We’re stoked to be able to bring you the worldwide streaming premiere of Pug Skullz debut full length.
This one is personal, but I’ll leave the full disclosure to guitarist/vocalist Doug Skullz (below). I will say that Doug has been with 50third from the beginning, before the beginning actually, as Doug was one of the original BlipFM crew from which 50third was born.
Pug Skullz are a three-piece band from Northern California. They play punk rock steeped in the California hardcore of Circle Jerks, Wasted Youth, Decry, Channel 3, Dr. Know, and Social Unrest with raging guitars and massive sing along choruses.
Lyrically, even though Pug Skullz have more than a few words for the man, they mix politics with commentary on social issues, religion, and the fragility of life. Serious stuff, but it is delivered with a sense of hope and promise similar to the positive ideals of 7 Seconds. It’s easy to write an angry song eviscerating the enemy, it’s harder and more thoughtful to try to understand them.
Trevor – Drums
Jarade -Bass & vocals
Doug – Guitar & vocals
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Doug has provided us with a track by track for the bands’ debut:
50THIRDAND3RD’s editor, Cribs, asked for a song by song breakdown of the debut LP by our band, Pug Skullz. I want to do this right, so, what do they call it? Full disclosure, I think. I am Doug Gaylord, Doug Skullz from Pug Skullz, also known as ElDorkoPunkRetro on this site, 50THIRDAND3RD.com (as well as Blip.fm). I have written a few pieces on bands and the music industry for this site, because of fairly intense internet relationships that developed during a couple of years of interaction on the Blip site.
These friendships, especially with Ben and Stephen, opened my eyes to the power of the internet as a tool to bring niche interest groups together, which could translate to power, collaboration or just fascinating discussions and sharing. I suppose one could argue that our virtual meeting has resulted in all of the above, all with no monetary exchange.
I have only met a few people in my life who have fallen so fully in love with rocknroll as I have. Every one of those friendships is alive and will be until one of us dies. To be able to have a conversation where, in one breath, the person can mention Eddie Cochran, The Humpers, Poison 13 and Cheap Trick…and make a strong point that resonates with your soul, you know there’s something worth holding onto. I have that kind of relationship with the people who started this site and a lot of the writers…the love of music, our collective ‘music junkie-dom’, is what makes this site so great.
It’s really an honor to have the opportunity to have Pug Skullz music appear on this site. That said…I’m going to give a little info on each track, in order of appearance on the new LP (12” black vinyl on Squatter’s Inc.). Unless you live within a couple of miles from my place in the woods, you can only hear this at 50THIRDAND3RD today…I hope you enjoy it.
Track 1: Intro/Corporate Agenda
My 18 year-old daughter has been to a couple of Pug Skullz shows, so she knows what we sound like. When I popped Bruce’s (Kingsley Recordings, Los Angeles) final mix onto the car stereo and the ‘Intro’ came on she said something like, “Oh, this sounds like real music…”
What it is just a wandering series of semi-discordant notes that I happened on before I knew there would be a band. I liked it, it leads us into ‘Corporate Agenda’, lyrics written by our bass player, Jarade Lucca. It serves as a nice introduction to our stance on big business and the war machine. When I first came up with the riff, I thought it sounded like country western music, but with the band, Trevor’s percussive speed and Jarade’s vocal delivery, it became much more of a hardcore punk tune. I hear it as a call to self-reliance and a rejection of greed and avarice.
“…it’s a common theme in a lot of the songs I write, because I think about this stuff all the damn time. How can humanity be so slow to evolve when we’ve got such powerful minds? Why do we actively ignore the deeper questions of life?”
Track 2: Truth Is…
OK, so, we went over to Jay Tausig’s place to record a five song EP. We wanted something better than we were able to pull out of the gear in our rehearsal space, and Jay is the top-notch guy around here. He got us all set up and after a couple of test runs his kindergarten age daughter asked for lunch…he told us he’d be back in a bit, but that we should just play all of the songs until we were happy and he’d separate the best tracks later. That’s how we ended up with this 14 song LP! We just kept playing our set list until he returned from making soup and sandwiches for her.
Anyway, ‘Truth Is…’, is a wake up call of another sort. It starts off addressing our enforced inability to actually tackle the problems created by the structures of power and our way of life, while asking us to question the fundamental nature of the reality we’re living in. I suppose it’s a common theme in a lot of the songs I write, because I think about this stuff all the damn time. How can humanity be so slow to evolve when we’ve got such powerful minds? Why do we actively ignore the deeper questions of life?
