Doug And The Slugz from Los Angeles. Original 1983 American Oi band confirmed for Great Skinhead Reunion 2019.
Many of us British skinheads had no idea we were making waves across the globe, to many of us we lived our lives on our council estate ‘The Manor’ If a gig happened in a neighbouring town or City we might venture off. A bank holiday down to Brighton, or a London gig was as far as our world existed, We were blacklisted and ostracized in the media, hated by many, Understood by Few. But across the globe our subculture of skinheads was hatching, breaking out and building. As times changed and fashions moved on. Our Skinhead culture developed and spread. The USA and UK have always inter related with music and fashion. The skinhead culture no exception. We warmly welcome Doug And The Slugz to The Great Skinhead Reunion, Brighton England. June 2019
Doug & The Slugz formed in February 1983 in the North East Los Angeles suburb of South Pasadena, California. The bands original members consisted of Scott Graham on guitar, Doug Kane on vocals, Marc “Sard” Overton on bass, and Kevin Flanagan on drums. During the early months of 1983 the band would have its first rehearsals in original drummer Kevin Flanagan’s garage.
The Slugz were inspired by Oi! bands like the 4 Skins, The Last Resort and The Business but records from these UK bands were a bit difficult to locate in Southern California in the early 1980’s. Most record stores that carried underground music kept their shelves stocked with the more popular Los Angeles Hardcore bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, TSOL and assorted English punk imports. Oi! music was not very well known at this time in the United States but Kane, Graham and Overton had become bored with the local LA punk sound that was becoming increasingly stagnant and went reaching out for something different. With Oi! music they were attracted to the aggressive skinhead attitude and the solidarity between skinheads. It was the ultimate “us against them” working class music that drove these 3 Los Angeles teenagers to start one of the very first skinhead Oi! bands on the US West Coast. On the East Coast, Iron Cross from DC had established itself as an early Oi! influenced band, Agnostic Front out of NYC, The Effigies in Chicago, and way out on the West Coast was Doug and the Slugz.
Kids from the neighborhood would pile into Flanagan’s garage so they could hear the songs and get drunk. Many of these neighborhood kids quickly got hooked on the sounds of Oi! music. They shaved their heads and embraced the skinhead fashion of Doctor Marten Boots, Braces, and Combat Jackets. Just like Los Angeles, these kids were a mix of white, black, latino and asian that found common ground in the music. Crown City Firm was an early name given to this group of kids that mostly resided in the Pasadena area. “Crown City” being an old nickname for the city of Pasadena and “Firm” was a nod to the more extreme supporters of English football clubs. One particular inspiration was a black & white magazine photo that hung on the wall in Scott Graham’s room of a Fulham Firm skinhead.
Due to the increasing number of kids turning up from the surrounding North East Los Angeles neighborhoods, the name was changed to better reflect this group of kids, and as a broader territory designation. This loyal following became known as the North Side Firm and would follow the band wherever they were given the go ahead to play.
In April 1983 local San Gabriel punk band Decry, invited Doug & The Slugz to play their first real club show at the infamous punk dive, Roxanne’s Bar, located in Arcadia, Ca. The bar owner Joe would allow the under age punks to come in and watch the bands play while at the back of the bar sat middle aged Vietnam war veterans and drunk bikers. The mixed company found no liking to one another and at times that would result in fist fights in the alley behind the bar.
By Summer of 1983, original bass player Sard Overton was replaced by local skinhead Craig Pousen. Pousen would frequent shows at Roxannes Bar and help the band out with transportation when needed. The Slugz carried on through the Summer and Fall of 1983 delivering their brand of the Oi! skinhead sound to backyard San Gabriel Valley punk rock parties and occasionally crossed into Hollywood.
This new line up molded quickly and the band started recording demo tapes with local producer Devin Thomas at South West Sound Studio in Sierra Madre, Ca. The first printed cassettes were being sold and given away at shows. Some of those songs, like “Skinhead Faction”, was getting radio play on Sunday nights by legendary DJ Rodney Bingenheimer (Rodney On The Roq) on the world famous 106.7 KROQ radio station.
Doug & The Slugz had officially arrived on the LA punk rock scene supporting bands such as Ill Repute, Decry, Stalag 13, Flower Leopards, The Grim, and Mad Parade. As the band became a bit bigger, so did The Firm and certain promoters started shying away from letting the Slugz play their venues. Club owners became well aware that when the band arrived, not far behind it was the gang and the violence they brought with them. The frequent violence surrounding the band would eventually draw the attention of both local law enforcement and the LAPD. The North Side Firm found themselves listed as one of the very few multi racial gangs on the Los Angeles County Sheriff gang task force list.
