Friday, April 25, 2003


Interviewed by Joshua Rosenzweig, June 31st, 2040

Sex McGinty is simultaneously one of the most admired and reviled personalities in modern music. It has been a decade since his greatest accomplishment, as manager and all-around handler for The Dupes, first burst onto a dreary and somnambulant music scene. Every move he has made since has been controversial. He's been a business innovator and also a borderline control-freak. He's been hailed as a champion of organic music and also chastised for being a cunning opportunist. Some call him a sell-out; others insist that it is all a part of Sex McGinty's take-no-prisoners approach to everything: free enterprise, pop culture, life.

Never one to shy away from the spotlight, Sex was nonetheless reluctant to sit down for a small chat with ROLLING STONE. Repulsed by this magazine's coverage of SMART music and DNA boy-groups, Sex agreed in the eleventh hour to answer some questions, provided that no mention would be made of his current projects. "I like to keep that stuff secret", he told me shortly before I began rolling tape.

RS: Thank you for your time, Mr. McGinty.

SM: Please... call me Sex.

RS: Okay, Sex... Let's start off with the most outrageous question I can think of. Is that alright with you?

SM: I like the outrageous. I prefer it.

RS: I figured as much. So, how do you rank The Dupes in terms of rock and roll history?

SM: Greatest fucking band of all time. Hands down.

RS: Yes, well, in retrospect it's hard to dismiss the contributions you and The Dupes made to popular music. But did you always feel this way?

SM: From the fucking get-go. And I mean that just as it sounds. I knew that there was something with these guys. It didn't take a whole lot of refining really. Talent recognizes talent. My job was to merely rein the energy into something... for lack of a better word, I'll say "palatable".

RS: There are rumors that you had more than a fair hand in molding the band.

SM: Rumors? Or facts? I don't respond to rumors.

RS: Darrow Jet [the late vocalist for The Dupes] was once quoted in our magazine as saying something to the effect of, "We're Sex' band when it's all said and done".

SM: Yeah, but how did he say it? Was there any bitterness there? Or was it something he was proud of? The thing about Darrow-- for all the tales and myths, he was all in all a very humble person. On many levels. I think a quote like that, when taken out of context, can mean anything. But knowing Darrow as I did, I'm not offended in the least. More than once he came up to me, especially after the release of their major label debut, and thanked me for the hard work I'd put into the group. I was their manager, promoter, producer, agent, PR person, you name it. I had all the control of those things, the types of things that the boys couldn't be bothered with. What good does it do the band if they have to worry about booking gigs and loading their gear onto the stage and all that? More time for them to be creative, that's how I saw it. Let them do their thing, I'll do mine.

RS: Have you read [Dupes guitarist] Curtis Seesaw's book?

SM: "Total Dupes"? Yes, I've read that piece of trash. Not too happy with it.

RS: You sure don't pull any--

SM: Curtis Seesaw is an ingrate, that's what it is. He's always harbored some sort of grudge against me, even before the boys made it big.

RS: Any reason?

SM: Well, I read in that thing he calls a book about how I came in there and changed the group around and all that Svengali crap, and I was like, 'what a prick!' Because it wasn't even anywhere close to the truth.

RS: How do you remember those days?

SM: Compared to the way he recalls it all, quite differently. He says that I brought in Darrow and forced them all to take on different roles and whatnot. The way I remember it, I was at this place called the Alligator Lounge in L.A... now it's a Scientology building, but before that it was a pretty cool club where you could see some decent local bands and a few that sucked big time. The Dupes were one of the bands that sucked big.time. I used to go to the Lounge to put a few back and watch whatever bands were on. I was working in A&R, and I actually did my job. I liked it, you know?

RS: That's rare to hear someone say that.

SM: You're telling me! Anyway, they were on, and at the time they were trying to be like a roots-rock type of thing; they wore leather jackets and had greaser hair and played songs by Carl Perkins and Arthur Crudup and early Elvis stuff. This was in 2020, mind you, when rockabilly and all that greaser stuff was as dead as Jerry. No one was listening to organic music, and certainly not any Bill Haley & the Comets-style shit.

RS: Legend has it that you bet them $200 that they couldn't play your favorite song...

SM: ...and they did, and I was wowed... Yeah, I know the legend as well. The legend can suck my cock for all I care. I heard that the song was "Sweet Jane" by The Velvet Underground. But I think the song they played that got my attention was "Day Tripper". I didn't bet them $200 either. I just dared them to do something that had some relevance. I was heckling them.

RS: Why did "Day Tripper" sway your opinion of them?

SM: Just the way they played it... This was all pre-Darrow, as you know, and Curtis was singing for the band at the time. Fast Eddie [Peale, Dupes keyboardist] wasn't there either. He came on later. I brought him into the group after Darrow joined. So you had bass, drums, and two guitars. And they tore into it, and at first I was thinking 'they're humoring me here' and then they changed the tempo and made it into a sort of hip-hop sounding groove, but that riff was on top of it the whole time. Killer [Pirahna, lead guitarist] really impressed me with his leads. Then they started doing it with a Latin feel, and that's when the place started coming alive, man. People started getting up and dancing. And Curtis was shouting, "She was a daaaaaaaayyyy tripper!" in a really bad voice, but everyone was into that groove. I just had to admire the effort they were putting into it.

