By Metal Dave
I first heard about The Mistakes while interviewing Poison singer Bret Michaels in 1999. Always quick with tons of fun stories, Bret was making the point that, despite Poison’s frilly image and blockbuster power ballads, the band still attracted its share of hard-ass freaks.
“There’s a band out in L.A. called The Mistakes that comes to all our shows,” Bret told me. “The singer’s got a flaming-orange mohawk that’s two feet off the top of his head.’’
Befriending Poison, of course, helped skyrocket The Mistakes to international superstardom and all the spoils that came with it — massive record sales, Hefner-esque mansions, booze-fueled limos and parades of high-heeled lingerie models willing to tussle in tubs of mud. Eh, not really.
The truth is, The Mistakes were erased before they could make their mark. After all, how could the music industry possibly market a band of vomit-spewing mascara junkies who proudly merged such polar opposites as the Exploited and Boy George. Yeesh! Good luck with that one!
Immediately scratched from my memory for, oh, the next 14 years, The Mistakes recently reappeared in 2013 when TUFF singer Stevie Rachelle emailed to tell me the band was releasing a new compilation CD that might appeal to my punk-rock tendencies. Not only that, but guitarist/vocalist t.Odd (formerly of the purple-haired Zeros), is all too happy to share The Mistakes’ down-in-flames, shoulda-woulda-coulda-been-famous rock-n-roll hard-luck story complete with drunken brawls, Twisted Sister and Total Chaos. Wow! No wonder they’re called The Mistakes. To borrow from Bret, how can I resist?
Hey t.Odd! Nice to “meet” you. Plug your latest release and share any possible tour plans/promo gigs
“The Karate Kid Ain’t the Only Punk From Reseda” is a 50-song collection of all The Mistakes’ songs, plus a compilation of our post-Mistakes projects like UltraX, XERO1, Satan’s Candy Machine and The Unflushables. Fifty songs for under $10, available on iTunes and all digital retailers. No current plans to tour. We’re all Al Bundy-style “Married with Children” now, but a few one-off shows could be possible.
Who’s the Karate Kid mentioned in the album title?
It’s a spoof on one of my favorite films, the original Ralph Macchio “Karate Kid” movie. In the movie, the kid moves to Reseda, which is where we lived, and the apartment building they used in the movie was actually right next to the liquor store where we used to buy Cisco, so we likened ourselves to ’90s punk-rock Karate Kids! The irony is that 15 years later, I’m now a Shodan in martial arts, so I’m still rockin’ the karate kid vibe!
Describe the “scene” post-Hollywood hair-metal heyday and tell us where/how the glam-punk Mistakes fit in — or didn’t as the case may be?
A little history: I first visited Hollywood in ’87 and ’88, and I remember reading Billboard magazine on the plane to L.A. in December of ’88. The No. 1 single in the country at the time was “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” by Poison. I was the first in my area to discover Poison, so I was proud to see my “idols” getting the credit they deserved. On that trip, I saw the Zeros and TUFF play a Christmas show at the Whisky. I loved TUFF, but the Zeros were too weird for my simple, teenage, Detroit mind. The irony is that three years later, I joined the Zeros thanks to being roommates with Stevie from TUFF.
I moved to L.A. in ’89 and the Sunset Strip scene was already fading. It’s easy to say that Nirvana and grunge wiped out L.A. glam, but that’s bullshit.
The bands and the songs on the Strip had become a joke, and what started as a movement/revolution by bands like Motley Crue, Quiet Riot — who deserve WAY more credit than they get — and Poison became a turd-fest for hacks with brown hair and Bon Jovi highlights. By ’93, those guys either bought flannels and moved to Seattle or moved back to their parents’ house in Ohio. That’s when shit got REAL dangerous in Hollywood, because the record deals and ass-kissing A&R guys all went away, so the bands that were left had to fend for themselves.
