Los Reactors had a brief four year existence from the years 1979-83, yet their legend has far outlived their original moments in the sun. They can proudly lay claim to the title of "Best Punk Band Ever from Tulsa, Oklahoma", but I'm unsure as to what kind of weight such a proclamation carries these days. Certainly, they are the most well-known of fairly small group of bands operating in the Southern Midwest states during punk's formative years, and were supposedly fairly big in the area during that time due to actually playing a lot of out of town shows, something not many bands of that era managed to accomplish. They obviously did something right, managing to be legitimately comped not once, but twice. The first being the "Dead in the Suburbs" LP on Italy's Rave-Up Records, one of the best of the label's "American Lost Punk Rock Nuggets" series (it's Vol. 8 for those keeping score). The LP included both of their singles, plus one previously unreleased studio track and a side's worth of live material. This not being enough, San Francisco's Rip Off Records saw fit to reissue the reissue, this time on CD, with some additional songs, and enhanced video footage of the band performing live. They of course also got bootlegged on a volume of the Killed by Death series, with two tracks appearing on Vol. 100. Why all the interest? I put some of the reasoning on the fact that new wave revivalists The Briefs covered "Dead in the Suburbs", which I imagine sent many a previously un-hip young punk on the search for their material. And the new wave revival itself was receptive to an old school punk band playing an early version of keyboard-inclusive punk. I also place some of the blame on the fact that Los Reactors really did have great songs, two singles worth, which is a lot considering the time frame and area they operated in. The band members are still in contact and still playing music, and they actually reformed to play some shows this year. First, a warm-up gig in their hometown of Tulsa before a high-profile slot at this year's Dot Dash festival in NYC. Sometime before the NYC show, Troy tracked down keyboardist Joe Christ and guitarist Roger Scott for some questions...
TB: When did the band start and why did you start it?
Roger: I had been playing in various bands for a few years, and had formed several punk bands. After numerous combinations, the nucleus of what would become the Reactors came together in about 1979. After a previous guitarist quit, we played three-piece for a while, and then recruited Joe Danger as the final member. The motivation of course, was a passion for playing new and exciting music.
TB: Who influenced your playing/songwriting?
Roger: I was influenced by many people, including everyone from Iggy, Alice Cooper, the New York Dolls, Johnny Thunders, Bowie, the Ramones, Black Sabbath, MC5, etc.
Joe: At the time they were probably Iggy Pop (we covered 4 or 5 of his songs), The New York Dolls/Johnny Thunders, David Bowie, The Stones...though I would say that my organ-playing style with Los Reactors was more influenced by 1960s-era garage and psychedelic bands.
TB: What kind of reaction did Los Reactors get especially considering the conservative nature of the area?
Roger: With previous punk bands I played in, we got some negative reactions, but since there were few places we could play, that limited it. By the time Los Reactors was formed, there started to be more people who were interested in hearing something new and different, so, with a few exceptions, we generally got a positive response from anyone who was interested enough to check it out.
Joe: Do you mean from 1980 - 1983 in Tulsa when we were together as a group? Or do you mean the recent reunion? In both cases, the reaction has been very good. In the "old" days, we played regularly in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Norman, Oklahoma; Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas; and other Midwestern cities that were near to Tulsa like Kansas City, MO; Fayetteville, AR; and Wichita KS. In just about all of those places we would draw fairly large turnouts, and I don't recall that we ever got a negative response anywhere. In Tulsa, especially, we were quite popular. We appeared on some local television variety shows, played live shows often, and we were fairly notorious as being "wildly behaved". The recent reunion show we did in Tulsa was the first show we'd done as a group since 1983. Even so, it went very well. The local papers gave it a lot of advance coverage and there were posters everywhere, so lots of people came out. We saw a lot of familiar faces, but at least half the crowd were young people who weren't even born when we had last performed together. The overall reaction was very good...sold out of t-shirts, CDs and other merchandise, which is always a good thing.
TB: Are there any unreleased songs left?