RS: Is it true that you handpicked Darrow to front the group?

SM: No. Darrow came to us. That's what was so special about him, by the way. He seemed to know instinctively what the band needed and what it didn't need. He literally just showed up one day at our rehearsal studio. I had booked a last-minute slot at some place in North Hollywood, and he showed up at our space saying he was ready to sing. We didn't know what to say. Curtis, the prick, tried to stake his claim, you know? He said that they already had a singer, but I figured that the kid came all this way to sing, let him sing. And he was fucking fabulous. It turned out later that the reason I got the last-minute slot was because some other band had cancelled, and Darrow was trying out for that other band. No one had told him about the cancellation. He just showed up and assumed we were the band! He'd never even met the other band-- it was all done through Recycler ads and telephone.

RS: A simple twist of fate.

SM: You bet. And maybe that's why Curtis has this grudge against me, now that I think about it. Maybe he's mad because I let Darrow sing.

RS: Obviously you're not afraid of him reading this when it comes out.

SM: Why should I? He's a bitter old fuck. What's he going to do, sue me? I should sue him for all the garbage he put into that book.

RS: Let's move to another topic. Lately you've been openly critical of current music trends. What is it about today's music that bothers you?

SM: I'm tempted to say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but at the same time there is a lot of new music that I like that isn't getting the attention it deserves. So it's not that I hate all new music. I'm not stuck in the past, I'm forward-thinking. But look at the Top 40 nowadays. You've got these clone-bands who are genetically assembled to be cute and talented, and they market that crap to teenage girls all over the world. Then you've got the noise bands, who haven't got a thing to say musically because they're all trying to sound alike. And of course, you can't leave out the SMART computers and their handlers. Call me old-fashioned, but I never thought I'd live to see the day when a computer could write a song through its own volition. And if you ask me, I have yet to see it.

RS: Oh, come on. You don't think "655321" is catchy? Not even as a guilty pleasure?

SM: Don't even talk to me about 33rd Degree. I almost didn't do this interview because you guys put them on the cover a while back.

RS: You grew up in the days when computers were meant to facilitate the recording process, not render it obsolete.

SM: It's sad, you know? I mean, musically it's just like it was in 2020. Back then you couldn't find anyone under 30 who played a musical instrument. Everybody had computers. There weren't any singers either. I mean, all the bands that played at the Lounge at that time were computer-driven. I was getting used to hearing the same-old-same-old when I'd go out. That's why The Dupes, in all their organic glory, were like a breath of fresh air. It was weird to hear live music again. I remember asking the owner of the Lounge later on why he even booked them, and he said he needed a little variety. He also said they paid to play, which told me something about them immediately.

RS: They were hungry.

SM: Yeah. They had the eye of the tiger, like Sylvester Stallone. They wanted to play so bad they paid to play. Back then no one paid to play. It was a good time to be a musician, the irony of course being that you didn't have to know how to play an instrument to be a musician. You showed up, hit some buttons, got paid, folded up the laptop, and then it was off to the next gig.

RS: So is that the reason for your hatred of bands like 33rd degree and Xenogenesis? There's just no hunger in it?

SM: Those guys are livin' fat. They're not lean, they're not driven. Life to them is an endless mouse click. I mean, their music doesn't have to be so bland, does it? Like I said, there's some computer-based music out there that has the same hunger that The Dupes had. But they don't get corporations bending over them hand and foot.

RS: Speaking of corporations in music, is it fair for me to point out that many people consider you the person who made the two more... shall we say, "palatable"?

SM: (laughs) Okay, okay... All I can say is, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

RS: It was, actually. No one had ever made the corporation work for them in such a way before.

SM: My intentions were good. But then it got out of hand, and I realized what kind of Frankenstein monster I'd unleashed on the world. Back then the point was that if these global corporations wanted to get a piece of the pie, they'd have to re-prioritize their dealings with entertainers. I saw it as a joke, all these moneymen flashing astronomical figures in my face, buying me lunch and trying to get me to sign. And we were so big at the time, I felt justified in saying no all the time. Get the free goods and then welch on the deal. And then one night I was hanging out with Moko [Kawashima, Dupes drummer], and he was making some joke about how cool it'd be if we could make the suits jump through flaming hula-hoops, and it hit me. I drew up a contract later that night and faxed it to every CEO that had courted us. It became known as the McGinty Contract.

RS: And you made no changes to that original contract?

SM: None. I told myself that under no circumstances would I alter one word. It was the most ridiculous thing in the world. It basically stated that anyone interested in a commercial tie-in with the band would have to do whatever we said, no matter what the VPs and shareholders and CPAs had to say. Our demands were insane. One part of the contract stipulated that any potential "investor" would be referred to as "bitch" in any internal documents or in the prescence of the band and its inner circle. Another section talked about how any member of the band had to be given full access, at any time, to any residence owned by anyone who we were in business with.

RS: What's surprising is that they agreed.

SM: I'll say! And that's how pathetic it was when we came out. We obliterated the competition, because no one was doing what we were doing. We became rock and roll royalty overnight, and the corporations wanted in so badly they were willing to alienate the public in exchange for profits. They didn't mind being called "bitches" if it was to the tune of $30 million. I couldn't believe that almost every fax recipient faxed me back with signed copies of the contract!

