Steve Soto: The Punk Ambassador

Downtown Fullerton looks a lot different than it did when Steve Soto was 21. For starters, most of what he's surveying from his seat on the new, wooden patio area of Hopscotch—the new eatery/craft-whiskey joint in town—didn't exist: the bars, the restaurants, none of it.

“It's probably better that way,” Soto says before biting into a plain chicken sandwich with mustard on the side. “Me and Tony would've been a lot of trouble.”

The “Tony” he's referring to is Tony Cadena, co-founder of OC punk legends the Adolescents, who, alongside Soto, singlehandedly shaped the course of three generations of loud, irreverent musicians to come. With a slash-and-burn guitar tone matched only by tales of his wild, booze-soaked escapades offstage before sobriety set in, Soto's reputation for living and breathing punk rock always precedes him. Usually because you can't talk about the genre's history in Southern California without mentioning his name and several of his bands who are instant Mosh Pit Hall of Famers. Take your pick: Agent Orange, Joyride, Manic Hispanic and many more.

And, lest we forget, there was his time spent in the '90s booking bands at the world-famous, now-extinct Linda's Doll Hut in Anaheim, back when the place was a hub for literally every band he could book, whether it was the Offspring or a no-name band from out of town. At the legendary hangout, mayhem miracles or mishaps were bound to happen—all in a place the size of a dorm room.

“When Bad Religion said they'd do it, their crew weren't from around here, and as soon as they walked in, I could see it on their face, and one of 'em gets on the phone and says, 'You guys know what we're getting into?' And those guys are all my friends, so they just said, 'Set the gear up; we'll be there. Before we could hire guys like you, we played places like this all the time.'”

Over the past few decades, his own work with everyone from the Agent Orange to CJ Ramone continues to make him a globetrotting ambassador of OC punk. When he's not at his home in Long Beach, it means he's probably in the studio or on a plane to play in another part of the world.

“It's amazing standing in a festival in Croatia and thinking, 'God, we started out playing punk rock in a garage. And we're still playing it,'” Soto says.

Judging from his current output with the Adolescents, the Cadillac Tramps (celebrating their 20th anniversary this year), and Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts, it doesn't appear he'll be stopping any time soon.

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