Shaun Kama & The Kings of the Wild Frontier is just the latest incarnation of the many musical faces of Shaun Kama. He’s been in a number of bands on the West Coast over the years (Damnation, Bloodjunkies, The Living End), but his latest project reveals this songwriter’s soul in a way that his previous punk and metal acts did not. I spoke with Shaun one lazy summer afternoon, as he cooked himself some ribs. We hit it off immediately and our chat often went off on tangents- particularly when talking about films- so here’s an abbreviated version of our talk.
I’m going to put you on speaker phone…
…there’s going to be a delay, so you’ll have to say ‘over’ when you’re done- I’m just kidding. It’ll be like The Shining with Shelley Duval, ‘Over!.”
You know, I actually just saw that movie for the first time a few weeks ago.
For the first time ever?! What did ya think? I mean, that was probably the best adaptation of it, wouldn’t you say?
Oh yeah, it was the best adaptation of just about any Stephen King novel.
Cool, yeah, I thought so, too. With the exception of maybe Misery.
No! You’re right! That was awesome… I forgot that he had (written it)… it’s not really a horror story.
So you like a lot of horror movies?
Yeah, I’m down with that stuff, I do. I just like movies, you know what I mean? There’s just a lack of good horror movies- most of the shit they come out with is pretty lame… I’m trying to think of what the last one was that was kind of ‘ok.’ Well, you know, it got mixed reviews, but what I thought was kind of cool and the premise was really cool except they fucked up on the ending was that movie Hostel. Have you seen that yet?
I haven’t seen it yet- I heard that it was really hard to watch, just in terms of the ‘fucked-up-ness’.
Well, it’s kind of fucked up like that, but it’s not as graphic as people would make it out to seem. I mean, they did a lot of cut-away shots, so it’s not as much like a Saw movie where you see them doing all the shit- they’re pretty graphic in Saw. This wasn’t as much like that, but the premise is really trippy. I won’t wreck the ending for you, but I wasn’t into it- the very, very ending… I think you should see it, and when you do you can tell me if you think I’m crazy, or you can agree with me.
Your music has kind of an old rock ‘n’ roll feel to it, do you feel like you were born in the wrong era?
No. I don’t think that, but I do take influence from a lot of different kinds of music, and just things in general. You know how you were saying you see a lot of movies and stuff? You want to stay, like, stimulated. I like to stay stimulated artistically and musically. It’s such a fast society that you almost have to… it takes almost everything to stay interesting… I love all that old stuff though, man. I love when I find new stuff though. I wish there was more of it.
Have you found anything new, recently, that you like?
Fuck, I heard this band yesterday and I can’t remember what the fuckin’ name of it is. It was some crazy, eclectic music… ah, man, what were they called? Circa…? Circa of something, like Circa 76 or something like that. It was certainly something to listen to. It’s not eclectic like The Residents- like not weird, acidy stuff… In fact, the dude, the guy who sings with the band really sounded almost
like a woman, like he had that almost Geddy Lee kind of voice, but more of a girl. It was kind of interesting- I was like, “It’s a guy? yeah, it’s a guy.” Unfortunately most of the shit I listen to is older. I’ve always liked Oingo Boingo a lot. Sam (“Sluggo” Phipps) plays on the album (Dear Scarecrow) so I had to go back and get some stuff just to kind of look at that picture again and shit because I had it when I was in high school. It was great to hear that stuff again. I went back on this 80’s throwback thing. Ya know, I’ve always played that first big release from N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton, I’m not saying this is an influence- we’re getting a little bit away, but- I remember listening to almost exclusively punk rock at that time… fuck! Can you hang on a second, my ribs are gonna burn, sorry ‘bout that…
That’s ok, man.
…so, yeah, I was listening to punk rock exclusively and when I heard that album I thought, “This is more punk rock than anything I’ve been listening to!” After that, all of the sudden, I became a bigger fan of music as a result of that. I was like, “Fuck, if this can be cool! I should try to be a bit more open minded and see what else was cool,” and the floodgates just opened up. I was like a meth addict.
I’ve gotten into debates with people about how the beginning of rap was incredibly punk rock in its time. I’m not a fan of rap, by any means, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the attitude and the voice.
Yeah! They were saying something that was really different. Punk rock was all about WWIII and “fuck Reagan” and all that, and that just got pretty cliche after awhile. And these guys were actually saying, “Fuck the police, and I am dealing drugs- what’cha gonna do about it?” And at the time you don’t know how much is real and how much is part of the game. You forget sometimes, when you’re younger, that people are real- ya know, they do real stuff… And those guys, they made lots of money during that time on labels, they had to be business savvy. They weren’t gangsters all day long. Who else I’ve always loved is Tom Petty & the
Heartbreakers, they’re one of my favorites. I’d love to go on tour with them before they stop touring. I heard that this may be one of the last tours, coming up. I heard that, I might be wrong.