RS: Later on, the corporations took over anyway.

SM: Yeah. I look back at it now, and it's like they called my bluff, you know? I mean, I wasn't young at the time, but maybe I was a bit foolish. I was cocky, and for a while after they all signed the contract I relished the opportunity to sock it to them and make them pay for what they were trying to do, which was undermine our integrity with corporate razzle-dazzle. We used to do anything we could to them. We'd order 100 pizzas and send them to the CEOs of Viacom and Microsoft one day, then we'd fly out to some ad exec's summer home and walk in while he's fucking his mistress and just take over the place. And they had to let us, because they'd signed a contract.

RS: Did anyone ever breach it?

SM: No. And that's when I knew I'd made a big mistake. Just for the record: corporations are faceless entities, and each person in the body of the corporation can be replaced at any time. So no matter what we did to them as individuals, it didn't hurt them as a corporation. Not in the slightest. And contractually, they were in no position to make demands on us, so we were safe from their interference. But after a while, the thrill of pushing them around began to wear thin. And meanwhile, we were still obligated to keep up our end of the deal.

RS: Then Darrow died.

SM: Yeah. I didn't know what to do. I'd never figured that anyone would get hurt or killed. I never thought about what to do in case something happened. I mean, we were able to bury the man, and all that. But we still had a contract, that I had written, that stated we had to put out two more albums before we could get out of the contract. I had wanted to put a five album deal in the contract to ensure that we were covered for a good deal of time. And when Darrow died... Shit, it hit us on all levels. I ended up letting the corporate attorneys handle all the business details. I wasn't just mourning the lead singer of The Dupes; I was mourning my friend. All of us were just devastated by the loss. The future looked bleak. I didn't see how we could go on without him. I gave up, and the "bitches" started running the show.

RS: There was once a time when corporations pulled their support from artists they felt were too controversial. You changed all that. Now they cater to the artists in more exorbitant ways. Do you consider that your legacy?

SM: Fuck no! I had no fucking idea that these scummy globals would worm their way into the clockwork the way they did. I should've known better, but there's no use in crying over it. I don't think people are going to remember my failed experiments. I think they'll appreciate that I helped The Dupes to change the fabric of music. I said that today's music is like it was in 2020. But I also belive that things go in cycles, and that means we're due for someone or something to pick up the torch that we left behind and run with it. That's the legacy right there. Two decades after we came out, the albums still sell. Every new compilation breaks a sales record, every unreleased nugget from the vault makes as much of an impact now as it did when it was first recorded.

RS: And why is that? Why The Dupes, after all these years?

SM: I think that when you put on an album like No Mean Feat or a song like "2+2=5", you hear the fun we were having making those recordings. Drake Nimbus, the man who produced the first three albums, put it best when he said, "This stuff makes me like music again."

RS: Any talk of the band reuniting?

SM: I haven't heard anything, but I doubt anyone involved with a current line-up of the band would want my input. Curtis is the only founding member left. All those guys listen to him, not me. He's the one paying their checks.

RS: What about Moko? Would he do a reunion show?

SM: Hard to say. I talk to him very often, but we never talk about The Dupes. He's too into what he's doing as a solo artist. If he agreed to do a reunion, I'd bet he'd want to have a solo spotlight, and I don't think Curtis would go for that (laughs).

RS: Any final thoughts before we wrap this up?

SM: Yes. I'd just like to say that if there's anyone out there reading this who thinks I'm full of shit, the feeling is more than mutual.

RS: And on that note...

SM: Fade to black, scroll credits.


"Despite the demand for electronic music, this sextet from Hollywood plays live"