At that point NOBODY “fit in” in Hollywood. Big Bang Babies would be headlining the Roxy, Alleycat Scratch would be at the Troubador and Korn, Hybrid Theory (aka Linkin Park) or System of a Down would be at the Whisky — all on the same weekend! It’s funny that those last bands made it HUGE, but does anyone ever call Korn a Hollywood band? Those fuckers wanted to get the cover of Rock City News just like the rest of us — and they did — but you never heard them thank bands like Warrant, TUFF and Poison for paving the way. Fucking posers! So, the long answer to your short question is that The Mistakes NEVER fit in, which was fine with us!Explain how your image came about and then describe a typical Mistakes gig
Our image was based on a scientific theory of what Boy George, Wattie from the Exploited, Dee Snider and “Eddie” from Iron Maiden would look like if they all lived together in a tool shed in Reseda. Chris Wilson, the bass player and founder for The Mistakes, and I lived in that tool shed for real and that’s where The Mistakes were born. Our shows, in a nutshell, were chaotic and simple. We had everyone from transsexual drag queens to washed-up ’80s rockers to punk rock kids that didn’t yet know about the “rule book” at our shows. It was magic, man. There might only be five people there, but they all sang the songs with us. That’s magic! You can’t buy that shit! Our songs were honest and real, and that’s the type of people that came to our shows. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!
Besides your connections to TUFF and Poison, what other bands were friends with The Mistakes and what brought you all together?
Everyone was united at the Rainbow Bar & Grill. From Lemmy and Corey from Slipknot to the Good Charlotte guys … I met and became friends with so many different bands and people, and in all honesty, it was never about what type of music we played, it was about being real people. That’s what brought us together with lots of bands and friends from every music genre.
What bands of the time did you consider to be your biggest rivals or competition?
We had no competition! NOBODY could be uglier or play sloppier than us! And if they tried to, we would just kick their asses and tell them to try harder next time!
Share the most legendary story of Mistakes debauchery
As far as I’m concerned, if anyone is able to not only remember, but also write books about how fucked up they were – Hello, Motley Crue? — then it’s all made-up bullshit. Chris and I were black-out fucking, Cisco-drinking assholes. There was a special called “Hollywood Nights” once on that show “A Current Affair” and my Mom called me to tell me I was on TV getting in a fight. That’s not cool, but at the time I was happy to be on TV!
I wrecked two cars and a motorcycle on Laurel Canyon, and consumed ridiculous amounts of chemicals and alcohol. I did shit that most wouldn’t have survived. I saw lots of friends die, but I lived. Why? God only knows. I don’t want to sensationalize being a fuck-up, but I won’t deny it either.
Here’s a good story: One time Bret Michaels took me and Shawn Smash up to a party in the Hollywood Hills. It was, like, the wife of the owner of Virgin Records at the time, and he gave her our Mistakes cassette demo in front of idiots like Lenny Kravitz and the prick-ass dude from Filter — he wasn’t famous enough to remember his name — to the owner of the house. Bret didn’t give a fuck what people thought, and at that point he was more famous than anyone in the house. At the end, we were in the parking lot and some douchebag started talking shit about me and Shawn. Contrary to our usual behavior, we didn’t want to start a scene out of respect for Bret. Next thing you know we hear, “ARE YOU FUCKING WITH MY FRIENDS?” and Bret literally jumped over us and chased the fucking idiots down the street! THAT was fucking punk rock!
Why was Dee Snider of Twisted Sister such an influence?
I literally owe Dee Snider my life. As an awkward teenager in a small town in Michigan, I didn’t think ANYONE understood me. I didn’t fit in. Remember when a couple Metallica fans committed suicide by locking themselves up in garage with a running car in, like, 1985? Let’s just say me and my high school friend, Greg Stiltner, joked about doing the same thing — but it wasn’t really a joke. When I heard “I Am, I’m Me” by Twisted Sister, everything changed. Those were MY feelings! Someone else “got it” and that inspires me to this day. One of the reasons Chris and I bonded was over a love of Twisted Sister. And booze — but that’s a different story!
I’ve been lucky that my heroes – Dee Snider, Poison, Tony James from Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik — all ended up being super cool. I also met guys like Axl Rose over the years, who was a total asshole, but I wasn’t a big enough Guns fan to give a shit!
