Musical Q&A: Double Naught Spy Car & Stew

Longtime musical colleague Stew interviews Double Naught Spy Car about their forthcoming CD “Western Violence.”

Most of them have deep roots in Echo Park, having lived there at one point or another, when the streets were a little meaner.

We're talking about Stew (of The Negro Problem and Broadway) and Paul Lacques, Mark Doten, Joe Berardi and Marcus Watkins most recently of Double Naught Spy Car.

The five sat down together recently for a wide-ranging chat that's presented below. It's an Echo Park-Silver Lake Patch exclusive.

DNSC, by the way, celebrates the release of its new album Western Violence this Saturday, Oct. 13 from 5-8 p.m. at Villains Tavern in downtown L.A. Ben Vaughn and his band are special guests.


Stew (S):  Is the true joy of being an instrumental band that you don't have to deal with a self involved ass all the time?

Initially that was true, but we’ve found that over the years we’ve each subconsciously filled the self-involved ass role.  Now it’s like having four lead singers in the band.   Paul Lacques (PL), guitar/steel

There are  so many reasons why I cannot answer this question.  Marc Doten (MD), bass

Are you kidding? Having a band fronted by 2 guitar players is like having 6 lead singers.  The only upside is that guitar players will carry their own gear. No, the true joy is not having to explain what a song means.  No one ever asks, “What was the significance of going from E minor to A major in the second verse?”  Joe Berardi (JB), drums

Don't let him fool you--Joe loves it when a singer gets on his drum set to demonstrate the beat he's "hearing" for the song.  Marcus Watkins (MW), guitar

S:  The band must choose between scoring a doc on the life of Wayne Newton or Robert Mugabe (both in 3-D). Which doc do you choose and why?

I’d pick Wayne Newton. Just imagine the creative possibilities of reworking the “Danke Schoen” theme to fit all the many twists and turns in Wayne Newton’s complicated life.  Newton all the way!  JB

It really depends on the budget, and artistic freedom.   If it’s a Robert Mugabe vanity project it would likely have a bigger budget, maybe even pay us in diamonds, but I don’t want to be in a tiny editing room in Harare as RM grinds us about the guitars being too atonal, or can the drums be more wistful, etc.  Mugabe’s known to be difficult.  PL

One is 3/4 and the other is 6/8. Tough choice. MW
S:  The band has been kidnapped by four obsessive and heavily armed fans ranging in ages from 12 to 14 years old. You will be released only after you have taught them how to play, note for note, one song from your new record. Which song do you teach them?

Since WE can’t even play a song note for note from one gig to the next, we would all happily die martyrs for the cause. JB

Guitar Center, duh.  MD

I’d vote for our theme song “Double Naught Spy Car.”  At a show last year
we actually switched instruments and people still recognized the song.  PL

I would convince them that the only way to capture a Spy Car performance is to participate in a ritual involving peyote. As soon as they reached total spiritual drug induced euphoria I'd kick them in the nuts and run.  MW

S:  The band must choose between touring Africa backing Wayne Newton or doing 6 weeks in Vegas backing Robert Mugabe...in 3-D. Which do you choose and why?

That’s an easy one:  does the continent of Africa have kickass and reliable air conditioning?  Not like Vegas, I’d wager.  Plus Mugabe would probably show us off around town, take us to high end restaurants, introduce us to arms merchants with righteous opium, throw us some casino chips.  It could be pretty chill.  Again, as long as he’s not difficult.  PL

Do we get our own rooms? What's the Backline situation? MW

S: Beyonce wants to put lyrics to one of your songs. It's your choice. Which song?

For real?  I’m not familiar with her work, but we could have her pick out her own fave.  We’ll definitely do it.  We need a leg up out of our cult status, and Beyonce just made Vanity Fair’s top 50 wealthy entertainment moguls list.  PL

S:  Do you still surprise each other musically or is it more like you guys are an architectural collective that brings your highly individual trademarks to the design of each structure? Or both?

