Social Distortion: 25 years seems so far way
Released in March 1990, Social Distortion was the L.A punk band’s third album and it became their best-selling album worldwide. This past Record Store Day, the album was re-released on limited edition color vinyl. The band is now on a 25th Anniversary Tour in support of the reissue. When guitarist Jonny Wickersham called us from his Los Angeles home, he’d just gotten word that the band added two nights at the Los Angeles House of Blues. Located on the Sunset Strip, the club is closing and Social D, which has done 48 sold out shows there over the past 15 years, is playing a few farewell gigs. “We decided to add a couple of nights and make it 50,” he says. “It’s the end of an era. I can remember when that place first opened up.” Wickersham, who joined the band in 2000, talked about what to expect from the tour.
The band is currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of its self-titled album that came out in 1990. What’s it been like going back to that album?
Well, for me, it’s interesting because I wasn’t in the band. I was around the band a lot. I was playing in a different band. We had put out our first record that year. Social D was a lot bigger than us and had been around for about 12 years. I remember when that came out and we watched Social D jump up to a whole new level. It was a groundbreaking record for sure. They went from a van to a bus and started playing big shows and went on tour with guys like Neil Young. They had already gotten airplay locally on KROQ for Prison Bound. They’ve been playing them since it was just the Rodney [Bingenhemier] show. I was just a kid then but I remember hearing “1945” and “Mainliner” on Rodney’s show. This record was a whole different thing.
Why don’t punk bands crossover anymore?
Things just changed in the same way that they changed for bands like that to be on the radio. That was a huge thing to hear like Nirvana. Things have to continue to evolve. I’m in L.A. and I don’t listen to the radio very often. I listen to public radio or KROQ or classic rock. I listen to classic rock stations too. I tune into KROQ to see what’s going on. They still play a lot of that stuff.
That cover of “Ring of Fire” is brilliant.
It became such a signature for the band. It’s right up with “Story of My Life.”
“Story of My Life,” “Ball and Chain,” “Ring of Fire” and “Let It Be Me” all charted as single. What do you think it was about those songs that struck a chord?
I think the universal themes of “Ball and Chain” and “Story of My Life” were significant. I remember thinking that “Story of My Life” was a real departure. I heard some demos. I don’t know if it was a rough mix tape or something. I heard some early stuff before it came out and I thought they were branching out into a different direction. It didn’t not make sense. It’s rootsy Americana and I know that’s where Mike was headed. It really, really worked. I don’t know if he even thought that would happen. He just wrote a song and told the truth. I remember hearing “So Far Away” and I liked that song a lot. It’s a super catchy, cool song. The material is good and the record is great and the timing is perfect. Ultimately, I think it comes down to timing for anything.
When did you end up joining the band?
In 2000. I grew up in the same area that we’re all from, Orange County. I was going to punk shows growing up. I was part of that whole world. SD was the coolest band from that area. I got to know the guys and know Mike. I had been playing in bands of my own. I was in the Cadillac Tramps. When Dennis [Danell] passed away, Mike was going to put the band down and call it. But he changed his mind at some point and decided the best thing to do was to keep it going. We agreed that that’s what Dennis wanted to do.
Talk about the current line-up’s chemistry.
[Bassist] Brent [Harding] has been in the band since 2004, since right after we put out Sex, Love and Rock n’ Roll. [Drummer David] Hidalgo has been in the band right after we put out Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes in 2011. It’s super stable. The lineup is ridiculous. David Kalish is playing B-3 organ. It’s never sounded better. Super strong rhythm section. It’s great to see Mike really happy with it. He’s struggled over the year with trying to get the perfect rhythm section together. He’s real big on grooves and tempos and how a song should be played. It doesn’t matter what kind of music it is. There’s gotta be a beat. There’s gotta be a groove.
Mike Ness has been through some serious stuff – what keeps him going?
I think it’s just what we do. This is our life and nobody in this band set up anything else. We’ve been doing it since we were kids. We literally jumped into a van early in our lives and started touring. We dedicated our entire lives to it. There’s no point in ever stopping, for better or worse.
What will be in the set?
We have a couple of new covers we’ve been working on. We just pulled songs off the other records. We’ll come out and do the record and then do a whole other section of various tracks from some other albums.
Upcoming 2015 Shows
Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
Buffalo, NY – Town Ballroom
Philadelphia, PA – Festival Pier
Pittsburgh, PA – Stage AE
Asbury Park, NJ – Stone Pony Summer Stage
Boston, MA – House of Blues
Silver Spring, MD – The Fillmore
Raleigh, NC – The Ritz
Charlotte, NC – The Fillmore
Nashville, TN – Ryman Auditorium
Denver, CO – Fillmore Auditorium
Salt Lake City, UT – The Depot
Portland, OR – Roseland Theater
Bend, OR – Century Center
Oakland, CA – Fox Theater
Paso Robles, CA – Vina Robles Amphitheatre