By Colin Fink

Darrow Jet, the tall and imposing lead singer for the Hollywood-based band The Dupes, is sipping a dacquiri as he sits down to do yet another press junket. "I normally don't like talking to reporters," he says to no one in particular, as he puts his drink down and lights up a cigarette.
Someone in charge of organizing the junket informs Mr. Jet that there is no smoking allowed at any time during the junket. Darrow gives the man a genuine look of disbelief.
"You're kidding me," he says, grinning. The man informs Darrow that he is not kidding. But Darrow does not put the cigarette out. Instead, he thanks the man for doing his job.
"I'm not blaming you, pal," Darrow says, clearly in a good mood over the upcoming release of The Dupes' second album, their first on a major label. "It's the state of California. They don't realize that this is just rock and roll."
Rock and roll indeed. In today's highly generic musical landscape, the term "rock and roll" has little or no meaning. Nowadays bands like Law of One and Manchurian Beat Lab rule the charts with music that eschews all the elements that once made rock an roll a distinctive sound. For the past seven years, not one band composed of live musicians has managed to crack the Billboard Top 100. But The Dupes intend to change all of that.
"People say we're retro," Darrow explains, cigarette still in hand. "But it's not like we want to go back in time and only listen to music that was made decades ago. We want to make new music that has that classic feel. We want to bring it back into this day and age."
While the rest of the Western world has accepted the death of rock and roll, The Dupes are starting a revival of it. Their first album, The Dupes, was an independently-produced runaway sensation. It didn't crack the Top 100, but without the benefit of radio airplay, a video, or even a lead-off single, the album managed to create a buzz in L.A.'s burgeoning underground scene. It was also on quite a number of critics' Top Ten Albums lists last year.
Through constant touring and promotion, The Dupes have spread their music, which draws heavily on many influences and harks back to the days of punk rock and heavy metal, to other cities like New York, Austin, San Francisco, and parts of the Midwest. They receive warm welcomes wherever they go, according to their manager Sex McGinty.
"This is our year," McGinty says after the junket, as he escorts the band (which consists of Jet on vocals, Killer Pirahna and Curtis Seesaw on guitars, "Fast" Eddie Peale on keyboards, "Too Hip" Hipperson on bass, and Moko Kawashima on drums) to a waiting tour bus. "People from all over can identify with this music. Older people dig it, of course, but we're still far enough out there that some 15 year-old rave kid can get into it also."
McGinty says that he discovered the band two years ago, when they were playing at a club in Hollywood. After getting them some studio time, he released the eponymous album on his own label, Comfy Numb (now owned by Warner Bros.), and set about getting them gigs outside of L.A.
"Back when rock bands were de rigeur, you had to tour every day all day, until you dropped," McGinty says. "But now that live bands are almost extinct, it's actually easier for us to go out on the road and play somewhere else. There's less competition than if we were trying to do what everyone else is doing. Of course, we can't play certain places because they no longer accomodate six-piece live bands, but every city has at least one club or bar that showcases nothing but live music."
The formula seems to have paid off. Insiders predict that the new album, titled 30 Year Cycle, will debut on the charts at number fifty, which will make it the first rock album to break the Top 100 since The Beatles' entire Capitol catalog was re-released on SuperDigi format in 2014.
And what does Darrow Jet think about all of this, on the eve of The Dupes making music history?
"Like I said before, man, it's just rock and roll." He waves goodbye from the window of the tour bus, his head and arms sticking out just enough so that his smiling face can be seen.
Rock and roll indeed.

Excerpt from "THE DUPES: UNAUTHORIZED" by Samuel English and Fritz Kelly
Editor's note: Interviews culled from multiple sources. For a complete bibliography, see Index.

Darrow Jet was born Thomas Jefferson Fargo to a blue-collar family from Detroit, Michigan in the year 2000. Darrow's family relocated to Los Angeles in 2005, where his father worked as a print operator. His mother stayed home to raise Darrow until he was of school age. Then she worked as a hair stylist to help make ends meet. Darrow was a "latch-key kid".

DARROW: No one was ever around when I got home from school, so I learned early on in life how to take care of myself. I learned how to cook for myself, how to wash my own clothes, I did my own homework... though after a while I stopped doing the homework. I got into music and homework was like such a drag. Instead I'd go into my parents' bedroom, I'd unlock the door with a butter knife and go in and open up their old vinyl record player. Then I'd sit on their bed watching cartoons and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while listening to the records. My dad showed me the player once before, and I picked up on how to use it. When I was a kid I thought it was the best thing in the house. We had Playstation 5 and DVDs and CDs and Mini-disk and even some cassettes, but I always liked the record player. It seemed newer and nicer than anything else we had. My dad kept it in great condition. And his records were kept so immaculate that I had to be extra careful not to leave fingerprints on the vinyl. He had Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, you know, all the stuff no one cares about anymore. At least, no one who was my age cared.

Darrow didn't make many friends in high school, due to his peculiar tastes in music and fashion. For one thing, he wore his hair long and messy when the trend was short and clean. He wore a beat-up leather jacket and ripped jeans. His classmates referred to him as a "stoner", but Darrow wasn't doing drugs in high school.

DARROW: I never got high until I was like 18 or 19... What's funny is that all the popular kids were doing pills, Meta-Ecstacy, grease, drinking hard liquor, sniffing glucose, you name it... They would pass me in the halls and mutter "stoner" to me. But I knew what was up. They were more fucked up than I was. Yet they were the"pretty people", they were supposedly better than I was. It made me laugh. They thought I was high because I was always cutting up in class or getting in trouble for ditching school. But they just didn't know-- I've always been this way.

Darrow once considered joining the Marines shortly after he graduated from Fairfax High in Hollywood, but the service wouldn't take him on account of his knee, which was shattered in a bicycle crash when he was 14. Darrow wasn't about to go to college either; he'd had enough trouble with public school. He had no idea as to what kind of career to embark on until he picked up the Recycler one day. Looking for a job, he saw an ad for a bar mitzvah band looking for a vocalist.

DARROW: I mean, I'm not Jewish at all, but I figured I could sing, and I could make tips and all... I've never told myself I couldn't do something just because I'm some skinny white kid from Hollywood. So I called them up and they were like "sure, come on down to our studio" and I went there and that's when I met Sex and The Dupes. And before I knew it, we were in a studio recording the first album. And then we played gigs. It was real quick, man. I got to know the guys in the band as we were writing the songs for the album. They all knew each other, and then Sex brought Eddie into the group, and finally it was like "Hey, you're new... so am I!"

Before long the group was touring the major cities in the States. It was part of Sex McGinty's strategy: he didn't want to burn them out with nonstop touring, but he also knew that they would have to branch out in order to get more support for the band.

