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NIGHT LIFE

Here's a Band That Lives Up to Its Name : Although Contradiction terms itself a rock band, it doesn't really live up to the image.

September 02, 1993|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Rock 'n' roll, like life, is full of contradictions and dilemmas. For example:

Why is Michael Bolton rich? Who ever said rap is music? What is Paula Abdul doing hanging out with Cary Grant in a commercial? Why can't Axl Rose afford a clock? Why does Rod Stewart sound like Donald Duck underwater? And why is Jimi Hendrix's version of "The Star Spangled Banner" better than the original?

But The Contradiction in Simi Valley is no dilemma at all. They rock, pretty simple. The quartet will be part of a Labor Day blowout at Cheers, which also will include April's Motel Room, Tree of Life, Skip N Go Naked, Bungee Chords, Cold, Redfish, Freestone Halves and Golden Buddas.

For those of you in need of interpretation: Here's a chance to hear all of the hot, east county bands on the same bill.

Contradiction began when singer-guitarist Scott Semple began jamming with bass player John Shaw in the late '80s, while both were students at Royal High School in Simi Valley. The current lineup, which also includes drummer Rob Brown and guitarist Danny Jones, played their first gig at a party on New Year's Eve, 1992.

In Simi Valley, a town with many bands and few venues, party gigs are predictable. After a few songs, it's usually time for one of those embarrassing conversations with the cops. And right away, Contradiction was smarter than most of the other local bands.

"We played acoustic that night, so there were no cops," said Semple during a recent interview before a gig at the Bermuda Triangle.

Rock 'n' roll with brains makes it infinitely easier to attain the goals rockers aspire to: the record deal, free beer and so many groupies the band would have to hire an accountant to collate all the phone numbers. That's probably what Contradiction wants, too--right?

"By being in a band, I have an outlet to be creative and to get things off my chest," Semple answered. "While all the girls are leaving, we're packing up our stuff, all sweaty and smelly. . . . We're not about girls and drinking; we're not about that at all. We like girls, but we don't sleep around. And we hardly drink when we play."

Wait a minute. That stuff's not in the Rock Star Handbook. But with the girls scared off, that must mean no one's left but the record label dudes, right?

"It's really hard trying to get somebody to notice us," guitarist Jones said. "It can be kind of depressing knowing that people older than us from a different background run the record companies."

In the quest to get noticed, Contradiction is one of the few east county bands to play in Ventura. They've been at the late great beach bar, Charlie's, at Mogz (with the Vandals and another time with TSOL), at the Midnight Hour, Mayfair Theatre and Bermuda Triangle.

But Ventura, for seriously ambitious bands, isn't enough.

Since Captain Hook could count the number of Ventura bands with record contracts on his most famous extremity, playing elsewhere--sometimes regardless of the cost--has been one of the band's goals. In the quest to be discovered, Jones said, Contradiction once paid $800 to play at the Whiskey in Los Angeles. Ouch.

"Record companies take a band and turn it into a product," Jones said. "Yet getting signed is no guarantee. All you have to do is have something tangible. It just takes money to get started."

Contradiction does have something tangible, even affordable: a seven-song, self-produced CD. "We made 1,000 CDs, and we have about 750 left," Jones said. The CDs are for sale at local record shops, but buying them at the gigs, for $5, is a better deal. "That's less than a buck a song," Jones said.

And listen up, you greedy rock stars selling $23 T-shirts: a Contradiction shirt costs six bucks.

A little less tangible, but perhaps more important, is the fact that Contradiction has talent. Semple has that '90s voice to match his '90s haircut. And songs like "You'll Never Know" and "Deeper" will clang around in your brain pan for days on end.

"Our music is emotional and aggressive," Jones said.

Contradiction, it must be noted, knows more than seven songs. Actually, more than 20. But they're one of those stand-and-watch bands with a definite dearth of dancers, except for when they play on their home turf.

"In Simi Valley, people slam, they don't dance," said Semple, shaking his head. "They'd slam to anything. Once they start slamming, they start fighting."

The boys in the band got their start in the usual ways, easily discernible to a musical mom. Actually, Semple's mom wears a Contradiction shirt but tut-tuts him for cussing on a few of the songs.

"I started playing when I was 7 and I'm 22 now," Semple said. "I used to sing along with the oldies on the Mighty 690. I always wanted to be a performer."

Said bass player Shaw: "I remember around 1979 when we used to live in Hawaii. I used to play Toto songs on Tupperware. Then, in 1988, I was at a gig and it just hit me that I gotta be a player and not just a listener."

Jones was inspired by a photograph. "I just picked up one of my friend's KISS guitars that had their picture on it," he said. "I thought it would be fun."

* FYI

Cheers is located at 1308 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley. Call 581-2488.

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