Do you ever wonder if choosing punk or glam exclusively rather than combining the two would have made The Mistakes more marketable or successful?
I’m SURE it would have. If we had played by the punk-rock rule book and only wore certain clothes with certain patches and played with certain bands etc., we could have gotten way bigger in the mid-’90 commercial punk explosion. The thing is, our version of “punk” didn’t fit the bullshit rule book that the so-called “punks” lived by, and honestly we didn’t fucking care. We did what we wanted, dressed how we wanted, wrote songs how we wanted and didn’t give a flying fuck what anyone thought about it. Boy George, Dee Snider and Johnny Cash were our punk idols, not some fucking posers with studded jackets that had never written a song in their lives. Glam was literally “poison” at that time (intentional pun!), so we loved fucking with people by wearing makeup (aka war paint). I did it in Total Chaos, too, and had loads of fun having so-called “punks” give me shit for being DIFFERENT! Being yourself IS punk rock. Anything else is just a fucking poser fucking sheep!
Tell us how you came to join Total Chaos and describe that experience? Why did it end?
Shawn and Rob from Total Chaos were big ’80s glam-metal fans, and they started hanging out at the Rainbow around the time The Mistakes started, so we became drinking buddies. We opened for them a few times, and when Joe Bastard, their bass player, couldn’t make some shows, I filled in. He left just before a Japan tour, so I joined full-time. We did Japan twice, Warped Tour 2002, etc. I financed everything at that point, including the “Punk Invasion” CD and Rob’s 12-pack of Corona per day habit. I put my heart into the band, but in the end, Rob Chaos stole money from me so I quit. Then I went bankrupt. Funny thing is that Rob loves to talk shit about me, even though he’s the biggest poser I’ve ever met. To this day, I hear they still play The Mistakes’ song “DUI” and Twisted’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” which is something that I obviously brought to the live show.
Any personal or professional regrets after living the decadent, Hollywood rock-n-roll lifestyle for so long?
The cliché answer — and a lyric from my song “Freak” – is “No regrets/No apologies!” But looking back, if I could do it all over would I do things differently? Fuck yeah, I would! I had some great times — some I can even remember! — but I honestly believe that the level of success I achieved, or lack thereof, was directly proportionate to the amount of fucking around I did. I remember Stevie Rachelle once invited Penelope Spheeris, the film director from “Decline of Western Civilization,” down to a Mistakes show at the Blue Saloon in North Hollywood. She was getting ready to do “Decline 3” at that point. I’d been out for, like, two nights before and was SO fucked up and hungover on the day of the show that we had to cancel. Stupid shit like that was such a waste! I guess on the plus side, even though we never “made it,” at least we lived to tell about it. Many of our peers from the time weren’t so lucky.
For more Mistakes go here. To follow on Twitter, go here. To buy “Karate Kid” on iTunes, go here. To find “Karate Kid” on Amazon MP3, go here. To find t.Odd’s “Modern Youth” book, go here or here.
BELOW: The Mistakes rock, roll and vomit through “Tomorrow”
I like the influence of I AM, I’M ME. Great song and it had an influence on me as well.
Great story, Sean. Thanks for sharing. You and t.Odd have something in common (and it’s not the pink mohawk!)
Fun read Dave. I cant help but love The Zeros( not Javier Escovedo’s punk band which also kicks ass)they made fun lil pop songs as well as wrote Howard Sterns first theme song. I am sure t.Odd joined them right before the nail was put in their coffin. Thanks for the story bro!
Thanks for reading, Pat. Yeah, had fun with this one. Todd was full of fun stories. He also used t live with CC DeVille at one point as well as Evo from LCB!! What a surprise that was!
Just came by to read this again and wanted to thank you for the article. I was the bass player (Chris) mentioned and miss the good old days. Staci and I still talk all the time, as well as with Stevie. Had some good times, played some great and some shitty shows. But we always followed our motto: FUCK BEING NORMAL! Cheers!
Hey Chris, thanks for being in touch. I enjoyed doing this story. Thanks for re-reading and passing along your recent comment. Much appreciated. And yeah, Fuck being normal! Ha ha