Those Orange County thrashers Social Distortion have been around for 10 years now. Maybe survived is a better word. They've got enough tattoos for a couple of Hells Angels chapters. They've got a reputation for trouble, but they say they're trying to get better.
Many locals remember Social Distortion mainly from the fight/concert when they played the Ventura Theatre in July. "We don't allow that stuff to happen anymore," guitarist Dennis Danell said in a recent telephone interview prior to the band's Seattle gig.
"That night in Ventura, we were late--we opened for Iggy Pop at the Whiskey earlier that evening, so we didn't even get there until it was almost time for us to play. Anyway, that's not what we're about. We don't allow that stuff anymore. We're not into trouble at all. Now, we just leave the stage. Also, we don't let the skinheads in anymore. They're just there to cause trouble, anyway."
Social Distortion, completing a lengthy tour that has sent them across the United States and Canada, will perform tonight at the Carnaval Club in Santa Barbara, where they played uneventfully a few months ago.
"We sold out the place last time," Danell said. "No problems whatsoever."
"We began the tour in Tijuana," he said. "It was a great gig. Since then, we went across Arizona, New Mexico, up the Midwest to Green Bay to Canada, down the East Coast to Florida, across the south to Texas, then Salt Lake City, Idaho, back to Canada, then down the Pacific Coast. After this gig, we're gonna take a couple of days off. So far, we've played 60 gigs in 65 days."
The band has only made three albums in 10 years. The first, an independent release called "Mommy's Little Monster," came out in the early 1980s. Then nothing happened--nothing but trouble. The band had the usual "creative differences," many of which, they claim, had to do with front man/singer/songwriter Mike Ness, who had heroin problems. He ended up in various detox programs and, on occasion, the great state of California paid his rent--in jail. Ness, the band said, is now recovered and leading the band.
After five years, the band finally released another album in 1988, appropriately titled "Prison Bound." The new one, released this year, is self-titled and a hit. KROQ plays Social Distortion a lot, and there's a video on MTV.
Social Distortion's music is basically a wall-of-sound guitar attack straight from the garage to you, about as subtle as a Saturday night in Beirut. They don't do a lot of slow ones. Bring your steel pot and flak jacket, but leave them in the car. Maybe these guys are mellow now, but don't expect any Gordon Lightfoot covers.
"We're sort of like Hank Williams meets the Ramones," Danell said.
WHERE AND WHEN: Social Distortion will perform tonight at the Carnaval Club, 634 State St., Santa Barbara. Call 962-9991.