Money and fame are might be the goal for most aspiring bands when they’re first starting out. But for a band like CH 3 who’s tasted punk rock success in many forms, maintaining a solid lineup with the ability to put out good albums for more than three decades is its own reward. After countless tours and 6 albums, the band’s hunger to get their music out there hasn’t subsided. Even the most grueling parts of making a new album Put Em Up, have been a blessing.
“From the start of a record project to when you finally get it in your hands is such a long process, it’s torturous, but it’s like a delicious torture—the mastering, the the art work and all that,” says the band’s frontman/guitarist Mike Magrann.
Thirty-five years after recording their debut album Fear of Life in 1980 on Posh Boy Records, the punk rock vets from Cerritos are still at it, albeit in slightly more adult fashion than they did it back in the Reagan Era. Like a plenty of other amazing bands from the Golden Age of OC punk, watching the country go through it’s current state of insanity has inspired them to return to the studio. But where most bands would see it as an opportunity to rail against the alt-right and the Trump Administration, CH3’s approach is and always has been to write songs that come from taking stock of their own lives and figuring out how to cope with the craziness of the outside world.
“There’s no way to avoid the current cultural climate [in our songwriting],” Magrann says. “But we’re not an overtly political band, we take what’s going on and see how it affected us personally.”
Taking cues from bands The Jam and The Clash who created songs that favored anthemic strength over breakneck speed, band members Kimm Gardener, Nick Manning, Anthony Thompson and their producer Jay Lansford (Agent Orange, The Vandals, Gigantor) created a record that rocks hard and hits home just as they did back in the 80s. The album’s title track is a sneering indictment of the way our country treats its immigrants and the disenfranchised. It draws parallels to a lot of the band’s classic material, including the song “Manzanar,” which Magrann wrote based on the experience of his Japanese-American mother being forced into an Internment Camp of the same name back in the early to mid ‘40s during WWII.
“When we made our first record, [“Manazanar”] was one of the first songs we ever wrote and it really resonated with people because people all the time came up to me and still come up to me and say I had no idea about that chapter of American history until they heard that song,” Magrann says. “My mom was born in Boyle Heights, she was ab an LA kid. She was a young teenager when she was told to move away and take what we can carry. Now when you see these issues with deportation ripping families apart it just rings so familiar, it’s crazy.”
Writing and recording all the material within the last few months has helped keep the ideas fresh for the band. The timing and the quick turn around crystallize the points being made in their songs very quickly, creating a true snapshot of not only their band but also of the world.
“This project is just so tight and focused for us because we didn’t even start sit down to start exchanging ideas until after the new year so it was all done in 2017,” Magrann says.
Enlisting the help of Lansford along with Jim Monroe and Steve Soto who contributed some vocals made sure that the band had all the tools they needed to make a great record, which came out August 18 on TKO Records, just one week before their set at It’s Not Dead Fest in San Bernardino this Saturday.
“It worked out well, because for a big fest like that they give you a big radius clause but that was good because that was all the time we needed for pre-production for the album,” Magrann says.
Following their set at It’s Not Dead Fest, Magrann says the band is taking their new album on the road throughout the US and will head to Europe in the spring. As their songwriting and recording process has gotten more refined over the years, so have their touring strategies. For the most part, the band saves a lot more time and trouble flying out to cities to do what targeted touring versus the typical tour bus Odyssey across the U.S.
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“We don’t have the luxury of getting in a band like we did when we were 19 for three months at a time so we do fly in target touring which suits us,” Magrann says. “We’re flying on Thursday night, play till maybe Sunday and back at work on Monday morning.”
Though it’s not always easy, the life of a working class rock star agrees with Magrann and company and in the long run probably keeps them centered enough to keep putting out new material that rings true to the lives they lead. In that sense, Magrann says their music is less about aggressive slogans and adolescent frustration and more about how we’re all gonna make it through the day and hopefully emerge as smarter, better people.
“When we were all young in the 80s, writing a song called “Fuck Reagan” was easy enough to do,” Magrann says. “But once you shout it out, okay then what? What’s your solution? That’s why we pull back and it becomes more about the politics of the heart more than anything.”
CH 3 perform today at It's Not Dead Fest. For full details, click here.