Los Angeles punks Maniac play short, sharp, catchy as hell songs on their new album Dead Dance Club that will have you bopping around like a spaz. This is the soundtrack to sunny summer days and cold, rainy nights, for the disaffected youth in all of us, songs that make you want to live another day, grow a huge mohawk and say fuck the world. If this was 1978 they’d be Gods.
Maniac would be on the covers of magazines from the UK, like the ones that used to be sought after at record stores, the indie stores with the bumper stickers on shelves, posters on the walls. Kids would wear their denim jackets with MANIAC patches proudly stitched into the backs, smirks on their oily faces like they couldn’t wait to get back home and blast their new Maniac 7″ single. Maniac’s fans would tail-gate in the club parking lots before the shows, the Maniac sets a single mosh pit filled with beer-sweat and smiling faces. Their videos for Precision Accuracy and City Lights are safe to watch at work too. Trust me. Justin “JM” Maurer took time off their West Coast tour to answer my dumb questions.
Who are some of your favorite bands? How have they helped shape you into the people you are or reflect your personalities?
Tough question but here goes: Germs, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Ramones, Richie Valens. When I was a kid punk rock became my religion. That’s such a stupid basic answer. I wish everything was as good as Ennio Morricone or Van Halen but it’s not. Growing up, music gave me confidence. I was a skinny runty kid who got beat up a lot. By the time I got into high school I was strutting around in spray painted thrift store clothes and playing in multiple bands. My first tour was when I was 15 and for better or worse I haven’t turned back yet.
As kids were you into punk rock? I imagine you guys as kids scaring your friends and family with your musical tastes.
Yes. My mom is deaf so I only scared her with my fashion choices. The only record I actually remember playing that offended my dad was NWA‘s Straight Outta Compton, on CD. He said, “How can you play this in front of your little brother?” My Grandma gave me the Beatles Help one year for Christmas. She said, “Back in my day, this is what they called Rock N Roll.” I still love that album. She also told me, “One time in DC I was drunk off my ass and danced on top of Chubby Checker’s piano. By God, he was chubby!”
Has this sound been in all of your heads since the beginning of the band and how is Maniac different or the same as your previous bands?
The sound is 4 personalities coming together and it happens to be good, thankfully! Most of my previous bands have had only 1 songwriter, so this is the most collaborative band relationship to date.
What has the fan reaction been to your music? What is a Maniac show like? Lots of sweat, blood, smiles?
LA bands tend to have a really tough time in LA. Our best crowd reactions to date have been in Germany, Spain, Canada, and the Pacific Northwest. The ones sweating, bleeding, and smiling are the ones onstage.
What cities have the most enthusiastic audiences?
Madrid, Basque Country, Berlin, Hamburg, Eastern Europe. (In previous bands we had some raw enthusiasm out of the audiences in Mexico and Brazil).
You’re touring the West Coast right now. Where are some of your favorite places to visit? Are there any people, places you go see when you’re touring that make the travelling and long hours easier to deal with?
Love visiting Portland and Vancouver BC. Also enjoy visiting the Bay area! Really looking forward to catching up with old friends and old flames.
Modern Love just gives me chills. It’s a bit darker and slower than the other songs. I can hear this song being played behind a disaffected youth moment in a movie like Nicholas Cage drinking away his frustrations in Valley Girl while A Million Miles Away is playing. Were you or are you still the outsiders looking for a tribe? Is Maniac a way to express your feelings and views on the world?
I’m definitely a man without a tribe. No one from nowhere. Music has always been a fantastic medium for me to express feelings and I’m lucky to have it as an outlet.
Children of the Dirt has a thrilling guitar part towards the end. Are any of you trained in your instruments or did you just bang it out in a garage annoying your neighbors until you felt good enough to put the songs on tape? I think that’s the beauty of Punk and Rock’n’Roll in general, that anyone can do it.
Captain Andrew Zappin is the one laying down the thrilling guitar part you speak of. He’s an animal. I believe he’s a self-trained animal, but I’ll let him speak for himself. My Uncle John showed me a couple of chords on the guitar when I was 11 years old and I’ve been at that skill level ever since.
When you’re not making music what other things do you enjoy doing with your time? I play and talk about music all the time, but you guys don’t want to do music all the time, do ya?
I love Latin languages, wine, women, song, and exploring LA’s richly diverse culinary underbelly. Just watch the Jonathan Gold documentary, “City Of Gold”, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
What plans do you have to take over the world in the future? Touring other countries, festivals, more awesome records?
Hopefully East Coast US in the fall, Europe again in 2019 and Japan and Australia in the foreseeable future. We already have some killer new material, so I look forward to working on more tunes and unleashing them on the world. Thank you for the interview, really appreciate it Bret!
(By Bret Miller)
James Carman – Drums
Justin Maurer – Guitar/Vox
Zache Davis – Vox/Bass
6/16 – Lay Low Tavern, Portland, OR w/ Bloodtypes & Public Eye
6/17 – The Valley, Tacoma, WA
6/18 – Boscoes, Bellingham, WA
6/19 – Astoria, Vancouver, B.C.
6/20 – Funhouse, Seattle, WA w/ Brain Drain, The Middle Ages & Donzis
6/21 – Black Water, Portland, OR w/ The Stops & Dark/Light
6/22 – Siren’s Song Tavern, Eureka, CA
7/14 – Alex’s Bar, Long Beach, CA w/ Neighborhood Brats
7/19 – Cafe Nela, Los Angeles, CA w/ Talkies & Mean Jolene
8/1 – Hi Hat, Los Angeles, CA w/ Wimps