For sure both, and that's a good description of the band. The band wouldn't
have lasted this long if it weren't so. I'd say the surprises happen mostly
live, in the moment. The individual trademarks are there in both the live
playing and in the writing.  MD

Yes, both.  We’ve played so many hours together that we do have a kind of band ESP.  When we backed up Mr. Smolin recently on his album, the parts would be hashed out by the end of a runthrough.  It’s pretty joyous when it all flows.  Balancing that is a need to offend each other, and often times a deliberately idiotic lick or melody will launch a new tune.  PL

S: What is the least Southern Californian thing about your music?

Our compulsive use of the major seventh over a minor chord.  PL

The umlauts in the band name.  JB

S:  What is the most?

The amount of reverb and treble used to sell that major seventh to a mass audience.  PL

Yes, reverb and Fender guitars.  JB

S:  Which of your songs on Western Violence would be on Paul Ryan's iPod?

Paul Ryan didn't know that Ayn Rand was an atheist. And he doesn't know
what the name 'Rage Against The Machine' means.  That's cool, let's send him the CD. Favorite cut? Western Violence (With Some Sensuality) or Halliburton Snowboard come to mind.  MD

A Nick Harcourt remix of the title track, with a sample of a Warthog A-10 Thunderbolt II blasting 4,200 rounds-a-minute of armor piercing depleted uranium shells into a reinforced bunker in a country of Paul Ryan’s choosing.  PL

He’s a politician. He’d have the whole album on shuffle play.  JB

S:  If God decided sunrise and sunset needed a soundtrack accompaniment, which songs, respectively, from your new record would he blast from the sky?

"Sunrise: The Italian." It has a good beat. "Sunset: The Indian." It has a good
beat.  MD

Sunrise: Two Bones From Skeletor starts slow, like we all do in the morning, and quickly kicks into high gear before we’re really ready.
Sunset: Without doubt, San Paku Pass is a “riding off into the sunset” kind of song.  JB

Would He actually blast the songs from physical locations in the sky?  What kind of speakers would he use?  Would the speakers be so large that they would block sunlight, mitigating Global Warming?   Or would God form a massive globe-encircling membrane, pulsating the songs earthward in kickass globalsurroundsound?  Is it too late to get Him a 96k 64 bit remastering?  I’m a little worried that some digital “grain” might show up in such a large format.  PL

S:  Can people be fairly categorized as "Rhythm Pick Up People," "Treble Pick Up People" and "Middle Pick Up People?" If so, give an example of one for each pick-up that influenced you or your music.

Absolutely.  No pickup east of the treble pickup has ever been used by me, except in moments of desperation when I can’t find a tone and am out of musical ideas.  Likewise, no guitarist on middle pickup has had any effect on my playing, other than showcasing things to avoid.  PL

S:  Is bass really an instrument or just a way to make women think its your "music" that’s compelling?

Bass is an instrument the way that the Harry Potter series is literature.  It’s a good thing for a youth to start out on, but when you get serious you switch to guitar.  Bass’s appeal to women, if there is one, might be in adding to the band member total, implying a degree of socialization that means the band isn’t a bunch of creeps.  PL

It is not a 'musical' instrument but it is a way to make women think it's my
'music' that's compelling.  MD

While none of the devices used to make rock music could be considered an “instrument”, the bass is the furthest removed. No one chooses to play bass, it’s usually foisted upon them by guitar players who are trying to thin out the competition. “The band needs a bass player. Here, try it.” The irony here is that the bass player is generally the most musically advanced member of the band, but they just got a raw deal. Sadly, most women think the bass player is just a guitar player who doesn’t move around very much onstage and is therefore probably boring in bed.  JB

S:  Can you think of alternate uses for a Fender Telecaster that might be of use to dentists?

They both have similar functions, Telecasters and dentists. They both make my teeth hurt and leave my gums numb.  JB

The back of a Telecaster is perfectly flat.  Dentists, surgeons, flight attendants could all make use of this property. PL

A dentist could play one. Have you ever been to a blues jam?  MW

S:  A fan has their first orgasm while listening to a song on your new record. They never said which song though. Which song do you think it was and why?

