"Oxnard! Oxnard! Nardcore!"
These simple lyrics from the song simply titled "Oxnard" are a familiar battle cry to a niche community in the SoCal hardcore scene. The beginnings of Nardcore–a volatile, pit-swirling blitzkrieg of bands out of Ventura County–hit widespread consciousness in the early '80s. Bands such as Aggression, Dr. Know and False Confession were responsible for spearheading a new scene of West Coast bands that captured the attention of the general punk rock public. Stan Mueller, a local documentary filmmaker and founder of the production company True Underground Network, holds up another band as being among the best: Ill Repute.
The group of rough-and-tumble Navy brats out of Port Hueneme were important emissaries for a sound that Mueller has been obsessed with since the first angry chords of their 45-second opus "Fuck With My Head."
"I just remember listening to Ill Repute when I was in eighth or ninth grade–their 7-inches and cassettes. I was always into it," Mueller says.
About a year ago, he launched "The Punk Rock Chronicles" book-and-documentary series, retracing the development of some of his favorite bands, the first of which is Clean Cut American Kids: The Story of Ill Repute, to be released on March 1. With a background in project management and compiling biographies on local professionals, athletes and entertainers (his wife, Jennifer, is the ghostwriter), the Huntington Beach resident spent five months on the task, interviewing the band members and a dozen other people integral to their story with the aid of videographer Jeff Feurerhaken of Firehook Entertainment. Though they were definitely an important band in the scene, most of the elements befitting a garden-variety band doc–sex, drugs, and rock & roll–are noticeably absent from this band's tale.
"One of the things that kind of worried me was that I've flipped through documentaries and books on other bands, and they've got these fantastic stories, from drug abuse to living on the streets. . . . We really had none of that," guitarist Tony Cortez says. "What I'm hoping is that it'll be an inspiring story about people just like you who did a little bit more."
Even though they've known each other since childhood, the band were able to glean some insight about one another thanks to the in-depth nature of the project. "It was sort of fun to find out things about my bandmates that, even after this long, I never really knew, as far as our personal lives," lead singerJohn Phaneuf says.
The fact that Ill Repute are still together and relevant is a reminder of the importance of their music, attitude and brutal, politically conscious lyrics. Which, Mueller says, made it easy to get source material for both the book and the doc.
"We put up the Facebook page about the project, and all of a sudden, people were offering up pictures and videos from all over the country," the director says.
Reviving Ill Repute's legacy, Mueller says, was long overdue. He hopes to soon highlight other bands who have left a big mark on the evolution of punk and hardcore. During his quest to finish the project, Mueller says, there have been signs that Mueller's vision is headed in the right direction–including kudos from a famous punk who almost signed Ill Repute to his label, Fat Wreck Chords, back in the day.
"It's funny because I got the email for Fat Mike [of NOFX] from a friend, and I sent him the documentary trailer," Mueller recalls, "and he responded back, like, 'Fuck, yeah! This is rad!'"
Clean Cut American Kids: The Story of Ill Repute is available via True Underground Network. To purchase and learn more, visit Universal Writer's website. See their crowd funding site at goodcleanfund.com/thepunkrockchronicles. For more info on future Punk Rock Chronicles projects, visit their Facebook page.