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MUSIC : Steady Diet of Loud Rock 'n' Roll : Except for 'Harmful If Swallowed,' it'll be an almost all-Oxnard band gig Saturday night.


He used to be a cute little TV kid hanging out with Bill Bixby in the late '60s. He grew up, and then his watch stopped in about 1980, and Brandon Cruz, former child actor, remains a punk rocker to this day. His current band, Harmful If Swallowed, will be an integral part of an almost all-Oxnard band gig at the spacious Anaconda Theater in Isla Vista Saturday night.

A group of Oxnard punk band members who used to hang and surf together about a decade ago came to be known collectively as Nardcore. The survivors (Agression and Dr. Know), along with some new Silver Strand bands (Ska-Daddyz and Stale Fish) and one L.A. band (Harmful If Swallowed), will be having a concert, a real loud one.

Agression with one G, one of the original Silver Strand bands, has since moved to Colorado. Agression tours constantly, heading through the 805 area code about once a year.

The Cruz family will be well represented at this gig. Besides performing with Harmful If Swallowed, his current band, Brandon Cruz will do a couple of songs with his old band Dr. Know. His two brothers, Darren and Blake are in the rockin' ska band, the Ska-Daddyz. Also in Harmful If Swallowed (but not family) are Josh Cassas on drums, Greg Cassas on guitar and Carlos Nietos on the other guitar.

Harmful If Swallowed has a new demo tape it is hoping to shop to the usual suspects, and Cruz has some big-league helpers on this project. He knows Dick Clark, who probably knows a few people. He's also getting some help from that legendary singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson, once called "the one-man Beatles" after half a dozen mind-bending albums in the late '60s and early '70s. Maybe Cruz can get Bill Bixby to get the Hulk to twist some appropriate arms.

Cruz discussed his current musical adventure during a recent phoner.

How did Harmful If Swallowed get started?

We got going a little over a year ago when I answered an ad in the L.A. Weekly. I was living in Ventura at the time and they were living in L.A., so I commuted a couple of times a week. I finally moved back to L.A. six months ago, but that's OK because I'm used to L.A. We played our first show about a year ago at a place called Club Simi during the L.A. riots. There were more cops than fans at that show. Since that one, we've played a lot, maybe 50 to 75 shows. We play in L.A. a lot--at the Coconut Teaszer, the Anti-Club and the Roxy.

You still have a lot of show biz connections?

Yeah, I still know a lot of the same people. Dick Clark is helping me to shop the tape. I think I met him at the Emmys when I was 6 years old. A few years ago, he did a "Whatever Became Of" show and they had me on when I was with Dr. Know. When I came out, I had green hair and it really surprised Bill. He gave me a hug and said something like, "What the hell are you doing?" But even when I had green hair, I was still Brandon.

I read that Bill Bixby has prostate cancer--how's he doing?

He's doing all right. He's a fighter and a total workaholic. I haven't seen him for a while, but I call him almost every week. He's got a new girlfriend and he's driving around in his Ferrari. He's doing OK.

How did you get hooked up with Harry Nilsson?

Well, Harry wrote the song for "The Courtship of Eddie's Father." This was back in 1968 when I was 6 years old. At that time he had billboards all over Sunset Boulevard that said "Nilsson Is Coming," and he was hanging out with Eric Clapton and the Beatles. Harry ended up writing "Best Friend," which was a very happening theme song.

I didn't hear anything about Harry for a long time until last year, when I read in The Times that he had a heart attack. When he got better, I called his room and he was really glad to hear from me. Later, he came in and helped us with our demo tape, turned a few knobs--he was cool. I was impressed that he showed up. He loved our guitar player and our band's energy. He's just been living in the Valley; he's got a bunch of kids, almost enough for a baseball team. You know Harry has never performed live, but now he's actually thinking about doing some shows. Right now, he's in Nashville working on a children's song with Ringo. He may be up to our show in Isla Vista.

It seems as if your watch stopped in 1982--why punk rock?

My mom introduced me to Zappa when I was very young, and punk rock was just sort of a logical progression. It was just a matter of time before I heard the Sex Pistols and I liked the rebellion aspect of it all.

What was it like going from Eddie to a punk rocker?

Music helped me get away from being Eddie to being myself, being Brandon. Eventually people would find out that I used to be Eddie, but it was no big deal because I was in a punk rock band, Dr. Know. Also, I had the same friends all my life in Oxnard. I had a real life as a kid, so I wasn't just Eddie from TV.

What's the story on Dr. Know?

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