Punk was our anger, our lifestyle, our drive, our depression, our disconnection from "regular society."
Interview with: Seal, originally conducted March 2005
Running into Seal recently was almost a case of what you might call punk rock synchronicity. I was having dinner at a local cafe when the waitress informed me that the chef had offered to buy me dessert. A short while later, Seal came out to introduce herself and ask if I remembered that she had once been a roadie for the Bags. It turned out that she had seen me perform with Stay At Home Bomb in 2004. We started talking and distant memories of shows at the Hong Kong Cafe and the Cuckoo's Nest began to surface. Fortunately, Seal's memory is excellent and she has great stories to tell.
Seal is living proof that women were involved in every facet of the L.A. punk scene, including the traditionally male vocation of roadie. Because she worked alongside and was friends with some of the most popular and successful L.A. bands, she has a unique insider's perspective that is as close to actually being there as you can get. I love what Seal says about how the early punk scene was "golden in its poverties." That line speaks volumes about what it was like to be living hand-to-mouth and creating a scene out of nothing, with little resources other than our imagination and the sheer determination to DO SOMETHING!
She graciously agreed to share some of her stories and incredible collection of punk artifacts with us, some of which you will see on this page. We are sure you will find something to astonish and delight you in her stories and archives, including a stunning early Black Flag flyer. Enjoy!
1. What was/is your contribution to the punk community?
Wow, that's a question! I don't really know that I contributed a lot, I was 'just a roadie'. My contribution I would say, was to show that there was no aspect of the scene that women couldn't handle. I carried heavy equipment and set up stages, mainly for the Go-Go's. Then a man named Marshal Beryll (?) asked me and a friend to work for other bands, mostly The Alleycats, The Bags, The Plugz. I met a lot of gay women in the scene, a lot of whom I'm still in contact with. My favorite contribution was helping to get the girls in 'The Speed Queens' together. I also have a pretty good memory so I am able to bore all my young musician friends (with stories of) "how things used to be."
2. Which artist, band concert and/or show had the most impact on your life?
Joan Jett, because she was such a bad-assed rocker. Then, Gina, Jane and Charlotte of the Go-Go's were so fun and cool. You, Diane Chai (Alleycats), Phranc, Sue Tissue (Suburban Lawns). Rozz Williams (Christian Death) changed my life and my view of everything in the world. I'll miss him every day. Killer (Speed Queens, now a sound tech for major touring acts such as Peaches and Le Tigre) has always had a great impact on what I listen to.
I was 17 and living my dreams. Going to the Masque on Santa Monica changed my life.
3. What was the role of women in the early punk scene?
Look around you...anywhere... fashion! Then, people made so much fun of the way we dressed, now it's everywhere! We so carefully cultivated our looks, whether it was day-glo, spikes, our hair, our thrift store clothes! Do you see all the Mohawks on young people these days? But women had to have so much strength (back then) to pull it off. You had to spit on someone on the streets when they laid into you for the "way you were." Then, you had to be ready to fight them, just because we were different. Punk women were strong, sexy and smart. Give them that and an instrument or mic in their hands...we ruled!!
4. What is the legacy of punk in your life?
Well, I may be ostracized for saying this, but the crap people call Punk now, is not Punk. I would rather say "punk is dead" ... with the exception of "Stay at Home Bomb." (ed. note - Seal, I'll pay you that $20 next time I see you.) Punk was our anger, our lifestyle, our drive, our depression, our disconnection from "regular society"... our lack of money. I am a tempered old Punk. That life seems so long ago but it was so golden in its poverties.
5. What are you listening to now?
Whatever Killer sends me!! I listen to some old stuff, Slits, Althea and Donna, Runaways, Siouxsie, X, etc. The newer stuff I listen to is: Peaches, Le Tigre, Patsy (from a few years ago), Chicks on Speed.. (I could listen to Suburban Lawns "He's My Boyfriend" on a loop for hours!) I must admit I am a huge Led Zeppelin fan! Ha Ha.
6. Do you have any funny or interesting stories to share?
My favorite is one day I was at the Starwood doing a sound check with the Go-Go's. Joan Jett wandered in and proposed doing a song with them, said she loved them. Backstage, the Go-Go’s manager said "no way, she is a has-been, old dyke, etc, etc." I was so mad. The other roadie and I took Joan home after soundcheck (she had taken a Quaalude). So Joan takes a shower and comes out in just a towel (which had been my 'wet dream' all my teen years). On a crappy little tape recorder she plays for us her new song that she has been working on. We didn't dare tell her we thought it was kinda cheesy.
So we go back to the Starwood prior to show time and Joan and Gina Schock and I are in the stage room, girls bathroom, smoking pot. We were having a very interesting discussion on masturbation and a bouncer comes in and tries to kick us all out. Well, he couldn't kick Gina out, or Joan…so I was ejected from the front exit. Well, I just went back in the upstairs, backstage door and laid low until it was time to do my job.
After the show, as we were packing up, the bouncer comes up and says "Hey, I thought I kicked you out? Who's in charge here?" Jane (Wiedlin) comes up and says in her tiny little voice, "I am!" So he tells her that I was supposed to be kicked out and that I needed to be reprimanded for smoking pot, blah blah blah. As soon as he leaves, Jane grabs me and says, "you better have more!!"
Oh yeah, and that song Joan Jett played for us? It was "I Love Rock & Roll."
7. Are there any punk women from the early scene that you feel have not been been adequately recognized?
Diane Chai, Jill Emery, Eva O., Phranc, and Killer.
8. What is something we should know about you that we probably don't know?
I do not want to carry another amp in my life! I don't regret anything, I don't regret making out with someone's girlfriend, I don't regret stealing from supermarkets to get the money to go to shows. I don't regret beating anyone up. I make a paltry living cooking which I supplement by cutting hair. I've been licensed since 1982.
Seal collected set lists from the shows she worked, Here's one from an early Go-Go's concert.