Ah, Colorado Blvd. in good old Pasadena, where gentrified coffee houses sit among pristine storefronts boasting exorbitant price tags; where expensive mothers push their expensive babies in their expensive strollers. But if you go a bit east of the main drag, there is the unmistakable droning of punk music getting gradually louder, and your eyes are pleasantly assaulted by the pink and green neon that beckons you into the beautiful mess that is MeowzMeowz, Pasadena’s one stop rock shop. And behind the counter sits the goth goddess behind it all, Veronika Sorrow.
Kelly Maglia was a closet metalhead. Even though she grew up in Orange County, just miles from the bright lights of the Sunset Strip and was naturally musically talented, Maglia kept her love of metal under wraps. “It was more the circles that I ran in” Maglia explains, “I was very academic, very studious, and my parents were very not into metal so it felt like a very rebellious thing to be doing. Not a lot of my friends were into it except for my musician friends, so that’s how I got into it. Most of my closest friends were nerdy like me, and I didn’t want to admit to them that I was listening to this music.”
As Maglia grew older, she decided to pursue her love of music becoming classically trained in vocals, piano, and clarinet. She also studied musical theater, theory, and composition and minored in dance. At the same time, Maglia, who was also interested in art and fashion, was being asked to design dance costumes for her sister and her sister’s friends, all of whom were dancers. When she emerged from college she had a degree in music and drama, but she didn’t know what to do with it. When her sister approached her about turning her costume designing hobby into a business, it seemed like a practical step.
If you hang out on the Los Angeles rock scene long enough, it’s likely that you will make some sort of acquaintance with the man, the musician, the legend, theBruce Duff. Duff’s high visibility is probably due to his ability to wear so many hats in the music industry including journalist, publicist, band manager, engineer, podcaster, author, and actively gigging musician. It was a crisp, Fall day in Los Angeles when I submerged into the offices that lurk beneath the Federal Bar to find Duff at his 9-5 gig at Knitting Factory Management to see what he’s been up to lately.
A California native, Duff was born in the city of Riverside. His initiation into rock n’ roll wasn’t about the sex and glamour that lead some down that wayward path. Rather, when Duff was around 10, he was at a child’s party when he saw a boy, even younger than him, pick up a guitar and start playing. “He looked like a rock star on television,” he recalls. And so, Duff was off on his journey.
My hands were shaking a bit as I sent the message. Was I really going to ask THE Steven Blush for an interview? I had to remind myself that despite the fact Blush has been such a prominent and powerful figure in rock n’ roll journalism, he has always been a really cool guy. But years have passed since I’d last spoken to him… years that resulted in him rising in the ranks from music journalist and founder of Seconds magazine, to published author and filmmaker. Would he agree to the interview? Would he return my message? Would he even remember who I was? Well, it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Blush is just as awesome as ever.
A New York native, Blush spent much of his childhood hanging around with his dad, who worked on the Lower East Side of Manhattan when “it was still a crazy, fucked up place,” according to Blush. He would stumble into bars like CBGB and the Lismar Lounge and rock n’ roll landmarks like Trash and Vaudeville, witnessing the rise of bands like The Talking Heads and later White Zombie and Circus of Power. Blush also lived in Washington, D.C. for a brief stint and got involved in the hardcore explosion out there. He began booking shows and deejaying.
About 10 years ago Judd Steele was thinking of quitting music altogether. The veteran drummer, who had played with rock legends like Brett Michaels and even entertained troops in Afghanistan, was getting tired of the industry. “I never wrote songs, so I never took anything with me,” says Steele. “I was always a drummer looking for another band.” Steele had packed up his main drum kit and was unenthusiastically playing on a cocktail set with what he swore would be his “last band.”
One day, Steele took his 9-year-old daughter Jewel to Guitar Center so he could buy drum sticks. Bored, Jewel hung back at the guitar section. By the time Steele returned, he found his daughter holding a guitar and doing her best rock star poses and a light bulb went off. Steele enrolled Jewel in guitar lessons. Soon after, her sister, Lula, who is a year older, took up bass, emulating her beloved grandfather, who was an accomplished musician and bass player.