DragStrip Riot
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DragStrip Riot

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Band Rock Punk

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"DragStrip Riot on download.com"

"It makes more sense than you'd think for this Seattle group to list both the Misfits and Bo Diddley as influences. DragStrip's frenzied tracks play punk not as reductionist rock but as fired-up noir-blues, with lyrics yowling out an exorcism, and the old riffs following every seamy urge"
- Editor, CNet.com/Download.com - C-net.com


"DragStrip Riot in Seattle Weekly"

Knuck, the frontman for Dragstrip Riot, told Tacoma's Weekly Volcano that his band was "like rockabilly that got older, pissed off and turned into cowpunk". In other words, this is music made by dudes who are just as comfortable under the hood of a classic Chevy as they are in front of an amp. Dragstrip Riot's songs are pure high-octane rock n' roll, like Bo Diddley backed by Social Distortion. Their 2003 album self-titled album was produced by Jack Endino, a guy who knows a thing or two about producing loud bands. The result is a greasy, drag-race of an album, one that will make you think you've spilled cigarettes and gasoline in your CD player. And live, they have the capacity to burn your face. Approaching the club during their set, you'd think someone was revving a motorcycle inside. BJB, Seattle Weekly - Seattle Weekly


"DragStrip Riot - What they are under the influence of... Musically"

Raising Hell With Guitar Doug


UNMASKED


DragStrip Riot - What they are under the influence of... Musically


DragStrip Riot is a popular Seattle rock band that has been around since 2001. Throughout the years the line up and sound has changed, but one constant has remained: singer/songwriter/guitarist Knuck has been the heartbeat of the band from the start. When I asked current bassist Nils Scurvy what Knuck’s legacy to DragStrip Riot is, he answered, “First off, Knuck is the legacy of DragStrip Riot.” Nils, who was once a fan of the group, referred to it as “winning the rock lottery” when he was asked by Knuck to join DragStrip Riot. Recently, drummer Johnny Moon, who takes a no-nonsense approach to drums, has been brought into the band.

I rank Johnny (or “Moony” as he is known to friends) as one of my personal favorite local drummers not because of what he plays, but what he doesn’t play. Some drummers like Jim Laws of The Valley, Troy of Drown Mary and Shawn Johnson of Mos Generator can wow audience members with speed, strength, poly-rhythmic drum fills, double bass wizardry, and other types of drumming acrobatics. The problem with other drummers is that they can overplay when the music does not call for it. This not only annoys the audience, but it destroys the basic structure of the song and turns the rhythm section into a carnival ride that’s come loose from its tracks. Or as some call it, “Playing a bunch of what does not need to be there.” Johnny keeps perfect time and plays only what is needed, similar to the style Charlie Watts is known for with The Rolling Stones.

Songwriting is kept front and center DragStrip Riot with emphasis on the vocals and lyrics. This contrasts many other Seattle bands that focus on blistering guitar solos and showing off musical chops. Keeping the song writing out front may be the biggest secret of success for DragStrip Riot. Another ingredient is that a core group of fans, many whom I know personally, are more loyal to this group probably any other local band. The people I know that follow DragStrip Riot don’t just like DragStrip Riot… They love DragStrip Riot. There really does not seem to be a middle ground.

The fact that the fans are relating to the songwriting was evident the first time I saw DragStrip Riot live. During the set, I looked around and noticed several people singing along word-for-word with every song. Live, the group never overplays or drowns out its own songs with volume in order for lyrics to carry the music and certain points to the audience. Knuck will also switch from electric to acoustic guitar throughout a set, paying attention to dynamics throughout each song. Dynamics is a musical term for the increase and decrease in volume of the group while keeping the speed or tempo unchanged. The concepts of dynamics is crucial to jazz and classical music, and actually written into the sheet music, but is something that tends to go totally over the heads of many Seattle rock bands that play only at one volume from start to finish.