SEX: I took the boys to New York for the first time... Man, what a hassle that was! I think it was only a week after Eddie had joined the group. I got them a suite in the Garment District, about a block away from Lexington Avenue. Six guys in a suite made for two. We had to do it cheap 'cause I'd just spent all my money on the album. We came to New York with about a thousand CDs of the album, and came back with $5000 from CD sales and about $150 totalled from the three gigs I got them. I was out every night, selling CDs. I didn't give any away. Anyone who tried to bargain with me got shut down. I didn't even sneak copies to DJs. What was the point? If they wanted it that bad, they'd have to pay, right? I remember one of the gigs was a radio interview. I forget the call letters of the station, but the Program Director asked me, "Where's the CD?" and I said, "Ten dollars," and he looked at me like I was from outer space. He said they wouldn't play it, and I said they didn't have to. He got mad, but then during the show the host asks to hear the CD. And I've got a copy in my jacket, and I bring it out and he tells the engineer to play it, and the Program Director is seething! And the host played it and was blown away completely. He couldn't stop raving about it. I told him, "Ten dollars," and the host looked at me, laughed out loud, and then reached for his wallet. I think he played that CD all week long on his shift. They kept getting requests for "Openers" and "What's It All About?" so they kept plugging the damn thing!

MOKO: New York, to me, was when I finally felt like, "Yeah, this is going somewhere." We'd just finished recording the first album on a shoestring budget, and up to that point I wasn't terribly impressed with the whole thing. Even before Sex and Darrow and Eddie got into the picture, I was just jamming with the guys as a hobby. The only thing I had in common with them was a love of what we liked to call "organic music" I couldn't stand all that SMART computer shit that was dominating the airwaves. I stopped listening to the radio altogether around 2018. And when The Dupes started up, I was interested, but it wasn't until we went to New York that I was feeling gung-ho about it. And even that took a while to sink in. I thought it was shady that all the guys had to share one suite, but I had friends in NYC and I was crashing at their pads. I remember Sex was concerned. "Stay with us," he'd say. "We need to be tight, you know? Like a fucking gang!" I would laugh it off and go off to stay in Park Slope or wherever my pals were, but as the trip went on I began to hang with the band a little more. I had to get acclimated to the whole thing.

Moko Kawashima was born April 10th, 2002 in Japan. He moved to Los Angeles the same year as Darrow Jet, but the two wouldn't meet until they were both 20 years old. His parents were very traditional Japanese folk, and disapproved of Moko's budding interest in music.

MOKO: My parents didn't want to assimilate to American ways. They wanted to bring Japan with them. But as I grew older, Japan began to mean less and less to me. I'm proud of my heritage, but I was an American now. You the old saying about when in Rome do as the Romans do? I wanted to be an American. I loved American music, and I think it's ironic that, when I finally went back to Japan at the height of the whole Dupes thing, they loved us. The Japanese treated us like The Beatles. I talked with some Japanese kids at one of the shows, and they said that American music is huge in Japan. I had only lived there until I was 5, so I never knew how big American culture was over there until I went back. I was seen as a conquering hero. It was cool.
Now my parents love what I do, but there was a time when they were afraid that I wasn't going to go anywhere. The Japanese are very big on the work ethic thing. My parents wanted to instill that ethic in me. I think they were successful, but I'm sure they had their doubts when I was banging away on my home-made drums in my room, blasting Ozzy as loud as I could.

Moko encountered his share of racism growing up. For him, it came from two directions: his predominantly white and Jewish friends were not quick to accept him into their ranks; and the Japanese clique at his school thought he was far too Western for their tastes.

MOKO: By the time I got to High School I had a major chip on my shoulder. The common Asian stereotype is that we're a bunch of wusses. But another stereotype was that we all knew kung-fu. So I started taking tai chi and jujitsu and other martial arts. I eventually got up to a black belt in some of those classes, and I started to notice how much these classes helped me to concentrate and focus. My drumming got better, my attitude towards life was mellowing out a bit, and I stopped partying altogether. I've never been much of a drinker, but I stopped smoking pot and nicotine right before I graduated from High School. And I've been clean and sober ever since.

While still in High School Moko met Cecil Curtis, a shy, introverted kid who shared Biology class with him. Cecil was a loner, who'd lived in different parts of the San Fernando Valley for all of his life. Cecil was learning to play guitar when he saw Moko reading a copy of Musician magazine in class and asked him if he played music. The two had many things in common: a passion for good old-fashioned rock and roll; an intense dislike for Top 40 music; and the desire to play with someone else for a change. They arranged to jam in Cecil's garage one weekend, thus germinating the seed from which sprang The Dupes.

CURTIS: I met Moko when I was going to Granada Hills High School. We had a class together, and we decided we should get together and jam. At first it was just the two of us, making noise. I had only been playing guitar for six months, but Moko had been playing since he was a kid. I learned how to play guitar by playing against his beats. He was so on point. Even in those shaggy-dog days Moko could whip up a beat like it was no one's business. And he was pretty patient with me, being that he was so good and I was barely learning how to make a Barre chord.
After a while I started recruiting people to join in, but none of them lasted very long. Creative differences, I guess. Then one day Moko came by with two guys he'd met at a party. It turned out that I knew them also. They went to Reseda High and played in the Marching Band. I was in Band at Granada, so I knew them from various band meets. It was Killer and Too Hip, but back then we knew them as George and Jeremy. Anyway, we jammed with them and it sounded great. We all clicked real well. Afterwards we all went out to Chili's and ate and talked about how we were going to become rich and famous and world-ruling.