Track 3: World Destroyer
I think this was the first song Jarade and I collaborated on both the music and the lyrics. I came to practice with the main riff, but didn’t have a chorus figured out. We jammed until the obvious, simple solution presented itself and decided to each write a verse and chorus to see how it would sound with either one of us singing. Turned out we liked both and it created something of a call and response between an anguished mind and something deeper, perhaps wiser and more disturbing. I think of it as The Addict vs Kali the Destroyer, but I’ve heard other interpretations.
Song 4: Nullify Your Mind
Another look into the face of addiction and how societal pressures damage the individual. The call and response aspect is present here, too, with a call to the demons and a response asking us to step out of our personal hell and recognize how the harm we do to ourselves spreads to those around us and the world. For some reason, this song is the hardest one for me to play. I tend to get cramps in my fretting hand because of improper playing and repetitive movements. I always look forward to the relief of the chorus…kind of a metaphor within a metaphor.
Song 5: Smoke
I find ‘Smoke’ to be empowering, where most people would only see nihilistic negativity. This was one of our first songs and I still really like it. It started off as something else and I let that go, which then became the point of the song. I think we’ve got about five different versions of this recorded from over the years. Anyway, if we fail to recognize the temporary nature of our existence, we’re left tilting at windmills and screaming at walls.
Song 6: 13th Step
The first 12 Step program hit the world in the first half of the last century. Because of its power to help people recover from a hopeless state of body and mind, it’s grown exponentially. Some people are sicker than others…some people prey upon the vulnerabilities of those seeking help and add in a destructive 13th Step.
This is the only song, so far, that Jarade and I have actually sat down together and hashed out lyrics. It’s kind of a story song, but the characters are in every city and town around the world. Like the majority of our songs, the riff is just something that came out of hours of mindless bashing on my guitar until notes start to fit together.
“We have so many levels of consciousness that we glide through each day that I’d hate to impose my view of what this song is about. With the decades old rise of fascism in my home country, the police state has always been a concern. It’s a great metaphor for almost anything that seeks to assert dominance over our lives and thought processes.“
Song 7: Police State of Mind
We have so many levels of consciousness that we glide through each day that I’d hate to impose my view of what this song is about. With the decades old rise of fascism in my home country, the police state has always been a concern. It’s a great metaphor for almost anything that seeks to assert dominance over our lives and thought processes. I heard another song with this chord progression and started experimenting with it…they sound nothing alike, but it’s worth mentioning that there is nothing new in this world. There are a limited number of notes, a limited number of breaths each of us will take and a limit to how long the human species will exist. I’m just happy I got to live through the birth, adolescence and adulthood of the greatest political art movement of our species. End Side A.
Song 8: Meat Bee
A look into the psyche of the most aggressive bees you’ll ever encounter. I believe they’re yellow jackets, and, I’m telling you, if you’ve got a sandwich, these little creeps are on it and making your life a living hell. I think it might have a very well concealed statement to make about a significant portion of the testosterone driven members of the human population, but you didn’t hear that from me. Jarade sings this with the conviction of a thousand meat bees.
Song 9: The Crucifixion of Pussy Riot
This is one of our oldest songs…so old, in fact, that I originally released it under the name of my old band, El Dorko. Because the plight of Pussy Riot was resolved, it felt awkward putting it out on this album, but it was an active part of the set we were playing at the time. I think the pro-feminist/pro-freedom of expression, and anti-theocracy/anti-fascist themes kept it alive for us. I rationalized it that way right up until a couple of months ago when two more members of the group were kidnapped by the Russian State. They have a theocratic State problem…we have a theocratic State problem. Once again, we must free ourselves of the conditioning of powerful forces, or lose our freedom.
Song 10: Children of a Civilized World
I suppose all of our songs kinda wear their hearts on their sleeves. I try not to be so overt in my lyrics that I’m just spouting political slogans, but I do want to be clear enough, occasionally, that what I’m saying isn’t misunderstood. This is probably our slowest song. I think it’s got the right tone to carry the message of how our lifestyle ripples through other people’s lives in horrendous ways. The hypocrisy we’re forced to live with if we want to have a decent life is soul shattering when we’re willing to look at and understand the connection between our war nourished, consumer culture and suffering at home and around the planet.
Song 11: Rodeo
Here’s what Jarade has to say about this song: “A reminder we’ve had relationships end before. Understanding that it’s up to us to maintain our well-being and not put the blame on others. Not holding a grudge.Taking advantage of past mistakes to deal with things differently this time.”
It’s another introspective beast of a song with lyrics composed and sung by Jarade. Through the metaphor of a rodeo, he explores the angst and misery we can create for ourselves with our own minds, actions and life choices. We’ve been playing this since the beginning, but unlike my qualms about our Pussy Riot song, this one’s not tied to historical events…it’s a timeless theme wrapped up in the interplay of rural America’s daredevil characters.
