"Swiss Cheese Back" B/W "Watching TV"

IND 083 7"

The Fuckin' Flyin' A-Heads were a band from Hawaii most commonly construed as "punk", tho they might provide one of the more exciting links between a more typified conception of "punk", and that of "noise". If the A side of this hybrid genre is the final aggregate regimented elements of deconstructed hard core that Harry Pussy by way of Magic Band displayed, the flip is the excess of Experience inspired freedom and recklessly abandons anything that even vaguely resemble "form". Perhaps the most radically mixed recording, ever (to the extent that you might wonder if they just fucked up, or were working with a broken machine). A completely astounding spin .. 

Their first review is a riot :

White noise this pure must take lots of to work to perfect. Somewhere far away there is a 60s endless guitar solo, bass playing 2 notes, a cymbal being hit at a constant 2 / 4 beat, and a distorted voice talking. But mostly there is white noise, simultaneously complex and simple. It's quite disturbing when cranked up. I like to play this record and watch TV. It instantly gives a surreal sense to the most mundane images. Not recommended for anyone with high blood pressure.

~ M.C. Parker
Damage Magazine, DEC 1980


“Your music is too intense -- it will likely cause a riot.” - Dirk Dirksen, owner of the Mabuhay Gardens, circa 1979-80

“I first heard about their 45 from a small review in Slash magazine. From the description it sounds like it would be right up my alley, and I began scouting around for a copy. Well, 15 years later I finally was presented with one as a gift for my birthday (thanks, C's). Not only was I not disappointed after my long wait, in fact, the record was even greater than I had ever hoped by a factor of about four. Their 45 is a fuckin' flyin' monster.” - Phil Milstein

The first time I got wind of the Fuckin' Flyin' A-Heads was on a compilation cassette entitled Cumstains Over My Record Collection, that was supposed to become the US version of Killed By Death Vol 6 LP (not the much weaker Australian version, but that's another story). From that very day in September 1994, this band wouldn't leave my mind ever again.

In early 1999 Phil Milstein provided me with contact info for two members of the group, and I decided to do an article on the band. Ugly Things seemed to be the right place, and attentive readers may already have noticed how much Johan Kugelberg likes this band, so my best bet was to ask him. He agreed to publish this article. Their only record, the 1980 “Swiss Cheese Back” b/w “Watching TV” 7", is so intense that I have to admit that I can't listen to it regularly. Why? Because it requires aural strength and disturbs me quite a lot: Once I've put on my headphones, turned up the volume and concentrated fully it is like entering a different, ugly, universe. Listening to the guitar work (which is way beyond being good or bad) I shake my head in disbelief. The vocals are the most bestial that I have experienced so far -- hands down. You must experience it yourselves, as no words can explain really.

FFA were heavily influenced by Blue Cheer and actually did work with their drummer Paul Whaley a lot. Interestingly enough, Paul Whaley lives in my hometown, Regensburg in Bavaria, and FFA are again in touch with him. Guitarist Howard Nishioka (and vocalist on the flipside of the 45) was kind enough to provide his memories of the band;

Howard Nishioka: Eric (Ishii) and I and a friend (Richard Kon) have known each other from the age of 13 or so. We lived in the same neighborhood and went to school, parties, etc, together. In the late '60s we started to listen to “new” music of the era (Hendrix, Doors, etc). We were able to see some of them play here in Hawaii, luckily enough. Around that time, as I picked up the guitar we became interested in Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention.

By the mid-'70s Hawaii had very little of the kind of music we liked, so I relocated to San Francisco and played with a jazz-rock band called Quiddity. We made an album that never got released. A couple of years later I returned home to Hawaii. Punk rock had changed the independent scene, and Eric, Richard and myself got ourselves involved with what tiny scene was developing at the time. Richard secured some studio time and we started to record with him as an engineer and producer and me playing some kind of underground electric folk music that was intentionally uncommercial. We founded Otaro Records to get our music out, Otaro being local slang for a large skipjack tuna. We released an album entitled Streetsongs (not as the FFA) of electric folk music. It got limited release and some reviews at the time, but wasn't commercially successful.

