Monsters of Rock
Electric Frankenstein knew they were doing something right when people started fucking behind the stage during their shows. And in the bathroom between their songs. And throwing bras onstage, Motley Crue-style. And even writing letters to them about how Frankenstein was the perfect fucking soundtrack—well, make that the perfect soundtrack to fuck by. (The music made us do it, they'd explain to the band.)
Electric Frankenstein bring rock & roll —sweaty, horny, teenage-sleazeball, back-seat, cheap-wine, outta-control rock & roll —back from the dead and right into your too-tight pants. "It's the backbeat," says guitarist Sal Canzonieri. "Because it's rock & roll, it makes people feel something in their bodies. That's why in the 1950s, the authorities freaked out about rock & roll—because the music entices people to go have sex. People are jaded now, and they don't realize that's what rock & roll does. But if you've never heard it before, well, that's what it'll do."
Canzonieri should know. He's got a bachelor's degree in behavioral science, and if you could get a degree from the school of hard rock, he'd have one of those, too—probably a doctorate, even, for the decades he has spent in solemn study. When he was a wee child in his native New Jersey, he won a Big Brother & the Holding Company record on the boardwalk, and the damage was done. When his family bought its first stereo, he bought his first record—Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits—and never looked back. He was about 10 years old then. "I always liked monsters and all those things growing up," he says. "So I just sought out anything unusual—when I saw a Stooges record, it looked like a monster to me."
He helped stitch together his own monster in 1991: the Electric Frankenstein. "I realized it had been 10 years a few days ago," says Canzonieri. "I was like, '10 years? How did that happen?'" The Electric Frankenstein were so named because of the way they planned to bodysnatch the best bits of rock & roll's supposed corpse. And because of the sinister forces they'd harness to bring it back to life. Remember that behavioral-science degree? Canzonieri put it to work, turning his guitar into something more appropriate for psychological warfare.
"I came up with a thing called the Rorschach test method—I'm giving secrets away here!—but the way I play guitar makes the music sound different to each person, based on their experience," he explains. "I went back and looked at the essence of what makes music. I studied and studied at home and re-learned the guitar. I purposely undid everything."
And that's why the Frankenstein can monster mash for everyone from greasy garage rockers to hair-farming heshers and spiky punks, he says. Lurking in those malformed chords is room for all of rock & roll's bastard children. Check out their newest release, Annie's Grave (a prelude to a September full-length called The Buzz of 10,000 Volts): if you hear Black Flag, you'd be right. AC/DC? Right again. Motrhead? Sure. Hear what you want to hear, and make sure that bra you're wearing isn't too hard to unfasten—just in case.
"I think rock & roll is gonna come back," Canzonieri says. "People are disillusioned by the trendy stuff, by the major-label pop baloney and the college-radio, alternative-music, boring bullcrap. There's a special quality rock & roll has that nothing else has. The kids miss that."
The Frankenstein have been stomping around for a long time—since the Donnas were in diapers and the Murder City Devils were just a bunch of snot-nosed, suburban, new-wave fans. Canzonieri and company—brother Dan, guitarist Carl Porcaro, drummer Rob Sefcik and lead bellower Steve Miller (kindly purge any thoughts of the Steve Miller Band before showing up to the Frankenstein shows. Thank you)—have made a commitment to rock & roll. They've put out dozens of records (and sold a total of 100,000 worldwide, says Canzonieri) and even dueted with our own Rik L. Rik a few times when they visited from New Jersey. They didn't hop on the bandwagon; if anything, they helped put it together. Ask Canzonieri about the anti-rock conspiracy: he and his band mates are on a mission to pry rock & roll out of major-label limbo and deliver it back to the people.
"It's this whole fake market setup, of fake lifestyles promoted through MTV," says Canzonieri. "This is marketing people deciding what kids should wear and what they should listen to. But rock & roll can't be controlled by major labels; it's the real thing."
There's a simple difference, he says, between the Frankenstein and "some crybaby emo band or some alternative band looking at the floor and acting like they don't give a shit about being there."
And it probably involves fucking backstage, right?
"Well," says Canzonieri. "It's rock & roll. You can act like you care."
Electric Frankenstein performs with Shattered Faith, the Hellbenders and Captured By Robots at Club Mesa, 643 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-6634; www.clubmesa.com. Sat., 9 p.m. $12. 21+; also with Shattered Faith and the Hellbenders at Linda's Doll Hut, 107 S. Adams, Anaheim, (714) 533-1286; www.dollhut.com. Sun., 9 p.m. Call for cover. 21+.
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