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AN APPRECIATION

Brendan Mullen

Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers remembers the Masque punk rock club founder.

October 14, 2009|Flea

Brendan Mullen had a lot of friends. I was one of them.

When the Red Hots started in 1983, Brendan was booking the Club Lingerie, and because he was booking it, it was an exciting place to play. One knew that he would be playing in the company of interesting, inventive musicians, the avant of independent music, youth culture or not. Brendan created a fertile, exciting, creative environment, the type of scene that inspired musicians to reach out, to try and find new sounds.

Anthony [Kiedis] and I walked in there one afternoon to see him, armed with a boombox and our first demo tape. We were trying to hustle our act, saying and doing what we thought we needed to do to try to get a gig.

Brendan was polite but could have cared less whether we were cool, or popular, or could sell tickets. He wanted to hear the music. We sat down and played it for him; he focused and listened, making occasional insightful comments about the music. We were so proud and excited when he liked it and booked us to open for Bad Brains.

It was a huge step for us to get that gig, but in a much more important way, I felt profoundly validated to be accepted and acknowledged by Brendan Mullen, who was a crucial part -- a hub -- of a scene that for me had mythological status.

When I first became conscious of the punk, innovative part of the youth rock scene in L.A., it was 1980. We were hovering on the far outskirts of it; about as close as we could get was to hang out in the Starwood parking lot and get in to see shows once in a while. The more I learned about the wellspring for the intense punk rock scene that I loved, the more enthralled I was by it.

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Universal punk

Then it was not the scene it would become -- macho and violent, with rules about haircuts and uniforms -- it was a freethinking, vibrant, artistic scene of groundbreaking bands like the Germs, the Weirdos, the Screamers, all groups who sounded completely different from each other but were united by their willingness to be their own freaky selves, embrace an intense new rhythm and raise a robust middle finger to the face of the rock music corporate structure and all of its musical lackeys.

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Nursing the scene

When Brendan started the Masque, it was a pure act, creating a place for people he liked (the aforementioned bands and many others) to do their thing, have fun and get wild, no salesmen allowed.

It became a nucleus for a thrilling new music environment that gave birth to the Southern California punk rock music scene, which later gave birth to some of the most important rock music to ever come out of California: X, Black Flag, Los Lobos and then later, the Minutemen, Jane's Addiction and the (humbly I say) Red Hots. He also played drums for Hal Negro and the Satin Tones.

It was an exciting cross-cultural punk scene that embraced all races, genders, sexual orientations and any manner of deviant. It was beautiful. Just no phonies. Brendan Mullen was key in all of this. Brendan was also a part of and present for the first hip-hop scene that made its way to Hollywood, working on shows with Ice-T, Afrika Bambaataa and the Arabian Prince.

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A broad palate

Brendan never deserted the L.A. music scene through its ups and downs; he always looked to what new exciting thing he could find, and in more recent years supported the music as a writer.

We always had great talks about music, of which he had a deep passion and an encyclopedic knowledge. He loved music from the Contortions to Return to Forever to John Coltrane -- he signed off on all his recent e-mails to me "A Love Supreme" -- and everything in between and beyond.

We would talk at length about any kind of music and all the fun stories and folklore that surrounded it, and reminisce about the L.A. music scene. He always had ideas, hopes and curiosities about more new and creative things to happen in the future.

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One of us

Over the last year the Red Hot Chili Peppers had been working closely with Brendan on a book about our band, and we all spent many hours with him talking about our history, discussing the direction of the book, etc. Throughout all of it, we were grateful to work with someone who cared for and knew as much about music and its culture as he did.

But more than that, we were lucky to work with a friend, part of our family, one of us.

Whenever I came home to L.A. and saw him, I knew that I belonged to something, that I was in a place that was my home.

Brendan was an intellectual, a musician, a writer, a partyer and a regular dude. And I speak for all of us when I say to Brendan . . . a love supreme! Brendan has broken through to the other side!

R.I.P., Brendan Mullen.

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calendar@latimes.com

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