Roger: Actually there are quite a lot of songs we never got a chance to record, some of which have been available on a "Best of Live" tape.
Joe: Funny you should ask...we got a digital recording of the Tulsa reunion show, and will be doing the same at the New York show in a few weeks. There's another album's worth of songs that weren't on the "Dead In The Suburbs" release. It's very possible that a second album might come out on CD with those songs, and maybe some live versions of the studio-recorded songs from the first album.
TB: How do you feel about old punk bands that reunite?
Roger: If anyone wants to play, I'm all for it. In our case, I feel it was long over due. Over the years, many people have expressed an interest in hearing the band again, so it's really quite fun to play those old fun songs again.
TB: Joe…You wrote songs with pretty unusual topics(Patty Hearst, Shah of Iran)....where did you get the ideas for your songs from?
Joe: Well, both Patty Hearst and the Shah of Iran had been pretty big news items around the time that I wrote those songs. There was a period of about maybe two years where I was writing slightly humorous songs about what were current or recent events at the time.
TB: Joe, is the song "Pregnant Girls" inspired by something in your life?
Joe: Hmm...I do like to tell my older son that it's about his mother. But the true story is that I was just trying to come up with a subject that most people would find offensive, in this case threatening to beat up a pregnant girlfriend, and then present it with inappropriate humor, in an energetic, catchy and rockin' tune.
TB: What were some of the bands you enjoyed playing with live?
Roger: CH-3, from California, The Ralphs, from Dallas, and The Hostages, from Oklahoma City.
Joe: There were plenty. The Automatic Fathers, NOTA, The Insects, The Bridgeclimbers were all Tulsa bands, and there were Dallas bands like The Nervebreakers and The Ralphs who played in Tulsa a lot, and The Randys and The Hostages from Oklahoma City...all of those bands were part of the Tulsa punk and underground scene in the early 1980s.
TB: How do you feel about bands today that cover Los Reactors songs(Briefs, Morticia’s Lovers)?
Roger: I have only heard a couple, but it's pretty cool.
TB: Was Devo an influence on the band at all?...I hear echoes of them in songs like "Laboratory Baby"
Roger: Devo was never an influence for me. I mostly listen to guitar-oriented bands.
TB: Did the two singles you put out do well back when they were released?
Roger: Considering we had no real distribution, or music industry support of any kind, they were well received by fans and independent radio.
TB: Why didn't the band ever tour?
Roger: Actually we did a lot of mini tours in the surrounding five state area. But as I said, we had no real support from any establishment music industry, so we did the best we could under the circumstances.
TB: Do you remember any crazy show/groupie/party stories?
Roger: I remember many such stories, but most of them would be incriminating to someone. They were wild times. At one show, we were booked to play at the University of Oklahoma, and the promoters added a couple of unscheduled bands to the bill at the last minute. As a result, the show ran too long and campus police ordered it shut down, which bumped a couple of scheduled bands, including us. There were some pissed off people, and a few people pushed a piano belonging to the university down a hallway, out the door, and down a long flight of steps. The piano crashed to the ground and disintegrated. I also heard that some seats were slashed by irate fans. Of course we were blamed for the incident and blacklisted in that city for a long time.
TB: Why did the band break up?
Roger: There were a lot of factors. The scene had started to wane, and we had been banging our heads against a wall for a long time and were getting pretty burnt out. The ultimate end was Joe's decision to quit the band and move to Dallas.
TB: After Los Reactors, you formed Cenotaph who were supposedly a white power death metal band...seems like a real departure from your previous band.
Roger: Cenotaph was a Black Metal/Thrash Metal/Death Metal band. I am a White man and my political views reflect that reality. As for the question of "power," who would you want to have the power to make the decisions that affect the lives of yourself and your loved ones; people who have your best interests at heart, or people who despise you because they have been told that you are their oppressor, and the cause of all their problems?
Interview by Troy Canady
Los Reactors on the web: Righteous Death Records
Rave Up Records
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