The band knew they needed to get with a record label as soon as possible to get their music out to more skinheads. The skinhead scene in 1983 on the West Coast of the United States still had small numbers. Kane and Graham knew that if they were going to have any luck with releasing a record they would have to talk with someone in the UK who better understood what they were doing. Kane had been in touch with Mark Brennan, the bassist from the London Oi! band The Business. Kane sent the demo tape to their label Secret Records and to No Future Records hoping he would have some luck. There was never any reply from Secret or No Future Records so Kane turned to the infamous skinhead clothing store The Last Resort in east London hoping for better results. The Last Resort band had released their “Skinhead Anthems” album with the store. Kane had ordered it directly from the shop months prior, so he knew the store was releasing records. After a few weeks and no return letter, they gave the store a call. Lo and behold, they got owner Micky French on the phone. French got a kick out hearing the voices on the other end, all the way from sunny southern California. He told Kane that he did receive the demo tape and thought the music was great! He said that he was even playing their music in the shop for the skinhead patrons! He mentioned that he might put out another compilation at some point on his record label and asked that the band stay in touch.
In 1984 Doug & The Slugz went back in the studio to record one last batch of songs, and this time they would recruit 13 year old Aaron Sperske to beat on the drums. Sperske replaced Flanagan, and the band carried on playing numerous shows throughout Los Angeles. Over time, The Firm would become fully integrated with and within the band. The band and the gang became one. In addition, Graham and Kane found themselves in and out of jail for numerous crimes. Needless to say, gigs became difficult to get. The Firms’ numbers swelled by the Summer of 1984 to over 100 skinheads throughout Los Angeles County. The North Side Firm found itself in constant battles with other well known Los Angeles punk gangs like the Suicidal Tendencies Gang, FFF (Fight For Freedom), LADS (LA Death Squad). LMP (La Mirada Punks), Circle One Family, HRP (Hollywood Rat Patrol), etc.. Not only were there gang wars with these numerous punk gangs but the North Side Firm became entangled with Mexican street gangs as well as Crip and Blood gangs.
By October of 1984, Doug & The Slugz changed their name to The Risk in an attempt to salvage things and find a new start.
They landed numerous gigs and got rave reviews, but things quickly began to unravel in California with the spread of racism within the skinhead scene.
1985 arrived and The Risk and The Firm found themselves at the forefront of fighting off any neo nazi skinheads that attempted to show up to their gigs. Despite all the trouble brewing and the various challenges on the band, The Risk managed to keep playing until September 1985. Their final rehearsal would be at the renowned punk rehearsal spot Hully Gully Studios. Located in Atwater, Ca, Hully Gully Studios frequently hosted bands like X, The Pretenders, and The Blasters. As The Risk turned up the amplifiers for what became the very last time, the mood in the room was dim. The boys knew this would be the last time they would play these songs together. Three long turbulent years had taken its toll on the band. The violence, the incarcerations, the drugs, and the booze had just become too much for any of them to carry on playing music together. As the mid 1980’s came to an end, Graham and Kane would dive further down the dead end road of gangs and crime while Pousen and Sperske slipped into drug fueled abandon. The very first Oi! Skinhead band in Los Angeles would now become history.
Looking back, this was a time when youth tribalism was still taken very serious. There was very little intermingling between the tribes. Most of us were punks before becoming skinheads. As punk rockers, it felt like everyone was against you, but punk rock by the late 70’s/early 80’s had an infrastructure in place. By the early 1980’s, Los Angeles had several punk record stores, dozens of venues, and punk rock parties happening somewhere just about every night. As a skinhead, the options narrowed significantly. Skinhead pre-dates punk rock by nearly a decade but even today remains relatively scarce on the cultural radar. You often felt like outcasts among outcasts. The upside was that very strong bonds developed. You became hyper protective of your friends and where you hung out. Train track embankments, bridge underpasses, and garages converted into rehearsal/party spaces became sacred ground.
By the late 1980’s, a few highly publicized incidents in the US by neo-nazi “skinheads” had attracted media attention and public perception of skinheads has subsequently been a resoundingly negative one. Those that don’t already know its history, aren’t likely to go looking and those that know…know.