be on Punk USA. It was very much his project, not Lookout Records. Yeah, I agree that we kind of stick out on the compilation as being out of place. Our song there is very pop.
Yeah, Ben's more into pop lately that political hardcore. We opened for the Riverdales and Mr. T Experience last week when they came through Cleveland, and the Riverdales are certainly more pop than Screeching Weasel...closer to the "Rocket to Russia" era Ramones sound.
B.G.: You suffered in your own flesh (well, pockets and wallets) a ticket for playing too loud in a club. Can you tell us about it? I think it must be the first time in the world the band gets tickets instead of the club.
REGGIE: The Cleveland Heights police are fascist and will write a ticket for anything. It seems that the police were trying to get at the club so they came one night to write tickets and we just happened to be playing, so we got the tickets. We had to go to court and the law says that any noise that can be heard over 50 feet away is "disturbing the peace." So we were found guilty of disturbing the peace and playing "excessively loud".
B.G.: And this year you released finally your first album. I think that you pay the recording and you released the record by yourselves, right? What can you tell us about the sound, the songs are you happy with it? Are you getting good reviews, more shows, offers to record records?
REGGIE: We did everything ourselves. I'm sure it would have came out a lot better if there was someone willing to help us but no one was interested. We recorded that over 2 years ago and it's just now being released. The sound quality is too flat. And it doesn't have enough attitude. That's how the next record will be different.
We get good and bad reviews. Whatever. Who cares. The music is what it is. It's not for everyone. Some people like this style of music and some don't. You don't have to like it. We're not gonna change. This is what we do.
B.G.: You have recently released a split single with the Parasites, could them be one of the closest bands to the Termites? What are the bands you feel are similar to the Beatnik Termites, you think fit with you for example to play gigs with? Maybe this kind of bands like the Queers, the Vindictives, Screeching Weasel, Bracket?
REGGIE: Yeah, these are good comparisons. I absolutely love every band that you've listed.
B.G.: One of the songs on the album is slightly different to the rest of the songs: "Angel Saw Reggie's Dick." What can you tell us about it? There's also this new song on the Parasites split in the same punk/HC vein, but even though I'm still thinking you are very pop (in the good meaning of
the term) so you agree?
REGGIE: We have both pop and punk songs, and some songs that combine both. Like I said, we try to put as much pop and as much punk as possible into every song. However, in general I think that we are more pop than most punk bands.
B.G.: You played with Green Day about one year ago, what do you think about them and their success, etc? I mean, do you like them as a band and as people, what do you think about them selling millions of records and about their influence in the industry and the audience?
REGGIE: I (like a lot of punks) have liked the Green Day records on Lookout for many years. What Green Day has now done to open the minds of the masses is fantastic. Five years ago everyone thought the Termites pop-punk sound was too different or to weird. Now people can relate to it because
it's not so foreign. They have something to compare it too, and that's cool.
Green Day is an excellent example of how the music industry works to manufacture a hit. If the radio and MTV pound it into the heads of the masses by playing it again and again then they (the masses) begin to like it even if it does sound different from say Garth Brooks or Whitney Houston. The masses are force fed the music that the major labels decide to promote relentlessly by playing over and over again. It begins to sound "normal" after you hear it so many times. These people (the masses) aren't capable of forming their own opinions on if they like a band or not. They only take what the music industry force feeds them. And they never search out good music by less known bands. Our show with Green Day was a great time. It was sold-out at 20,000 people and Green Day rocked. A lot of punks in the audience but also a lot of hillbillies, hicks, jocks and red-necks. Like I said, we're sort of elitists in the fact that we only like playing to punks 'cause they're really into the music. They live for it; punk, it's a way of life (oh, clich? again, sorry). I like Green Day but I see them as just another good pop-punk band. I think that the Queers' "Love songs for the Retarded" is a better record than any record that Green Day has released. I suppose it should have been someone more deserving like the Descendents/All to bring pop-punk to the masses. Green Day would never exist if it weren't for the Descendents or the Ramones. My goal (an ambitious one) for the Termites is to think that we've influenced the direction of future rock and roll, like the Ramones did. I want people to see us and then be motivated to go start up new bands themselves, to make original music.
B.G.: It seems there is an increasing interest in the Beatnik Termites in Europe, first in Germany because of the Get Happy single and now the Spanish vinyl version of the LP maybe more interest than in the USA? What do you think of starting to get popular in Europe?
REGGIE: There's a lot more interest in the Termites in Europe than in the USA. Get Happy in Germany has two singles. Rock and Roll, Inc in Spain now has the vinyl version of the LP. No Tomorrow also in Spain is gonna have a single in a few months.
I think it's because in general there's a more liberal attitude in Europe, whereas the US is very conservative. Our music is viewed as "too different" in the US simply because it hasn't been played over and over again. If you've never been to the US you can't understand how conservative it is here. For example, there's never any nudity in print or on television. Whereas in Italy a porn-film star can run for political office.
B.G.: What do you know about Spain? (I mean, about music and about everything.)
REGGIE: Shock Treatment has been my favorite discovery in years! What a great fuckin' band. We must all bow down and pay tribute to the Ramones. The Ramones are rock icons to be worshipped.
B.G.: If there's anybody who have read this interview and still doesn't have an idea about the kind of band the Beatnik Termites are he must be dumb, but can you explain for them in a few words/lines what kinda band the Beatnik Termites are, "philosophy," etc?
REGGIE: We play very short, very simple pop song with lots of vocal harmonies. The kind that you can swear you've heard before. But there are two distinctly different aspects to the music: the songwriting and the delivery of the songs. The delivery of the songs is clearly punk, especially live.
B.G.: Thanks for wasting your time with us, and if you want to close with anything it's your opportunity.
REGGIE: We're gonna continue to record new songs in the same style regardless of any lack of music industry success. And regardless of any trends. We were playing this style of music before the current pop-punk trend, and we'll continue after the trend passes.