You are describing a situation akin to God making a stone so heavy that He can’t lift it.  PL

Oh man, that's sad.  MD

If it’s a guy, Western Violence (3:23).
If it’s a girl, The Indian (6:10). JB

S:  If DNSC were the Monkees who would be who?

We would all be Mike Nesmith, and get kicked off the record label halfway through recording the first album.  PL

S:  What's the real difference between major and minor?

An index finger.  MD

It’s like the difference between male and female—a matter of tiny increments. The blues bend on a guitar string is a true hermaphrodite, but leaning towards the female.  The jazz bend on .13 gauge strings, with treble rolled off, using one finger, is almost exclusively male.  Arabic scales include a note so dead center between major and minor as to induce deep melancholy in the western mind.  PL

S:  If Western Violence were the theme-tune for a 60s cowboy TV show, who would play the sheriff, the sexy bar maid, and the town drunk?

Let’s actually shoot this, on that new Canon camera that film schools are using. We can condense the sheriff/bar maid/town drunk into a composite character played by Jessica Stevenson.  PL

All played by Joe Berardi.  MD

S:  If "The Indian," a groovy cut off yer new record, was the theme for a TV show what would that TV show be about?

A reality show about withdrawing U.S. troops from the Middle East one day at a time.  The show will run for 700 years.  PL

S:  "Feral Kitty", a delightful track of yer latest, is a reminder of how funny guitars can be.  Is being instrumentally funny harder than being verbally funny?

I’m glad you noticed the comedic aspects of the song.  Are you perhaps referring to the Glenn Frey “I Can’t Tell You Why” guitar solo shoutout?  If you’ve never studied any particular guitar technique or practiced sufficiently, as I have most carefully avoided, comedic guitar is like rolling off a log.  It also helps to be a perpetual fringe member of society.  PL

No, much easier. Put a Fender guitar in the hands of a world weary idealist,
and you're there.  MD

S:  Is there any truth to the rumor that Joe Berardi has a cooking show deal with the Food Network and that "The Italian" is actually its theme song?

Not true at all. My aspirations are much loftier than that. Just wait for the 2016 Presidential election. You’ll be hearing The Italian more than you could have ever imagined.  JB

S:  What is the message of "Journey To The Center of Guitar Center?"

Exactly.  MD

Parents, this could happen to your child. Pay attention to the warning signs.  JB

It’s a message to all guitar shredders, but the message is subliminal, and not necessarily something the shredder would volunteer his/her psyche for.  It involves reprogramming brain patterns.  We will start seeing results in a year or two, depending on how viral the song goes.  It’s a mass population experiment that is not without its risks.  PL

S: What article of clothing would "Two Bones from Skeletor" best advertise in a tv commercial?

The Ove Glove.  MD

One of those three wheeled motorcycles. MW

There’s a new giant Snuggy™ coming out that’s intended to wrap offensive architecture.  Los Angeles is going to be a vast field of soft snuggly pastel pierced by the occasional Craftsman house or 1920s street lamp, and maybe a building or two from the 21st century.  We hope they run ads for this and use our song.  Giant Snuggy™--Save your city today!  PL

S:  What is the central image we should conjure while listening to "Haliburton Snowboard?"

Uber-channel surfing with an 180” ten million pixel LED screen, simultaneous instant access to all global TV, cable, internet, CIA listening posts, CCTV cameras, and facebook footage, using a radical high speed remote with sensors embedded in the forehead, so that the nanosecond-shifting imagery is accompanied by a soft drumbeat upon the skull.  PL

Dick Cheney dune surfing.  MD

Dwain Wilson October 09, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Wow. Just read the entire story in reverse. Kind of like the Carnac the Magnificent. Heavy.
Claude Johnson October 11, 2012 at 10:24 AM
Hi, i was wondering if you could offer me any advice on using a capo, i have been practicing guitar lessons holding and using one for a while now but it still produces a tinny sound, i play a jumbo bodied acoustic and use plastic picks, would nylon ones be better?


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