KILLER: Curtis was a weird motherfucker. But he was so earnest, you know? He meant well. He tried real hard to keep up. At one point me and Too Hip and Moko met behind his back and discussed if we needed him in the group. Moko stood up for him, 'cause me and Too Hip didn't know him from Adam, you know? He was a Band Geek, like us, so we figured he had to be whacked. As time went on we came to appreciate what he brought to the group. He got us organized, you know? He decided we should stick to one type of music, he picked the covers we'd play, and he had the garage to jam in. We let him do that stuff because we just wanted to jam, you know? He seemed to enjoy it. He never came off like he was the boss of us. Almost like he was grateful that we didn't boot him. I think he knew we'd talked behind his back, and he sort of went out of his way to make sure that the band would stay together.

George Hill, like Cecil Curtis, was a Valley kid from the suburbs. He had already made a name for himself as a guitar prodigy at the age of 16. The son of Irish immigrants, he started playing Celtic folk music with his father at weddings and wakes as early as age 4. George's older brother, Patrick, introduced him to rock music when he took him to go see U2 for his tenth birthday.

KILLER: I'd never heard anything like it. My brother liked Alternative music, bands I'd never heard of like Echo & The Bunnymen and Simple Minds and XTC. Shit, he wasn't even around when most of the music he liked was originally around! I guess that's where I got it from. He gave me the itch, you know? The itch to seek out the really good music that was buried underneath all the shit.
All I remember about U2 live was The Edge. He looked so old, and yet he was playing the guitar in such a gnarly way... It was like he was young, like the guitar was keeping him young somehow. The sounds he was getting... He's my all-time favorite guitarist, by the way. I tried to copy his style down to the last note. I bought a delay pedal so I could get that jangly sound he used onThe Joshua Tree. I made copies of all of Pat's U2 records. I studied The Edge like the fucking Bible.
Curtis used to get mad because all I wanted to do was play U2 covers. He said that we had to learn how to play properly before we got into effects and pedals. But if you ask me, someone like The Edge didn't get his style from learning how to play properly. It sounds to me like he learned how to make the effects first, you know? Like he cut to the chase and decided that it was better to sound good than it was to actually be good. He knew that being good comes with time, you know?

George and Jeremy were two years younger than Moko and Cecil, and so they naturally deferred to them when it came to band decisions. They started playing at parties, in people's back yards and garages. None of their peers seemed to know what to make of it all.

CURTIS: To be in a rock band back in 2018 was just about the uncoolest thing you could do. Especially if all the songs you did were written by dead people. We were belting out Roy Orbison songs and the crowds would scream out for us to play Broken Windpipe or Venutia or some other silly band out at the time. After a while people started to come around to it. We just kept on playing our stuff, you know? Besides, none of these people were there to see us. They were there to get wasted. It was Senior year, and everyone was getting ready to go off to college. All they cared about was getting laid and getting smashed.

MOKO: For some reason, being in the band reinforced the whole outsider vibe that I always found myself relating to. It was Us vs. Them. I'd get on the drums and to me, it was a personal mission. I felt like I was going to convert these people by the end of the night. I recall one party we did where this girl was standing next to my drums for most of the set. We were in the middle of "Johnny B. Goode" when suddenly, in front of I don't know how many people, she jumped on stage and stood right in front of the bass drum. She was bending over, facing away from me, her ass jutting out in front of me. She looked like she was warming up next to the fireplace or something. Then, she arched her back and let loose with this milk-curdling moan, and that's when I realized that she was having an orgasm! My bass drum reverberations were making her so wet that she had to get up close.
That was the coolest thing ever: making some chick come with my drumbeats. I felt like I had arrived.

KILLER: I didn't give one fuck about what people thought. I wanted to freak all those poseurs out, you know? They hated me, I hated them, it was a big ball of teenage hate and I was out there trying to piss them off. I'd scream into the mic when Curtis wasn't singing. One time I blew the speaker of the P.A. we rented. Sometimes, between songs, I'd take the mic and bust some freestyles, you know? People would trip, because all my rhymes were gangsta, and back then gangsta rap wasn't as popular as it used to be. But they liked it, for some reason. If we were outdoors I'd climb up on the roof and solo, and they just egged me on. One time they almost got me to jump into the pool while I was still plugged in. I was pretty drunk, so I considered it for a second. Then I started getting small little electric shocks, 'cause I was standing next to the pool in someone's back yard and there was a small puddle beneath my bare feet. I kept playing, but I was getting shocked more and more, and they were all saying "Jump! Jump!" so I handed the guitar to some kid who was sort of a roadie for us but not really, and I dove into the pool. And when I came up for air the whole crowd had gone bonkers, 'cause it just so happened that the song ended right as I bailed. After a while, I think they expected me to be a nut onstage. That's when people started coming to see us, not just to party.

