What THE GERMS did isn’t so secret anymore. Then again, maybe it never was. The legendary Los Angeles punk band, and especially its ill-fated frontman–the intelligent and irreverent Darby Crash–were the recent focus of What We Do Is Secret, Rodger Grossman’s 2007 biopic about the band and Crash during their incredibly stilted run from 1977 to 1980. The film, as many of you might know by now, stars Shane West in the role of Crash. The band was so taken by West’s depiction of Crash that they invited him out on the road for a reunion tour of sorts, converting soured, cynical punks into believers similarly shocked by West’s portrayal. With the recent release of What We Do Is Secret on DVD, Brian Shultz spoke with bassist Lorna Doom about the film, criticism from the punk community and even the possibility of new material.
What were you thinking when the idea to do this film was brought to you?
What was I thinking? Oh, my God, I don’t know. I was delighted out of my mind.
What were your thoughts once you saw the film?
I was amazed. I was really amazed that [director] Rodger [Grossman] was able to pull it off so well. Absolutely delighted.
How much time would you say you he spent with you and the rest of the band as he tried to get to know you?
Rodger did three meetings with all of us–Pat [Smear, guitar], Don [Bolles, drums] and I. [We] were on the set throughout almost the entire filming of the movie. So, the whole process.
What was it like to watch actors basically re-create your lives?
Well, words can’t describe what it’s like. It’s pretty surreal. But after a while it’s kind of… When they’re as good as Bijou [Philips], Shane [West] and Noah [Segan] it’s very cool. I kind of enjoyed it, I have to admit.
Did Darby really give you that cigarette burn?
Yes, he did. Not in the way depicted in the movie, but yes. I do have that cigarette burn.
So you still have the mark?
That’s kind of a bittersweet memorial.
Oh, indeed. It’s much like a tattoo.
What do you think when you look at that?
I think of Darby a lot. I think of all the times and the memories I’ve had with him.
Was the relationship between Don Bolles and his brief replacement, Rob Henley, as awkward as the film made it out to be?
I think in the movie it was portrayed a little more [intense] than it really was. I don’t think the issue was that… There wasn’t that much animosity between the two.
The film also makes it look like Joan Jett didn’t have much input or oversight in her role producing 1979’s (GI). How accurate is that?
Not true at all. I think Rodger took that from the line in ["Shut Down (Annihilation Man)"] where it mentions Joan. When you’re recording for many hours at a time at some point you’re gonna rest. At that moment when she was resting… [Laughs.]
How did she help shape the recording of the record, then?
Well, I think it was her and the other producer. And Pat as well. They all contributed to it. We just went in there and recorded and that all happened separately. To tell you the truth, I don’t really know because I wasn’t there.
Were you insulted at all when you weren’t offered a spot in the Darby Crash Band?
[Laughs.] Insulted? No, I wasn’t insulted at all. I knew that he wanted to move on with his project. He’s my friend. I loved him dearly. When you have a friend like that, you don’t stop them from going on to what they want to do. I’m not insulted at all.
Did you, or anyone in the band, ever consider getting Darby professional help for his drug use?
I did. I may have been the only one. [Laughs.]
What do you think stopped you?
There weren’t things like that around back then–not that I knew of, anyway. But I was concerned with his drug use, and the people that he was around.
What kind of people was he around?
Well, people that did [provide him] with what he wanted. They shall remain unnamed. [Laughs.]
The film really makes it look like you and the other members had a really low opinion of band manager Amber. How did that relationship develop personally and professionally as the band went on?
It was pretty much unanimous, between a lot of people. When she just showed up, I don’t think a lot of people liked her. And I, personally, did not hang around Darby after that period when she came on the scene. That’s how much I didn’t feel good about her.
When was the last time you talked to her?
[Laughs.] Wow. Thirty years ago.
So I guess she hasn’t really tried to get in touch with the band after the reunion.
No, no. I think Rodger interviewed her, but nobody else… She hasn’t come around.
How soon after Kurt Cobain committed suicide did you talk to Pat? Like everyone else I’m sure, I just think the parallel to Darby is incredible.
I didn’t have Pat’s number. I thought of him immediately and obviously felt terrible that again this had happened to him. Unfortunately, I did not have a chance to call him at that moment, but I did obviously when this movie came about–I did express my sorrow for him.
How would you compare and contrast the band’s live performances from 30 years ago to the more recent tours? Besides not getting banned from venues, of course.
It’s amazing now.
It’s as if we’d never stopped. The first Germs, we were great, and now it’s as if… If we had continued, this is how good we could’ve gotten back then. As all bands do if they’re together long enough, they become, obviously, a very amazing experience.
I guess you sort of answered this earlier, but how well do you think Bijou portrayed you?
I think she did an excellent job. I’m delighted. I couldn’t be more happy.
How did you feel about all the criticism the band received for touring with Shane West?
Well, we knew it was going to happen. I don’t really care. [Laughs.] We just dealt with it. Obviously Shane had to take the brunt of the criticism. It actually wasn’t so much anybody in the band–it was Shane who took all the negativity. But he handled it really well.
Have you or anyone in the band directly talked with Fat Mike or Jello Biafra since they voiced their opinions?
Fat Mike of NOFX and Jello Biafra, ex-Dead Kennedys–because they were the two biggest figures who publicly voiced opinions against the tour.
Really? I didn’t know that.
Yeah. So I guess you haven’t talked to them, then.
[Laughs.] I did not know this. No. No one has. Or I haven’t spoken to either of those gentlemen, [at least].
What would you say to them?
They’d have to come and see. Have they actually seen the band? is my first question. Now, it’s one thing to say something, and then actually come to the show and see it. Fans or people in the audience have been like that and changed. They voiced their opinions, and then after they actually saw Shane in the band, they changed their mind. So that would be my [response]. They would both have to come and see the show.
Now, I don’t suppose the band has been writing new material at all…
Has it been a contentious issue for the band? Or has everyone completely dismissed the idea?
I don’t think we’ve completely dismissed the idea. We just haven’t gotten around to it because of Pat still [playing with] Foo Fighters and Shane is an actor. I think it’s a matter of not having enough time.
Who do you think would write the lyrics?
That’s a great question. I think the shoes to fill are quite intimidating. I really don’t know. Darby has some poem journals, and at one time we were considering getting a hold of those and maybe putting music to them.
When did you first consider doing that?
Four years ago, I believe. When we were first rehearsing.
Are there any more touring plans in the works?
Oh, sure. We’ll continue.
Do you have anything specific in mind?
Nothing specific. We’re looking at the beginning of the new year. I don’t know what Stormy, our booking agent, has in mind for us, to tell you the truth. I know she’s looking at things. Probably out here, I’d imagine. Probably the Northwest, since we haven’t been up to that area.
But hopefully, yeah. Somewhere. alt