Track 12: Fear the Freak
Something about the totally unexpected election of Donald Trump spurred a slew of songs outta my pen. I think two made it through the cut. The first was called ‘Oompahloompah’, which I play with Curse of Cretins. The other is ‘Fear the Freak’. Donald is not the freak in this show…he’s only peripherally involved, because the song is written to his supporters about us. “Us’ being those who don’t fit into the tragic agenda our self-professed right-wing brothers and sisters seem to want. We’re the freaks and their minds just wish we’d just go away and die already. There’s this certain mindset, many use the word ‘closed’, but it seems more automated than that to me, in people who never question their own beliefs. They seem to get reactive out of unconscious fears brought up by race, physical appearance, gender identification or those who express questioning thoughts. They can’t understand how a person could have a moral compass without a belief in the God of the Bible and they just want to go back to when America was great…for them.
“I remember writing a nasty email to one of the most disgusting corporations in this world when the internet first came out. I signed it “Your Enemy,” realizing full well that it would be seen, cataloged and used against me if the need ever arose.”
Track 13: Tame, Domestic Post
I’m not sure it’s true, but this feels like our fastest song. It’s a holdover from the Obama years, but the theme is near universal to human experience. The surveillance State is not a Republican or Democrat issue. Both Parties are so engulfed within the paradigm of corporate governance that it’s rare to have a politician that will even pretend to value the welfare of citizens. There is very little publicly stated from our elected officials regarding anything technological. Tech seems to be the driving force of our culture, but we have very little say in the direction it grows. It’s so shiny and friendly and new through our screens, but even those of us who have an inkling of what’s going on in the backside don’t seem to really believe there’s an imminent danger. I remember writing a nasty email to one of the most disgusting corporations in this world when the internet first came out. I signed it “Your Enemy,” realizing full well that it would be seen, cataloged and used against me if the need ever arose. From the beginning the data gathering of spies was obvious to me, but I made a decision, maybe a stupid one, that I would espouse my beliefs of what is true, right and good, while exposing and vilifying those humans and institutions on the wrong side of the future.
Track 14: This Is Your Life
OK, so when Trevor joined the band, we’d already written about three-quarters of the music that appears on this album. I don’t know if many bands have gone through as many drummers as we have, but the difference in styles is mind-boggling. Even the simplest beat has that drummer’s style wrapped up in it. Jarade and I always seem to have a hard time locking in with a new drummer, so we asked Trevor to pull back and simplify his playing on the older songs when he first joined. The new songs were different, he should take them in any direction he wanted, since we’d all be learning them together. By the time we recorded this, he’d made all of them his own, intensified everything, but his signature is totally embedded in the newer songs.
I don’t think our songs take a literature degree to understand. Sometimes there are a lot of words to remember, and sometimes there are just a few. I understand the theories behind repetition, but it always feels like such a cop-out when I’m writing. I feel like I need to try to illuminate whatever subject from as many angles as I see it from. At the same time, when I look back at the lyrical structure of a band like the Dead Kennedys, I see a strength in repetition at their beginning, which, by the time ‘Bedtime for Democracy’ came out had become a weakness, along with forced metaphors and overt political rants.
“This is Your Life’ has layers to it. It’s written to help illuminate the fact that each of us have this one life to live and that we need to step up to our responsibilities as we move through it, so as to guarantee those who follow might have a chance at freedom. In my view, we’ve been failing at this task. Left and right have fallen for the trap of ideology over community and we’re stuck living under the whims of the rich and their enforcement teams as their scheme collapses.”
I think we’re still riding the good side of that line. ‘This is Your Life’ has layers to it. It’s written to help illuminate the fact that each of us have this one life to live and that we need to step up to our responsibilities as we move through it, so as to guarantee those who follow might have a chance at freedom. In my view, we’ve been failing at this task. Left and right have fallen for the trap of ideology over community and we’re stuck living under the whims of the rich and their enforcement teams as their scheme collapses.
So, there are not a lot of words in this song, the riff is a little more complex that some of our earlier songs and there’s a slight movement toward dynamics and tension. We might be doing it a bit backwards…raising the tension in an already chaotic melody line, but the explosive nature of Trevor’s playing really raised the bar for us and made endings like this possible.
So, that’s the album. It’s probably less than half of what we had written last April, when we went into Jay’s studio. Our current setlist is comprised of whichever 6 or 7 of these songs we’d like to play, plus another 8 new songs. The future continues to look dystopian, but the solutions to most of these problems are fairly simple if we can all put our minds toward building a better world.
Live photo by Chema of FRACK!