Interview with: Tracy Lea, originally conducted May 2006
I first met Tracy Lea while I was playing with Castration Squad back in the early 1980’s. Castration Squad lead singer Shannon Wilhelm introduced us. I remember being impressed by Tracy's beauty and youth. She had shorn her hair into an extreme “boy-cut” that contrasted nicely with her sweet looks.
Around this same time, she was also playing rhythm guitar with the band Redd Kross and you can hear her riffage on the garage/bubblegum/punk classic Born Innocent LP.
Tracy was one of those people who brought fun and enthusiasm to a project. She had and still has a great and rather dark sense of humor.
In 1984, Tracy was immortalized on Super 8 film by Dave Markey in the star-making role of gang leader Tanya Hearst in Desperate Teenage Lovedolls, which is now available on DVD from We Got Power Films.
I recently had the pleasure of playing with her again in preparation for the Castration Squad reunion last year. I discovered a new side of Tracy. I had no idea that Tracy had developed into a talented songwriter and had also written and produced her own short film based on the Castration Squad song, “Piece of Me.” Her riffs are cool, her lyrics are clever and she’s one tough bitch. I give you Miss Tracy Lea-Marshak-Nash.
1. What was/is your contribution to the punk community?
I played in Castration Squad and Redd Kross. I had a short stint in the Cambridge Apostles, but left for a much needed vacation in Tarzana. I almost played in Circle One, but I don’t think John Macias wanted a girl in the band; not this girl anyway. I practiced a couple of times with Cheap as Dirt, Tough as Nails (it might be the other way around); anyway the other guitar player got jealous because he knew I’d get more attention. That’s the kind of thing guys really get jealous over. Stevo asked me to do the intro with him on The Vandals’ song “Slap of Love”, which I mention because I didn’t push to get credit on the album and should have. I landed the highly coveted role of Tanya Hearst in Dave Markey’s “Desperate Teenage Lovedolls”, which is an underground punk rock classic and available on DVD. He brought me back for a role in “Lovedolls Superstar” in which I got to share a few scenes with Snickers from the Simpletones; an old friend, very much missed.
2. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
The first time I saw the Runaways at the Whisky it was crazy: loud and amazing and I loved it. I was young and just going to a nightclub was exciting and intoxicating, literally. It was always a big thing when bands from England would play; 999, The Jam, The Buzzcocks, Magazine, Siouxsie - those were great shows. I know we didn’t need the English, but they were fun. I saw the Dead Boys play at the other Masque and that was cool; better yet was riding in a car with Stiv Bators to get alcohol. The dream of all the 15-year-old girls I knew.
3. What was the role of women in the early punk scene?
Early on, I recognized that boys seemed to have more fun (like the Naughty Women) so hanging out in the punk scene was the perfect setting to play an instrument, get tattooed, and do tequila shots just like the guys. I think women in those early days set the bar high - I don’t
remember a lot of niceties, you really had to earn your friendship with them. I didn’t see a lot of difference between men and women as far as playing in bands went - that was the great leveler. Nobody carried my stuff (unless they wanted to be on the list) and ultimately good or bad, I had to get up and play. I saw women play just as hard and just as wild as the guys did. Punk gave me the feeling that I could do whatever I wanted to do. I found that to be a double edged sword back then, but it serves me well now.
4. What is the legacy of punk in your life?
I think that after playing in a band and being in the punk scene, I don’t back down in a lot of areas of my life. I’m more willing to take risks. I figure if I survived in that scene, why not take a few chances? I got exposed to a lot of offbeat movies and art that I’m still into, unfortunately I
don’t own a copy of Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, but my birthday is coming up so maybe I’ll get lucky. My son said he wants to give me a dirty skeleton, which I said would make me very happy. He’s turning out to be my finest punk legacy. My husband Brent and I are very proud of him.
5. What are you listening to now?
I’ll go to my grave listening to Bowie. I still listen to the Stooges, T Rex, and Mott the Hoople. I like the Upper Crust, the River City Rebels. I love old glam music; and of course Jonesy. There’s a Japanese band I really like called L’arc-en-Ciel. Paul Williams.
6. Do you have any funny or interesting stories to share?
Let me think…who can I write about who won’t be offended? Fuck it. Okay, there was this time Redd Kross played up in San Francisco and these kids were in the alley behind our room making a lot of noise so we got the idea to heat up pennies with a lighter and toss them out the window for the happy children to buy candy with - unfortunately their treat money went to burn ointment and gauze. Actually they got smart and picked them up with scraps from the alley. Then on the way back to L.A. we were drinking Southern Comfort and decided to take a side trip to visit Charles Manson. We drove up to some prison (I’m not sure if it was his prison) and saw these signs that read “turn back if you have weapons or alcohol”, so we left. Then there was another time we went to S. F. with Craig Lee, who I think was managing our band at the time. A couple of band mates and I indulged in a bit of hallucinogen before we left and kept it a secret. So there we were, way up Interstate 5, I’m driving and someone suggests stopping at McDonalds. Craig was a funny guy and he gets the idea to start saying “Mc” before all his words; like “Hi McTracy” and “Are we Mcthere yet?” I lost it. I was severely damaged by that fast food visit; but in a good way. Then someone had to put on Rush.
When I joined the Castration Squad, Rick Van Santen (later with Goldenvoice) was our manager. He got us a show at the Circus Disco by playing them a tape of The Runaways and saying it was us. Someone else said he played a tape of Penetration - either one is okay with me. So we show up and play maybe five songs, which I think was the extent of our set and they were mad. HA HA! Then there was the show at the Seventh Veil. They didn’t like us there either and decided not to pay us. I have a vague memory of Shannon pushing the doors open and letting in a flood of people who didn’t pay. We were never asked back to either venue. Actually, I can’t think of any club we played twice. Then there was the time we opened for X at a club in Berkeley and were pelted with pennies. At least we got paid!
Anyway, I have so many funny stories here’s my condensed version:
Tar and his Clashmobile, Bruce and his reptiles, kegs in Huntington Beach, dine and dash at Love’s, Mickey walking on cars, partying in the Hollywood cemetery, holding Rick Wilder’s leather jacket for ransom, any night of the week with Alberto, being on New Wave Theatre,
Andy and her yellow Rabbit, Snickers and his VW bug, stealing coins from the fountain near the Hong Kong Café, stealing my wig for “Lovedolls Superstar," any time spent with Dave Markey, stopping in Oakland with Stevo and Human for fried chicken, seeing Jayne County
at the Starwood, being 86’d from the Whisky, Tiffany and me in Vegas at the breakfast buffet - okay I have to stop. See Alice, don’t get me going.
7. Are there any punk women from the early scene that you feel have not been adequately recognized?
Janet Housden. She played drums in Redd Kross when I was in the band and now she plays in The Shakes. She rocks. Texacala Jones. Karla Maddog - track her down. Mary Rat. Annette Zilinskas; I’d love to see her; Maggie Ehrig from Twisted Roots; Amy Wichman; she played in Kaos and the Jeff Dahl Band - a fun girl from the Valley who saved my life; Julie from Sin 34. Gerber. Andy and Jill. Litha Dosage.
8. What is something we should know about you that we probably don’t know?
I love being interviewed and was wondering when you were going to ask me ; )