One final key to the success of DragStrip Riot is the amazing ability of the band to network with the media. They are constantly able to land a deal to be covered in a magazine, be played or interviewed on radio, and all sorts of other wise PR moves. (Their recent recording was even produced by Jack Endino). These guys literally seem to know everyone who is anyone in the Seattle music business. The band is featured this month in a magazine called NW Tattoo, which is available in stores everywhere. I scanned through a copy myself at 7 -11 just the other night. So, for those who care about songwriting, check out the band’s music on-line or head out to one of the shows listed below. Who knows, you may end up being one of the folks who does not like DragStrip Riot, but one of the folks who loves DragStrip Riot.

[Guitar Doug]: Where do the names Knuck and DragStrip Riot come from?

[Knuck]: Knuck was derived from a word my friend Brady and I came up with for beating the shit out of someone... “Knuckle-dump”. When I joined the Rooks car club many years ago, club founder Duke nicknamed me Knuck ‘cuz it was shorter and perhaps because it’s also short for a knucklehead motorcycle, but I’m not sure if that played a part in it.
The band name came from a 1958 movie that I’d seen not long before forming the band, and I’m also a fan of New Bomb Turks who had a song of the same name... It kept sticking out in my mind as the perfect way to capture what the music I was writing was trying to convey. I’d actually decided on the name before I’d written the first song.

[GD]: Knuck, what’s your background and formal training?

[K]: I started out singing along with Montrose and Judas Priest songs at age 11. Soon after, a fascination with soul music and 50s rock-n-roll took hold and I developed my own singing style, taking cues from soul, country and metal. I’m not much of a screamer, but I’m happy with what my voice can do. Nils can actually sing alright too and that’s what makes our harmonies sound so full.
I started playing guitar at age fourteen, first learning Highway To Hell, and took lessons from a fella named Tim Lerch for 5 years at the Academy of Music. He later went on to become a Buddhist Monk and gave up guitar playing altogether. I went in wanting to be Eddie Van Halen and came out as an authority on soul and rhythm & blues. My guitar style became a mixture of Brian Setzer, Eddie Van Halen, John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley and Angus Young. Because of the John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley obsessions, my playing is very rhythmically oriented with some fancy shit just kinda sprinkled on top.

[GD}: How exactly do you approach song writing from start to finish?

[K]: As the principal writer in the camp, most of the song ideas start with a theme. I think of a line or a little melody that I think is cool and work it out from there the way a painter would paint a dollop and work the edges of the paint outwards. If I’m angry, I plug in a guitar and distort it and play loudly until something comes out. If I’m somber or pensive, I’ll only play finger-style on an acoustic and Nils and Johnny will help me make it into a rock-n-roll song. I generally write the words, though Nils helps with phrasing from time to time and lets me know if my lyrics are sub-par.

[GD]: Nils, your story of joining DragStrip Riot is a pretty interesting one. Why don’t you let the readers in on how it came about?

[Nils]: When I moved to Seattle from Portland about 8 years ago, I was so enthralled by the local music scene here. There were so many good bands and so many good clubs that I was going out to shows five nights a week, taking in all the awesome bands. DragStrip Riot were one of my favorites because they sounded like nothing I’d ever heard before and had blends of everything I liked: Rock, punk, blues and rockabilly songs about evil women and heartbreak all wrapped up with a bad-ass live set. I’d be at every show in front of the stage pumpin’ my fists and singin’ along to every song. Then I’d go home wasted and play along with the CD. Eventually, I became friends with the guys. Knuck heard I played guitar and approached me at a party and asked if I would be interested in playing in the band.
Of course I jumped at the chance. Even though I was a bass player, I figured I could learn or fake it. This was one of my favorite bands and I wasn’t going to miss my chance to share a stage with them. They eventually ended up needing a bass player. We had a tryout in my living room and I already knew all the songs. So two practices later, I was playing my first show with DragStrip Riot, opening for another of my favorite bands, The Red Elvises at the Fenix Underground. I couldn’t have asked for a better first show. It was like winning the Rock Lottery, taking the step up from being a fan in the front row and onto the stage playing with a band that had inspired me.

[GD]: How would you compare the band as it was then to the band as it is now with you in it?

[N]: Before I joined, DSR had an upright bass player and I play electric bass with a pick so the sound ended up being a lot tougher as I brought my punk rock roots to the band. Shortly after I joined we lost our second guitarist, so instead of trying to replace him we stayed a three-piece and it tightened up the sound even more. We’ve gotten away from the rockabilly sound and the new stuff we’ve been playing is straight forward kick-ass rock.

