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The Unforgiven Just Want to Forget

L. A. BEAT

January 17, 1988|JEFF SPURRIER and STEVE HOCHMAN

According to the buzz around town, the next mega-band to come out of Los Angeles streets is Jane's Addiction. Well, John Henry Jones of the Unforgiven has a word of caution to Perry Farrell and the rest of this year's model: Watch out!

"When the deal rather than the music becomes big news, it can be certain death," Jones said.

He should know. Two years ago the Unforgiven was the subject of a massive bidding war among labels on both coasts. Toward the end, it got so heated that one major New York label called up Jones and said they'd like to sign the band--unseen and unheard.

In the end, Elektra Records won out and signed the San Bernardino sextet to a two-record deal.

But $500,000 and one flop album later, the label and the band parted company.

Jones puts some of the blame on Elektra.

"After the first LP just didn't shoot out of the box like the new Boston album, they just pulled out basically," said Jones. "It took me a long time to realize that it's just a business to these people." (Elektra representatives declined to comment.)

While still signed to Elektra--though, according to Jones, without the label's support--the group took on a grueling road schedule in '87, doing four dates a week for 49 weeks. Gigs ranged from tiny clubs to Farm Aid III in Lincoln, Neb., before a crowd of 70,000. In the process, the band's focus shifted a bit from the spaghetti-Western-themed epics of the first LP to a more aggressive rock style.

Despite the road work, the Inland Empire guitar army's LP "The Unforgiven" sold a meager 50,000 copies.

Then two months ago the frustrated band issued Elektra an ultimatum--either give the go-ahead on a second LP or cut the group loose.

Elektra opted for the latter course and a month ago, Jones started looking for a new deal, one that he says should be a bargain for any interested party. After all, with nearly half a million already invested in the group's name and image, even spending one third of that looks like a bargain--provided a label wants to take a chance on a band with the "used" stigma.

Said Jones, "The only thing people worry about is the question 'Is this damaged goods? Or is this a seasoned band that has made its mistakes?' We're happy and we're strong. Nothing fazes us anymore. We're just too dumb to quit."

BANG YOUR HEAD, FASTLY: "When We Cut, We Bleed," a 1983 album by Los Angeles' Power Trip that many consider to be the first true speed-metal record, will be reissued this week by PVC Records. But Jeff Dahl, who founded the group after leaving the Angry Samoans, is quick to reject the notion that he developed either the style or the term.

"The Samoans were punk, and I was very into Motorhead, so Power Trip was just kind of a wedding of the two," the soft-spoken Dahl said.

And the term \o7 speed metal\f7 ? "Where I got the term was from a Stooges interview from around 1971," he confessed. "Iggy (Pop) had used it, but it had nothing to do with velocity, it had to do with the drugs they were using. It was much the same with us, but we're all straight now."

Dahl, whose day job is working in Warner Bros. Records' tape library, is putting together his first solo album, "I Kill Me," also for PVC. He has already recorded 11 songs with ex-Dead Boy Cheetah Chrome and is set to record some with the Lazy Cowgirls and his former Samoan cohorts. A second, never-released Power Trip album, recorded shortly before the group broke up two years ago, is also due later this year.

And what does Dahl think of the bands like Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth that have taken up the speed-metal mantle?

"We don't have much to do with that," he said. "We're using actual melodies instead of notes for the sake of notes. With Power Trip, we used to say we had the correct mixture of melody, velocity and energy. As far as mottoes go, that was ours."

QUOTE, UNQUOTE: How do writers in other towns view Los Angeles' rock music world? Not too kindly, if a snipe in the Phoenix weekly New Times' recent "Worst of Phoenix" issue is any gauge. After dismissing the Phoenix-based band Caterwaul as "an avant-garde nightmare" that "played paper-thin music that revolved around Betsy Martin's flighty lyrics and grating nasal caw," New Times music editor Andy Van De Voorde noted: "Naturally, the group immediately signed to L.A.'s P.M.R.C. label and became the darling of the city's hopelessly befuddled underground scene."

THANKS, MOM: L.A. Beat's year-end wrap-up column (Dec. 26) incorrectly referred to Divine Horsemen leader Chris D. as "Mr. DeJarnette," when, of course, his last name is really Desjardins. Thanks to Mrs. P. R. Desjardins of Riverside (Chris' mother) for writing to point out the error.

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