I always wonder, years from now, who will be the bands who have stuck around.
You just never know. Who’s gonna OD, or break up because of ego… have a bus run over them like the wicked witch, I don’t know. I was really tough on Metallica, they were a really awesome band back when they first put out Ride The Lightning. When I first heard them I was blown away, they really reminded me of English metal. A band like The English Dogs but with a more Danzig-y vocal… I lost interest around “One.”
That whole Napster thing really just put the nail in the coffin for them.
I can see, from an artist’s point of view, where they were coming from, but they just went about it all wrong. It’s like, you’ve got people around you whose job it is to be the bad guy so that it doesn’t affect your fanbase… You can appreciate “I’m a stand-up guy and I’m gonna do it myself,” but it just fucked up their fanbase in the end. That and, ya know, not writing good songs for awhile didn’t help either.
Speaking of digital technology and computers in general, what’s your opinion on how technology is changing how kids discover new music?
The one side of it is that anyone can get your shit and maybe you won’t get paid, but the other side of it is anyone can get your shit– period! They can hear your stuff all over the fuckin’ world, simultaneously and that’s pretty amazing. It’s one thing when you’re established and you’re making a whole lot of money, maybe it makes some sort of difference to you, but what about the kid bands that are just getting out of the garage and they’re trying to kick ass? If they want to be pretty savvy, which pretty much most kids are just blowing me away with (internet technology)… it’s great!
If you could go back in time to see any concert in history, who would you see?
Oh fuck! Can I just put a lineup together?
Ok, your dream lineup.
Let’s start off with Cash and Petty. And it’d be cool to see T-Rex, and the Stones when they started off. And I’ve never been to a rap concert because they always seem to end in a freakin’ gunfight, but N.W.A. and Public Enemy back in the day before all this reality tv goofy stuff… Slayer’s good any day of the week, and the Dead Kennedys’ original lineup. Nick Cave. Yeah, that’s enough. I could go on for days, but that’s a pretty good lineup… Wait! And Queen, all original lineup! That’s Kama-fest 666.
What’s the first concert you ever went to?
I got to see Cash WHEN I was really young… Then the first concerts I was allowed to go to on my own were like early punk shows. I had moved, with my mom, from Albany, NY to Huntington Beach, CA and she’d drop me off in downtown L.A. when I was 14, 15 to see a punk show- back when punk was still pretty scary. I think back now and that was pretty fuckin’ sketchy, that area wasn’t even as developed as it is now. I’m started to date myself now, this is an interview, right? (old man voice) Back in 1962… So punk was really just starting to catch on. The guy that ran Golden Voice hadn’t gotten busted yet for pot so he was still doing shows, and the shows had thousands of people showing up. Kind of like the Warped Tour, in these small places. It’d be lawsuit city today.
I saw a lot of bands back then. A lot of the bands I got to play with when I was in Damnation and The Living End- the two punk bands I was in- bands I grew up listening to I became peers with… After I had pretty much played with everyone I had ever wanted to play with, that was when I got a bit burnt out on doing superfast punk.
So now you’re taking things in a different direction?
…I got to the point that I’d have interesting ideas for songs lying around that didn’t really fit into a two-minute fast metal, blood-spitting song. And I wanted to play guitar, and get that side out. I was doing punk, punk, punk and these other songs would build up and you’d know some of ‘em were really fuckin good but what do you with them? Give ‘em to other people? Then you just kind of wake up one day and realize, “Hey, this is what I really want to do now.” It’s nothing against what you used to do, because it’s still you, but on a creative level I’m feeling a little more fulfilled right now. It’s time to do this for awhile. It’d be cool to form a trippy, industrial project too if I had unlimited time and resources, just to do a Ministry/freakout- just to do something scary. There’s nothing scary anymore.
Yeah, there’s nothing shocking, as they said back then on the Jane’s album. Manson pushed it about as far as you could about six years ago, but what the fuck’s left? Gangster rap’s as hard as it can be. Maybe fuckin pigs with bagpipes or something, but even that seems tame. Like Cradle of Filth meets Korn or something.
Last question, then I’ll let you go eat your ribs. It’s a big question, so bear with me: What’s the greatest rock song ever written?
Oh, god, these broad fuckin questions with you?!.. You know what’s a really good one is “Surrender” by Cheap Trick. That stands the test of time! Fuck, there’s so many though. There has to be a Stones song in there. A lot of people would say Led Zeppelin, but I never did like Robert Plant’s voice in that period of time, so I’m gonna have to not say any Zep… A Queen song would be in there too, cause they wrote just above and beyond how anybody writes right now… I’ll just leave it at “Surrender” right off the top. That’s a good one, right?
That’s a very good one.
Good. I got like an 8.5 score.
Thanks so much for your time.
I appreciate it! When we come out that way we’ll do an encounter.