[GD]: Johnny Moon takes a straight-forward approach to drums, somewhat along the lines of Charlie Watts, and even plays a vintage Gretsch round badge kit. How has Johnny been working out, and how important is it not to have a drummer who is playing “too busy” in the overall DragStrip Riot sound?

[N]: Johnny is amazing; he’d been a friend of the band for years and was filling in for us long before he joined the band. We once called him an hour before we played Hell’s Kitchen when our last drummer couldn’t make it and he drove down and killed it on the spot, so he was a natural choice when we needed a new drummer. He’s solid, hits hard, keeps time like a clock, doesn’t clutter the songs, and his old-school style blended perfect with all the styles we were playing. We were lucky enough to snag him before somebody else did.

[GD]: Johnny, what’s your formal background in music?

[Johnny Moon]: I started playing drums at 8 years old in my Elementary school band. My mom set aside an hour each day that I could practice in my room and no one could complain. I had a 30 ft. headphone cord running to our Sears best stereo and I’d play to Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Carl Palmer has always been a huge influence on me, along with playing Nugent, Deep Purple or just practicing rudiments.
I bought my first drum kit and took private lessons with paper route money, and played through Jr. High and High School. During High School, I went back and taught drums at my Jr. high.

[GD]: When did you start playing in the bars and clubs?

[JM]: 1st band @ 13 and 1st tavern gig @ 17. Played the Seattle scene through the 80s with numerous bands (Jet, inflatable dates, F-Holes). Almost lost my arm in the early 80s to an industrial accident which has impaired me a little but didn’t hold me back for too long. I hooked up with Los Gatos Locos in the 90s and just recently DSR. I dig the hard hittin’ attack these guys have.

[GD]: Look for DragStrip Riot on iTunes and Rhapsody, and new merchandise and albums in the coming year.
- The Seattle Sinner


Discography

DragStrip Riot S/T (GKR 012-2) released 2003

Soundtrack - Cannibal Girl & Incest Boy

Compilation - Post-Grunge Vol. 1 & 2 (Post-Grunge)

Soundtrack - The Jersey Devil

Compilation - Bad Taste Magazine, Sampler (Bad Taste Ind., Poland)

Soundtrack - "Hellbound & Happy" appeared in Fear & Loathing In The Valley (Broken Home Pictures, 2005);

Compilation - "American Sicko" appeared on Attack of The Hotrod Zombies (2003, Split Seven Records 693202712026)

Soundtrack & Live appearance featuring "One Day Closer" and "American Sicko" (Hotrod Girls Save The World, Go-Kustom Films 2008)

Soundtrack - MTV's "Made" (2004)

"Broke For Christmas" receives seasonal airplay on KISW 99.9 FM (2007 & 2008)

"American Sicko" single from DragStrip Riot (Self-Titled) played on national radio

Live appearance on Comcast On-Demand featuring "Damn!", "In Flames", and "American Sicko".

Upcoming cd entitled DAMN! to be released in 2009

Photos

Bio

Rock n roll, the devil’s music, was meant to be dangerous and DragStrip Riot aim to keep it that way. Their stripped-down, unadulterated, and unapologetic brand of rock n roll gives nod to its origins in blues, punk, garage and country. Reminiscent of the angry sounds of Link Wray’s reverb-drenched guitar, the melodies and aggression of the Social Distortion, the crunching riffs of AC/DC and the bluesy swagger of George Thorogood; DragStrip Riot turn it up a notch and let fly all their influences in the face of payola playlists. This ain’t your daddy’s rock n roll, and it’s probably not suited for anyone who likes their music “safe”.

In the live arena, you'll feel their intensity the moment the lead singer shouts, “We are DragStrip Riot!!!” Suddenly the drums roll in and the band kicks off at a breakneck pace, slowing down only occasionally to let the audience catch their breath, dance with their sweethearts, and gulp a beer or two.

Forging their own path while trying to remain true to what made rock n roll rebellious in its infancy, DragStrip Riot can best be summed up by paraphrasing one of their own songs: “It’s the life that they live, it’s the life that they love. And too much of something is NEVER enough!”