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O.C. POP BEAT / MIKE BOEHM

Once-Powerful Gang Returns With New Attitude

August 19, 1993|MIKE BOEHM

A once-powerful Orange County gang is about to start banging again.

No need for alarm, though: National People's Gang operates strictly on musical turf, its arsenal limited to guitars, drums and an occasional shrilling saxophone.

NPG's show tonight at Bogart's marks a comeback for a lineup whose last public concert took place three years ago. The members--singer Chad Jasmine, guitarist Chad Forrello, drummer Anthony Arvizu and bassist Deyo Glines--have decided to give it another try after failing to follow through on the initial promise heard on "The Hard Swing" and "Orange," the two albums NPG released in 1988-89 on the Doctor Dream label.

NPG's albums swung between high-intensity melodic rock songs powered by tribal rhythms--somewhere in the Jane's Addiction ballpark, but without the heavy-metal influence--and lighter-textured romantic songs that recalled such British rockers as the Cure and the Smiths.

In Jasmine, one of the most overtly theatrical singers ever to come out of Orange County, NPG had a riveting, adventurous front man who brought elements of performance art to the rock 'n' roll stage.

Forrello, 28, and Jasmine, 30, began writing songs together in 1982, and launched National People's Gang the following year.

The partnership ended in September, 1990, when Forrello left because he felt his creative role was dwindling as the others went in a harder, funk- and metal-influenced direction.

They parted as friends (Jasmine, Arvizu and Glines kept the band going until mid-1991, but without releasing any further recordings), but Forrello had to overcome some lingering disappointment relating to the split before he was willing to give National People's Gang a second try.

"I felt my role diminishing," Forrello said in a recent phone interview from his home in Hollywood (the other NPG members now live in Long Beach). "The band had taken a very peculiar (creative) stance, in my eyes.

"I wasn't getting the feedback I wanted, and I felt very let down because Chad and I had formed this group and I felt very much on the outside. The only thing to do was bow out gracefully, because (friendship) comes first. But it was like divorcing your family, and I went through the withdrawal of that," he said.

Forrello traveled for more than a year in Europe during 1991-92, doing odd jobs and supporting himself for a time as a street musician. After returning to Southern California last year, he enlisted Glines for demo recordings of his own and added his guitar to two songs on Jasmine's recently released solo album, "Feed." (Review, F2.)

Forrello sensed that the others wanted him to join them in reforming NPG (they had made an abortive attempt last year with Severe Giants, a short-lived band made up of NPG alumni that did not include Forrello), "but I was still adamantly opposed." That changed suddenly about six months ago, when Forrello and Jasmine ran into each other at a Mardi Gras party.

"It was a simple heart-to-heart conversation, all of which took about a half hour to completely change my attitude," Forrello said. "It really touched me, and I realized how important (Jasmine) was to me, and how important Deyo and Anthony were to me as musicians and friends. I had downed about six scotches, and that helped as well. Without getting nostalgic, I felt this is where I needed to be."

"We all had a chance to do things and be productive in our own ways," Jasmine said in a separate interview. "We found when you have four people you can groove with and love writing music with, it's so darn rare. That dawned on all of us, I think."

The band has been rehearsing several times a week; before tonight, its only performance was at a private party.

"I find that everybody is making contributions, more so than ever before," Forrello said. "Everybody seems to be in tune with what needs to be accomplished to make this band work. There's still problems, but it's like the concept of a marriage. You grow and learn to control certain feelings in yourself, and you make it work."

National People's Gang concentrated on extensive, low-budget touring during its first run. Now, the members hope to attract a decent recording deal, in hopes that their next album and round of touring won't have to be quite so low-budget.

But the first order of business will be to win back the strong local following NPG had enjoyed at its peak.

"I'm kind of interested to see who will remember us," Forrello said. "This is a new band, as far as I'm concerned. We want to create a whole new base.

"We kept the name out of convenience, because it's so hard to come up with a good name. The emphasis will be on a new beginning, rather than resting on any laurels of the past."

* National People's Gang, Lonesome Pine (featuring Mike Martt of Thelonious Monster) and Pull play tonight at 9:30 at Bogart's, in the Marina Pacifica Mall, 6288 E. Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach. $6. (310) 594-8975.

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