As The Dupes began to establish themselves as crowd-pleasers, they started to expand their repertoire. They still refused to play Top 40, but they added some variety to the set lists, thanks to the suggestions of aspiring groupies who had gone home and asked their parents about the music they grew up on. Soon, The Dupes were not just doing Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran but a whole range of music that spanned the annals of rock history: The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, The Police, Black Sabbath, and even Santana. This early willingness to diversify eventually became the band's trademark: their uncanny ability to infuse their music with seamless genre-hopping that didn't seem ponderous.
For Jeremy Powalski, being in a rock band was a far cry from his humble beginnings in Lancaster, California. Located approximately 80 miles north of Los Angeles, Lancaster neighbors the Mojave Desert and the populattion, until recently, was a mere fraction of the Valley, let alone Los Angeles. When his family divorced in 2010, he moved with his mother to Canyon Country, which is closer to the Valley; his father moved to Sherman Oaks, and on the weekends Jeremy visited his father in the Valley.

TOO HIP: I looked forward to visiting my dad as a kid, only because the Valley was better than Canyon Country. He was always busy, so I'd go off on my own. I'd take the subway out to Westwood or Hollywood when I was 14. I talked to the bums on Spring Street, in the heart of Downtown. They always told me cool stories about when they were young and how they saw Pearl Jam in '91 just before they hit it big. I didn't know who Pearl Jam was, so I'd check out these cool record shops and buy the albums, based on their recommendations. Let me tell you: bums know the best music.

Jeremy ended up moving in with his father and enrolled at Reseda High after his father relocated to the area. He entered Reseda as a Sophomore, but he felt like an awkward Freshman due to his not knowing anyone. Then he met George Hill.

TOO HIP: George and I had Band together. He played the flute and I played the clarinet. He was always cracking jokes. He used to try and make me laugh whenever we were seated near each other. He'd play the riff to "Sunday Bloody Sunday" on the flute while we rehearsed. Somehow he'd work it in. he was a genius like that, he always found some way to incorporate U2 into anything. Sometimes he'd only answer you with U2 song titles. If he couldn't answer you with one, he wouldn't speak. He was my first real friend at Reseda, and before the band started, he was my only friend.

George and Jeremy managed to crash a Senior party one night, and in the process they met Moko, who was in a heated argument with some other partygoers about contemporary music.

TOO HIP: Moko loves to argue, and when we first met him he was ripping into this Preppie dude about the band Optimal. He kept saying that Optimal was nothing but crap, and this Preppie guy was getting real offended by him. So he called Moko a Jap and stepped up to him like he was going to hit him. Moko did some karate stance, and just when it was about to go down I see George run up behind the Preppie and smash him in the head with an empty champagne bottle! I couldn't believe it. The guy fell to the floor, and George just stood over him, yelling, "Where's the glory in that? Huh? You racist bastard!" and then a real fight broke out right there. I grabbed George and we ran out of the place, and there was Moko right behind us, calling out to us. We didn't know who he was in the dark, but he caught up to us and thanked us for standing up for him. I couldn't take any credit for it, so I said something like, "Thank George, he's the one who did it," like I still couldn't believe what he had done. And Moko turned to George and said, "Glad to meet ya, Killer. I'm Moko." And the name stuck. From that point on everyone called George Killer.

KILLER: Moko gave me the name Killer, but the Pirahna comes from my brother Pat. He said my teeth were all pointed like a pirahna. I hated that name. I liked Killer, though. I remember thinking, "Wow, I got a nickname, like The Edge!" It was the greatest.
Curtis liked the nickname so much he suggested that we all get one. So he gave Jeremy the name Too Hip Hipperson. I thought it was kind of lame, but Jeremy didn't mind it, so I started calling him Too Hip. And now that I think about it, it fits him so well. Jeremy's just this mellow, quiet guy who doesn't like to talk a lot, like he's too cool for the room. I josh him on it all the time. He's got this quiet dignity to him, you know?

MOKO: Curtis tried to give me a nickname, but I told him to go fuck himself. I opted to just do the one-name thing, like Madonna or Prince. He kept on telling me I needed one, but I resisted. Then he tried to give himself a nickname, something like Johnny Jolt or Jimmy Stylish. I told him that nicknames are given, not chosen. He got defensive, and then I snapped something to the effect of, "It's settled. We're calling you Seesaw, because you're either up or your down." He stormed out of the garage after that one. Killer and Too Hip were rolling on the floor, but Curtis didn't like it one bit.

KILLER: I don't know why, but it's so much fun getting a rise out of Curtis. He almost sets himself up for it, you know? He's so uptight sometimes, we're always trying to tell him to relax. He worries too much. He puts the weight of the world on his shoulders when he doesn't have to. He's a great guy, don't get me wrong... It's just funny to see him get mad. I used to make him mad on purpose, 'cause when Curtis is mad he's a funny motherfucker. He's the kind of guy that you love pushing his buttons 'cause of how he reacts.

CURTIS: Every group has to have someone who is the glue. I'm the glue in this band. Not the leader, mind you. I don't think The Dupes ever had a leader. It was a democracy, and always will be. We all have roles to play, both musically and personally. Not only am I the rhythm guitarist, but I'm the steady one, the guy who never misses a practice and is always thinking of the next move. Darrow is the voice of The Dupes, and he's also the one who fans identify with most. Killer's the clown of the group; Eddie's more of a romantic than anything, Too Hip is the classic rock bassist, reserved and withdrawn; and Moko is like that drummer from the old Muppet Shows, Animal. A force of nature. We all combine and create this natural stew that tastes nice. Without one of the ingredients, the flavor is gone. We're nothing without each other.

