Hating the Haters
Here's the buy-'em-by-the-sack facts about the Smut Peddlers: punk rock band; been around since '93; four-fifths of them live in OC; range in age from 23 to 43; have recorded four full-length CDs; had their song "Let's Get Fucked Up" featured in Jackass: The Movie; have their own label, Ransom Records; just had three new songs produced by (cue sound of heavenly choir swelling up) Billy Zoom; and may or may not be hated by certain Weekly music writers.
And they're not Nazis—though a lot of people seem to think they are, even though Julia Smut, their girl drummer, is half Chinese. And they're pretty defensive about it, too. Seems that in our review of this past summer's Hootenanny, we commented about a no-necked nutjob wearing a shirt adorned with the name of a stupid fucking Nazi-loving, white-power-spewing OC band that we refused to ID lest we give them free pub, and some of the Smut Peddlers more sensitive groupies thought we were alluding to their fave band. (Nope. Another band entirely.) Word filtered back to Julia, who e-mailed us, wanting to know the dish. And then, after a flurry of correspondence, we wanted to know: Just how does a Nazi-hating band get so much love from Nazis?
A few factors, Julia tells us. In their early days, the Smut Peddlers played the speed-punk favored by the clean-headed Aryan set. For a short spell, Smut Peddlers T-shirts featured an Iron Cross, the German medal of combat valor. Nazi-tainted? Sure, but also a symbol that's become so corporately mainstreamed and trendy in the last couple of years that it's now the logo of certifiably benign surf and skate companies, West Coast Choppers, and countless other businesses (coming any day now to a mall near you: Iron Cross Barbie!).
Then there are the band's often tough lyrics. One song, "Last Train to Hicksville," about Colin Ferguson's 1993 shooting rampage aboard a Long Island Railroad train, had the word nigger in it. Hmmm…
"We used that word because it was a quote," says Julia. "The guy who did the shooting got on the witness stand in court and started rattling off people he didn't like. But it was never meant to be a racial thing. We sing about all sorts of topics—everything from surfing to the Taliban to prison to drugs to buying maps to the stars' homes. Hell, we even have a love song or two. Unfortunately, a group of tough-guy skinheads with room-temperature IQs hear one line or even one word of a song and decide we're just like them. It makes me sick when these shitbags throw me a sieg heil when I'm playing. Being Chinese, I grew up with my share of prejudice and racism."
Alas, bands can't pick and choose their audiences, as much as the Smut Peddlers would probably like to.
"We do what we can to leave those idiots behind, but they're not easy to shake," says Julia. "It's hard to discriminate at the door and not let them in by the way they look, because that's just lowering ourselves to their level—that's what they'd want to do with everyone else. We even started playing incognito shows for a while under the name SPi, and only told those we knew wouldn't be trouble. We left clues, made people answer trivia questions, all to try to avoid skinheads showing up."
And when they do show up, shit always goes down. Usually a pack of five or six shove their way up to the front of the stage so real Smut Peddlers fans can't see the band. Then the Nazis start beating on the fans. ("I've overheard these people say they just want to go to our shows so they can beat up punk rockers," Julia says.) Then, in a deeply moving display of profound intellect, passion or excessive enthusiasm, the Nazis start beating on each other.
"We used to stop the music when fights would break out, but that just made it worse because then they can hear each other. If there's a major fight, the club will stop the show, but then the fight will get moved outside and we'll still get blamed for it."
And once a band gets a rep for attracting rough crowds, clubs become understandably skittish about booking them. OC appearances from the Smut Peddlers have been rare this year, as they've spent far more time gigging in LA, where skinheads never seem to venture.
"We understand that club bookers don't want their building torn down, but what it all comes down to is good security," says Julia. "If they would hire security that knows how to handle skinheads and rough crowds properly, then there wouldn't be these kinds of problems.
"I don't care who comes to our shows, as long as they're there to see us play. But if Nazis are going to try to preach to the crowd or take over the dance floor, that's not okay. We want everyone to have fun and have a good time."
The Smut Peddlers Perform with Instigator, Damaged Goods and Hit By A Semi at The Liquid Den, 5061 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 377-7964. Fri, 9 p.m. $8. 21+.
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