Burning Image
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Burning Image

Bakersfield, California, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1982 | INDIE | AFM

Bakersfield, California, United States | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 1982
Band Alternative Post-punk





Back in the early '80s, when deathrock was taking over California, a group of young guys from Bakersfield formed Burning Image. They released a 7″ single and played with bands like Specimen, Dead Kennedys and Butthole Surfers. Years after their demise, Jello Biafra re-released Burning Image's music on Alternative Tentacles and interest in the band was renewed. They regrouped, began playing again, and released an album of new material, Fantasma, earlier this year.

Burning Image will perform at The Wolfpak's Halloween party at Roberto's on Saturday night, right before heading up to San Francisco next week to play Alternative Tentacle's 30th Anniversary bash. LA Weekly caught up with vocalist/guitarist Moe Adame by phone to chat about the band's past and present.

When did Burning Image start?

Burning Image started in 1983. It was originally called The Pictures. At that time, we started writing a lot of the Burning Image music, but we weren't really fond of the name The Pictures, so we changed it.

What was the music scene like in Bakersfield at that time?

Actually, at that time, the music scene was pretty good. The shows were well-attended and everybody was listening to anything that fell under the “new music” umbrella, whether it was rockabilly or deathrock or punk. It was a pretty cool scene.

How did you hook up with Alternative Tentacles?

In 1984, we played a show with the Dead Kennedys in San Francisco. It was at the Keystone. What happened was that a couple of the band members from Burning Image went to Berkley to the college radio station there. They went up there just to play a demo of our music. We had just released a 45 of “The Final Conflict” and “Burning Image, Burning.” The show that they went to was the “Maximum Rock 'n' Roll” show at the time, which Jello Biafra was a part of. When they were playing the 45 on the air, Jello Biafra was in the adjoining studio and he heard it.

Just by chance, I went to go see him do a spoken word show at The Echo, I believe that was in 2003. I went to go see him and we got reacquainted. After the show, he asked me to come backstage and one of the first things he asked me was, ” I have a cassette of you guys from back when with four songs, do you have any Burning Image music.” I said, “Yeah, I own all the masters, I have everything.” That kind of intrigued him and one thing led to another and that's when he asked if he could release a collection of our music on Alternative Tentacles. That was the 1983-1987 CD.

Had you been playing in other bands?

After Burning Image disbanded in 1987, I had a side project, a band that I did in the mid-'90s called Iviscera. It was stuff that I didn't think sounded like Burning Image, so I didn't want to call it Burning Image. It was just a side project, nothing really serious.

What happened was that when I was trying to promote Iviscera though my website at the time, I made a mention of Burning Image. It was funny because people would write to me and say “This Iviscera stuff is okay, but tell us more about Burning Image.” That's what it was, people constantly asking about Burning Image over and over again. I thought, I'm going to give this Burning Image thing one more chance.

What are your thoughts on the places you play and the crowd now as opposed to the first time around?

The audiences now are really enthusiastic about the deathrock scene. They're interested to try new stuff out and they seem to like the new Burning Image stuff. I'll tell you what, though, Europe is crazy about deathrock. They really love it. They're rediscovering a lot of the older acts like Christian Death, 45 Grave, TSOL, Kommunity FK. All of these bands are just so new to them for some reason. Europe seems to be embracing that whole style of music– hardcore, deathrock and horror rock. - LA Weekly - Liz Ohanesian


On Halloween, I stopped by Roberto's in Chinatown for The Wolfpak's holiday party featuring a live performance from Burning Image. The Bakersfield band first formed in the wake of California's early-'80s deathrock explosion and then reformed earlier this decade after Alternative Tentacles released a compilation of its initial work (you can find out more by reading LA Weekly's interview with frontman Moe Adame). The set was a heavy, high energy mix of old and new material and left me thinking, maybe it's time to explain deathrock.

Of all the post-punk subcultures that sprouted at the beginning of the '80s, deathrock was most closely associated with Los Angeles in the US, where bands like Christian Death, 45 Grave and Kommunity FK were experimenting with dirgey guitars, tribal drums and overtly spooky imagery. In the UK, the sound revolved around a London club called The Batcave, which hosted gigs from bands like Specimen and Sex Gang Children. Deep in the music underground, you can still find deathrock bands today. Unlike general “goth” groups, which is more of a catch-all term for anything that's really dark, deathrock bands are directly influenced by the original LA and London scenes. It is, from what many a band has told me, particularly popular in Europe, where festivals like Germany's Wave Gotik Treffen draw crowds in the tens of thousands. In Los Angeles, you can hear deathrock at parties like M/R/X-Wolfpak, Disko Nekro and Release the Bats. A good resource to keep up on new artists and rediscover lost classics is Drop Dead Magazine, who is also responsible for the roving event Drop Dead Fest. - LA Weekly - Liz Ohanesian

"Shadowy local tales fuel Burning Image's remastered "Oleander (Revisited)""

Fans of Bakersfield death rock and jazzy pop should make room on their mobile devices for some killer new hometown music out now and prepping to hit the Web this week.