Around 1979, Richard and myself were planning a live band with Eric as vocalist, considering his potential for outlandish onstage antics. We wanted to produce and release independent music, sounding just like us and not anyone else, with original lyrics. In Hawaii at the time there were just cover bands playing FM-Rock or tame New Wave. We tried a few musicians out including some female background singers, but the result wasn't what we had in mind. The music required intuition and improvisation and it was hard to get such musicians that were like-minded. Almost in desperation I tried to 'borrow' Bob Wilson whom I had known since we were teens. He was in a hard rock/blues band at the time and he brought drummer Dan Garrett with him. Being poor we looked to stage a benefit for a local theatre in exchange for a hall to record in.

We needed a name for the band. Dan came up with the Fuckin' Flyin' A-Heads from an underground comic. After posting flyers, we borrowed some gear and got some friends to help us out with sound and lights. Richard was recording. The show itself lasted a few hours and there are unmixed tapes still in existence. Maybe Richard and I will do something with them.

We knew how hard it was to release locally in Hawaii, so we decided to take back the music to California for remixing, mastering etc. Dan contributed the artwork, with suggestions from everyone. At the time we were pretty much ignored by the 'above-ground' press but knew we had a handful of receptive supporters. We played a farewell gig for them before heading to San Francisco.

Bob was married and stayed in Hawaii, so us three took all the stuff (tapes, artwork) and headed to San Francisco. There we were in a much more receptive atmosphere as the punk era was in full swing. We hooked up with Jim Keylor and Ed Dorn at BSU Productions and they helped us to get our record out. 1500-2,000 copies were pressed, which Rough Trade distributed some of. It wasn't a commercial venture, we wanted be a part of the independent underground record scene. It got some airplay on several college and underground radio stations. In 1980 we got a letter from a guy in Italy so I think it got heard in some places in Europe.

Stu, a pal of Dan's, took over the bass and we continued to play awhile under the name of Fuckin' Flyin' A-Heads. We quit as FFA in 1981, not because of fights within the band or business decisions, more since it seemed like other people weren't ready for the music.

In 1982 Dan left San Francisco and returned to Hawaii; I have lost touch with him. Eric and I continued to collaborate and record some music in the early-'80s under the name Seppukku - Les Guttz. Around that time of 1982-83 I also recorded some material with friends from Iowa (the band was called Bone Terry) in a bar band/blues band vein. From 1984-87 Eric and I continued to write music with Paul Whaley (Blue Cheer) playing drums, but we never recorded.

The idea of the FFA was freedom, to say and play anything without restrictions, limitations or worries about fan or press opinions. We tried to have punk attitude, jazz abilities, blues' soul, acid-rock's freedom, and bohemian sensibilities. I still believe in it, I hope others do too.

Interview with vocalist Eric Ishii:

UT: When did the Fuckin' Flyin' A-Heads form?

EI: Sometime in 1979, I can't recall exactly when. It started with Howard looking for and finding additional musicians to play the stuff that we were interested in doing in Hawaii, which up to this point had not been done by any local band. This was after the dissolution of Seppuku and Gutless (a previous musical project).

The first member Howard found was a drummer, Dan Garrett. We started hanging around together as a group and then Howard got Bob Wilson to play bass. We practiced a few times and then played the concert, which resulted in the EP.

UT: Who were the members?

EI: Howard Nishioka on guitar and vocals; Bob Wilson on bass; Dan Garrett on drums (he also did the artwork for the record cover) and myself, Eric Ishii on vocals and pranks.

UT: Did any of the band members play in other bands?

EI: Beside Seppuku and Gutless, I wasn't in any other bands. Howard had been in several, but the one that was most known was probably when he did some gigs with Dickie Peterson of Blue Cheer fame. I presume that Bob had been in some bands in Hawaii but I don't think any of them recorded anything or were very well known. Dan was more or less the same; however, after the Fuckin' Flyin' A-Heads dissolved, Dan went on and played with some Punk bands in San Francisco, most notably, Murder (which was a post Lewd band). As for me, I never did anything else except for the practice stuff we did with Paul Whaley.

There's a side story concerning the Blue Cheer connection, which ends up with Howard, myself and Paul Whaley (old Blue Cheer drummer) practicing together. However, we never found a bass player that was good enough or interested in doing what we were playing at the time and so this 'band' dissolved.

