By Sarah Bennett
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You think about the Salton Sea.
"I've been clean for more than three years, though," he says. "Clean and sober."
When people talk about Throw Rag shows these days, they talk only about the amazing performances. Gone is the talk about Wheeler's shocking antics. "Vomiting and nudity—those things were pretty common in my life when I was . . ." he trails off.
Using? you suggest.
Wheeler laughs uncomfortably.
About a year ago, A.J. Nesselrod, formerly of 4 and Filmstar, took the place of original rhythm guitar player Dan Lapham. Nesselrod's talent for organization, mediation and Web design (www.throwrag.com) is, no doubt, another reason Throw Rag has changed in the past year from a talented but inconsistent band into a hard-working, responsible, committed rock machine.
"A.J. doesn't have the hang-ups; he's unbiased," says Wheeler.
But Nesselrod refuses credit for the band's turnaround. He says Throw Rag had already gotten itself back on track when he came aboard. Like everything else, explanations for the band's transformation appear complicated.
"How many sailors do you know from the desert?" asks Wheeler, referring to Throw Rag's self-described "sailor rock." "None of it makes any sense, and that's the beauty of it."
For the moment, he's making a convincing pass at a devil-may-care attitude, but Nesselrod later calls you and says, as if it's a well-known fact, "Sean's really sort of obsessive."
"I feel like I have a real human side that tends to not want to care about much," Wheeler says. "It's easier being lazy and being out of my mind, and then I have the other human side that cares about a lot and thinks not caring is a cop-out. And they're in conflict, often."
THROW RAG PLAY WITH SMUT PEDDLERS AND THE NEUROTONES IN THE LAVA LOUNGE AT JAVA LANES, 3800 E. PACIFIC COAST HWY., LONG BEACH, (562) 597-6171. FRI., 9 P.M. CALL FOR COVER.