First up is a free, re-released and remastered download of the 2011 full-length concept album titled “Oleander (Revisited)” by local death rock goth icons Burning Image.

Offered exclusively by the band beginning Friday, the new take features an upgrade sound that fans of the original record will appreciate, according to Moe Adame, the band's lead vocalist and guitarist.

“I listened to 'Oleander' a few months ago and thought that it needed a remaster to give it more punch and depth,” said Adame, who co-founded the band in the early '80s and continues overseeing the legacy and current workings of the band. “The re-mastered version is sonically superior to the original.”

For the uninitiated, the act of “remastering” music refers to the recording studio process of enhancing an older recording through the use of updated technology. It can be a painstaking process from beginning to end if you take into consideration the multiple layers of sonic elements that may need to be researched with a sensitive and patient ear. Most present-day recordings go through their own mastering process prior to their release to assure the best quality sound, but for Adame, the first time wasn’t enough.

To ensure the update would be completed in a timely, and more efficient timeframe, Adame went to Sharon Marie and Gary L. Batsch of Bakersfield’s B2 Studios for help.

“There were no downs in the remastering process. It took a few hours. The upside is that you get another chance to improve on the original recording to make it better for yourself and for your fans,” said Adame, adding the re-released album also comes with the bonus track “Haunted,” previously released on the Austrian death rock compilation “Kaliffornian Deathrock.”

If you’re familiar with Burning Image, then you might already get an idea of “Oleander” and its creepy musical plotline, but even the name alone should conjure up a few notions of the historic central Bakersfield neighborhood. Known for its vintage structures and dimly lit sidewalks, which can at times resemble a scene taken straight out of a classic noir flick, Adame says a conversation with former Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra helped offer direction.

Biafra, who’d already released a compilation of Burning Image singles in 2004, plus a follow-up album “Fantasma” in 2009, both on his Alternative Tentacles record label, suggested Adame take on the eerie Lords of Bakersfield crime story.

“We went to visit Jello (Biafra) in San Francisco and after a lengthy discussion about the Lords …, he encouraged me to write an album about it.”

Inspired by the legend of the Lords of Bakersfield, a secret network of powerful local men who preyed on (and were occasionally murdered by) teen boys during the '80s and early '90s, Adame also looked up Nick Belardes, a former Bakersfield novelist who’d penned his own book of fiction on the subject, “Lords Part One.” The writer contributed spoken word voiceovers to the recording.

In addition to Adame on vocals, guitars and keyboards, other musicians included on the recording are Anthony Leyva on bass, Tony Bonanno on guitar, plus additional keyboards by Anthony Gordon on “Haunted.”

Burning Image last performed live in 2015, and while they group is constantly working on new material, a full presentation of “Oleander” as a complete work since its original release has yet to make it to the stage.

“We have never played 'Oleander' in its entirety but we have played selections from it in our shows. 'Get Out, Get Out' is a personal favorite. It’s my homage to (gothic punk band) 45 Grave, just a fun song to play.”

Diehard fans take note, “Oleander Revisited” will only be available free for download from Friday through Sept. 3 at soundcloud.com/burning-image, cdbaby.com and Burning Image and Moe Adame Facebook pages. After Sept. 3, the album will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Spotify.

And like the spooky story of the Lords of Bakersfield, “Oleander (Revisited)” is sure to give you the heebie-jeebies.

“I have the same passion for writing, recording and playing live as I did back then,” said Adame.

“This is the first remaster and more to come.”

Say your prayers and think happy thoughts, kids. - The Bakersfield Californian - Matt Munoz


1983-1987 Alternative Tentacles records 2004

Fantasma Alternative Tentacles records 2009

Oleander 2011

The Grand Guignol 2014

Songs of Reproach and Redemption 2018

Burning Image (remastered) 2018

The King Is Dead 2019


Let's Die compilation Mystic records 1984

Cultivation 91 Independent release 1991

Kaliffornian Deathrock compilatiom  Strobelight records 2006



They pricked up my ears when I first heard them in ’84, toward the tail-end of my involvement with Maximum Rock ‘n’ roll radio. Hardcore ruled, so more and more of what we got in was pretty generic…. The one time MRR played a demo of ‘Final Conflict,’ I was floored. I had to hear more, they obliged–not one weak track on the whole tape. I then invited them up to San Francisco to open for DEAD KENNEDYS, BUTTHOLE SURFERS and M.I.A.. They brought their own cobwebs and played their own sound. No one in California was doing quite what they were.

In England they might have fit right in with the Bat Cave scene. It wasn’t called Goth quite yet; the British music press had the gall to call it ‘positive punk.’ What drew me to Burning Image was they had the punk teeth most of the Bat Cave bands lacked. But how did this happen in Bakersfield?

–Jello Biafra

Band Members