UT: What were the musical influences of the band at the time?

EI: Well, we all had differing musical interests, but some that we all dug: Iggy Pop was a common interest, as was Iggy's former band members who formed a band with some members of MC5 and called themselves the New Order at first, and then had to change their name because a new wave band from the UK had legal dibs on that name. Jorma Kaukonen was with a band called Hot Tuna and Jack Cassidy was with a band called SVT that we all dug. We all dug Motorhead. Although Howard wasn't really into the Sex Pistols they did provide us with the idea about the seven-inch record having a 33rpm recording on it.

UT: Did the band have a following in Hawaii?

EI: No, because we had a very difficult time trying to get promoted. We weren't allowed to play live music at any clubs, etc. Our Seppuku and Gutless tape was allowed to be played at a couple of nightclubs because we knew the DJ's, but the local radio stations wouldn't/couldn't touch it.

UT: Did the band have a strong following outside of Hawaii?

EI: No, because we were sort of unknown and couldn't get the people in control to allow us to play at those clubs that were doing live shows. At the time, we had to shop around a tape that was titled Bent Nails, and on it was a mixture of different music: some of Seppuku and Gutless, some of the Flying A-Heads, some of Howard's other musical projects. Anyway, this tape and the music from the live Hawaiian concert was being shopped around and it was interesting to see so many turn it down and not allow us to play at their clubs. Even Dirk Dirksen of the Mab turned us down, because in his exact words: “Your music is too intense -- it'll likely cause a riot.” This was coming from the person who allowed almost anybody to play the Mab, and at the time bands like DOA, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, etc, were playing the Mab all the time.

We started to get really pissed at all which had transpired and decided to take things up a level. We decided to put out the record, which would be used as an added thing to shop and get us known within the SF Bay area. This is also when we decided to change the name to the Fuckin' Flying A-Heads, because up to this point there were all these “Punk” bands that were using Censored wording within their names when they released material, for example: Sick F*cks, The F*ck Ups, etc. This also applied to the gig posters that we ended up doing. A lot of bands would show artwork of girls in bras and panties or artwork of seminude females or of some guy's nude ass but we just decided to go for it. At first we sort of semi-censored it, then later we just went for it. The poster was a shot of a couple doing a doggie-style fuck (a cut out from a cheap/used porn mag). Purposely you couldn't see their faces, but what they were doing was clearly shown and then the band's name -- The Fuckin' Flying A-Heads -- just sort of matched this poster to a T.

Anyway, shopping the record around was another horror story unto itself. Again, not so much because of the music it contained but rather because we ended up calling the band the Fuckin' Flyin' A-Heads and putting this name on the record sleeve. Most stores couldn't/wouldn't display the record because of the name. And again, many stores who carried nearly any record from anybody and their brother wouldn't touch our record -- most likely because of this factor. Yet --and this is a factor I must admit I am proud of -- both songs of our record made the Rotten Record Charts Top Ten listing - see Issues 112 and 116 from October 1980.

There were only a couple of places that ended up selling our records. One was in Berkeley (don't remember the store's name), Rough Trade Records (which actually sent some of the records to some of their branch stores -- supposedly a few copies went to the UK), Aquarius Records in SF, and one other shop in SF which I can't recall the name of.

Anyway, we finally got to play at this dive of a club called the Sound of Music (in SF). After a couple of shows, we started to get a reputation of being total different from anything else that was being done. The manager of the Sound of Music was in touch with Dirk and other music booking managers that were allowing 'punk music' shows. Because of talks that were held, we had heard that Dirk was even reconsidering allowing us to play the Mab. But we sort of got word back to him saying that since he snubbed us the first time, why should we play for him now? -- and didn't.

Some other clubs were starting to talk about who would let us play and we ended up playing for the closing of a club called the City, which was just off of Broadway, just around the corner from the Mab. This was to be our last show as well. Dan was getting involved in other bands and other things (bad downward spiral from drugs, mainly from shooting speed). The situation with the bass player was not happening, we didn't feel like playing at any of these places that had previously snubbed us, the situation with the bass player being a temporary fill in wasn't working out, and so the Fuckin' Flyin' A-Heads dissolved!

~ Behjan Mirhadi
Ugly Things