From the vanguards of San Francisco’s original punk wave, CRIME veterans Johnny Strike, Hank Rank, Joey D’Kaye joined forces with Michael Campbell & Roger Strobel are Naked Beast featuring the Rob Strange Cold War era video collage for “Aether Station”. What was born out of a live literary project that Johnny, Hank & company under the monikers of Dr. D & Remote Viewer blooms with it’s own bombast & furious blistering distortion effects to make up a new cathartic aesthetic to be reckoned with. From the people who gave you the self & fan proclaimed title as San Francisco’s First and Only Rock’n’Roll Band, CRIME—Johnny, Hank, & Joey with Micahel & Roger ready their new incarnation as Naked Beast with the self-titled album debut available October 13 from the Bay Area’s premiere label of legends, Guitars & Bongos.
Rob Strange’s vintage throwback Cold War film footage for Naked Beast’s bopping, rocking & rolling “Aether Station” entertains the count-off number games where spy communications of yesterday feel now more timely than ever before it today’s weird times. From rotating radar watches, interferences & radio wave obsessions that transfer the cryptic metrics repeat recitations of “one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight….don’t be late,” that eggs on the rhythms & the teeth grinding guitar chord progressions. Images of archaic espionage & fallouts of nations & industries point toward the fragile framework of our current geopolitical systems, as Naked Beast mirrors how the former narrative of hysteria & dubious duplicity on a level that is far more complicated than the previously analog silk road channels of yesterday’s quagmires. The fracas & threats of today’s own bizarre socio-political situations makes the seemingly anachronistic “Aether Station” feel a bit closer to home, as well as operating as an ear worm that burrows itself into your dome with catchy bass line & apocalypse edged guitar work that is sharp as a razor. This new incarnation of CRIME illustrates a Bay Area phenomeon entering a new chapter & the iconic punk lords could not have returned at a better time. Join us after the following video debut for “Aether Station” as we caught up with Naked Beast & CRIME’s own Johnny Strike & Joey D’Kaye in a candid interview session.
From Crime, tell me how you all went through a host of incarnations from Dr. D, Remote Viewer to Naked Beast.
Johnny Strike: This started out as a little reading tour of SF to promote my story collection A Loud Humming Sound Came From Above on Rudos & Rubes. I decided we should have a name since I hated cold readings and engaged Hank and others to provide noise, old timey sounds, distorted guitar, feedback and boom box recordings of me reading for background. So when I was contacted about readings I’d say oh you mean Remote Viewer. The name was from the government psychic operations I had read a book about. Eventually the readings ended and Hank and I ended up in his garage with Michael Campbell, a local artist who worked with soundscapes, and Roger Strobel on bass. We kept experimenting bringing in Joey D’Kaye, a later day CRIME member to play guitar and theremin. I got out a guitar and joined in.
We quickly morphed into more a rock ‘n roll group with an experimental edge. Hank was never happy with the name so I changed it to Dr. D from a character in the song “EMW” or Emergency Music Ward. Hank suggested we bring back minute sections of the spoken word with background effects by Michael to include as interludes in between the songs. Still the name didn’t seem right and Hank offered Naked Beast. It felt right, so we kept it.
Describe the visual hijinx brought about by Rob Strange’s visuals for the scuzzed out “Aether Station”.
Johnny Strike: We told Rob [Strange] about the background of the name “Aether Station” which was a weird spy operation used in World War 2 that was all about numbers. An agent would pick up a phone at a certain time and place and listen to numbers being read endlessly. He would know which ones to listen for. NOTE: Joey could give a better answer for this, since he did more research into the topic that even has abandoned towers that halfway operational radio station that still at times spew out a list of numbers. I took this endgame to finally result in a straight forward count and that the two surviving agent would meet at what they called “Aether Station”…Rob took this info and off he went into his own wild vision with an almost Russian sci-fi/industrial slant which we were most pleased with.
Joey D’Kaye: I told Rob what the song was about, the numbers stations that were prominent during the Cold War era. Numbers stations were shortwave radio stations that broadcast nothing besides lists of numbers at certain times of day, usually by a female voice, [as] female voices are more intelligible over radio static. Though no nation has ever admitted it, it’s generally assumed they were a means to send coded messages to espionage agents around the world. The messages were a code, probably a substitution cipher where each number was a letter or a word, sometimes mixed. The spy would have a code book to decipher the message, and the code lists were changed daily, making it almost impossible to crack.
Supposedly someone used a numbers station on the FM band recently near Bakersfield, California. It’s suspected to be a code for local drug smugglers, since the FM band is limited to line-of-sight—or used by somebody who doesn’t understand that!
So Rob used images from the Cold War, of radio equipment, etc. mostly in black & white, to evoke that era and mindset. What do I think? I think he did a great job!
Tell us too about the making of the new Naked Beast album with George S. Rosenthal & everyone.
Johnny Strike: We rehearsed and wrote the album slowly over a year or so and then brought in George [producer George S. Rosenthal, Hank’s son] for a listen. He made his notes and we arranged to begin recording right where we were rehearsing, The Complex. An ideal situation. Within a week we were done. And in another week George presented his mix and production. We were perfectly pleased with the outcome. It was almost as if George had become the 6th member, in a very good way.
Favorite things about the Bay right now? Least favorite things about the Bay right now?
Johnny Strike: Better questions for Hank since I’m mostly a recluse and spend my time working on two new novels and a story collection.
2018 hopes & wishes?
Johnny Strike: There has been talk of reuniting and coming up with a 2nd album. That would be thrilling and fun, and a few ideas have already been bounced back and forth. We’ll see what the reception is like from new fans and older CRIME fans alike. And how our individual schedules with other projects look.
Naked Beast’s self-titled album debut will be available October 13 via Guitars & Bongos.