The Dupes graduated from High School, and also graduated from back yards and parties to actual gigs. Killer and Too Hip literally walked off the stage, diploma in hand, and jumped into Moko's car to get to their first gig. By this time, the band had been together for two years.

CURTIS: No one wanted to book us. No one. No one on the Strip wanted to let us set up gear or do sound checks. They said the music was dated. They said that Killer and Jeremy were too young. They could've put us on if they wanted to, but they were just afraid of doing anything out of the ordinary. They cited noise ordinances and mentioned possible fire hazards. Some places didn't even have the space to accomodate us. And no one wanted to pay.
One night I read an article in a magazine. It was about the days of pay-to-play. It used to be the norm in most L.A. clubs, but when people started using SMART computers to make their own custom-music, a lot of bands started packing it in and started using the SMART programs like Composo 3.1 and Melodious. This caused a fallout in terms of booking, and soon clubs were so desperate to avoid turning into discoteques that they compromised: they started paying bands to showcase their SMART creations instead of setting up gear. This cut the cost of putting on a performance to a near-nonexistant amount, and subsequently club owners were paying SMART bands less money for even less work. It allowed clubs to advertise "live" entertainment, which increased the door take significantly and made up for any loss in patronage.
Since we, as a band, were trying to revive rock music, why not revive pay-to-play? True, it wasn't a good sign that we were shelling out instead of collecting. But we needed the exposure, and we needed it to be right in the middle of everybody else's monotonous droning. So I called some clubs and asked them if we could pay-to-play, and they all said "Sure! That's great! When do you want to set up?"

MOKO: SMART bands would not even think once about paying to play. They didn't care enough about the music to go that far. They could always get work, because every club was paying. If one club said no, another said yes. They could do eight or nine small-paying gigs in one day, and have more money than one of our gigs paid. We couldn't do eight or nine gigs a day. We would've burned ourselves out.
All the clubs cared about was getting people inside the clubs. Just spinning records wasn't enough, unless the club played only hip-hop or techno or swamp--vinyl was still big with the marginalized underground scenes. The owners of the "live" clubs were all about money. When we offered to pay, they looked at us like we were nuts. But they took the money, and let us play.
The night we met Sex, it was our eighth live gig in a span of two months. That's about as fast as we could go. We were flat broke, having spent all of our money on paying to play. But we were getting real good. That night, we did something right, because after that, the snowball started to roll.

EDDIE: I'd known Sex since our college days. We both went to UCLA, but he dropped out in his fourth year. By the time I was ready to finish my fourth year, he was doing A&R for Warner Bros. and Dreamworks. By the time I had graduated from UCLA, he was calling me up and asking me if I wanted to play keyboards in a band he was putting together.
I was surprised he remembered me. I met him at a frat party, where I was hired to play tasteful lounge music by the Greeks. It was so long ago, and then when he dropped out of school I thought I'd never hear from him again. He called me and said, "Remember how I said I was going to make you famous?" I said, "You were drunk. I didn't take it seriously." He laughed and said, "Come meet these guys. You'll like them." So I did, and the rest is history.

Edward Peale Jr. was a transplant from the Boston area where he grew up. He had always wanted to be a filmmaker, so his parents, who were well-off, flew him out to Los Angeles when he was 18. His tuition paid for, his parents still wanted him to earn his keep. Edward utilized his classical piano training to land pick-up gigs here and there. He played at a piano bar in West Hollywood, in a lounge at the Holiday Inn on Sunset Blvd, and also set up an electric keyboard at the Universal Citywalk, next to the street performers and tourists.
Edward had never played in a band before, and when he finally met up with Sex and his protegees he wasn't quite sure he could make the transition from solo player to band member.

EDDIE: I saw them at the Alligator Lounge, and they were good. Darrow caught my attention the most. He was wearing a T-shirt that said "I'M NOT SMART" and looked like a Highlander with his long blonde hair. His voice was great-- he hadn't ruined it with drugs and alcohol yet. Killer was wearing a bondage mask and playing a guitar with a neck shaped like a penis. After the gig he told me he wanted to rig it so that it would spray milk out of the head. I thought they were wild. I wasn't a very wild person in those days, and I wasn't sure I would add to the feel.
Sex kept telling me that I was perfect, but it took a lot of persuading. He hadn't heard me play in two or three years, and yet he had complete faith in my abilties. He said that I was going to write all the music, and that made me listen to him a little closer. He valued my classical training. I had always regarded it as a pasttime, but he wanted me to focus on my "virtuosity", as he put it. He paid me some money up front, as a sign of good will, and said that if I stuck around there'd me a lot more to come.
Sex is the consummate business man. He hates being known that way, but he's definitely not afraid to play the role when it's time to do it. He made me a real good offer, and I took it.

It was an offer that would ultimately threaten to tear the band apart in later days. The democracy that The Dupes had prided themselves on was now starting to resemble that of a benevolent despot. Resentment began to stir in the group, even as they began production on their first album.