The 16-year-old inside me was freaking out big time—wait…let’s try that again. The teen in me was freaking out while walking to my most recent interview. I’d received an email the previous week from local musician Gregg Turner about an upcoming solo album he’d just recorded, and he wanted to talk shop. Business as usual, right? Wrong. Y’see, in addition to playing with local punk act Blood Drained Cows for years, Turner was a founding member of Angry Samoans, one of the coolest punk bands that ever was.
Were I still in my teens, I don’t know that I could’ve accomplished a sit-down with this punk rock legend without gushing, but, now that I’m mostly dead inside, I managed to contain my excitement and coffee it up with the man to discuss his new record, Gregg Turner Plays the Hits.
Turner describes his solo efforts as “goofy folk rock,” but there’s a whole lot of punkish, doo-wop style to be heard here. Tracks like “Another Lost Heartache” and a killer autoharp-heavy cover of Roky Erickson’s “Starry Eyes” sound great and make for some serious toe-tapping and sock-hopping. And while punk-goes-country musicians like Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry and Russ Rankin leave their bands behind to Bob-Dylan around and get super-serious with songs about life and love and such, Turner is anything but somber. Hell, the album opens with a love ballad called “The Pharmacist From Walgreens,” in which Turner laments his empathies for a very bored-looking prescription handler.
“I take my inspiration from things that just kind of happen to me in my life,” he says. “And that pharmacist really does seem like he is going insane with boredom.”
It gets even goofier from there, with tracks like “I Lost My Baby to the Guy at Bobcat Bite” and “I’ve Become Flaccid From Eating Bad Acid.” These songs are pretty much exactly what they sound like, and they certainly bring the laughs. “Most of the time, a song title will pop into my head, and the lyrics will come from there,” Turner tells SFR. “There are exceptions, of course, like in the song ‘I Dreamed I Met Lou Reed.’ I actually dreamed that I met Lou Reed and he gave me lyrics for the chorus of a song I was having trouble with…I’ve never had a dream transfer over into real life like that.” Cool, right? Right.
Really, the one negative thing that can be said about Hits is that it can sometimes seem like Turner goes out of his way to make sure his lyrics rhyme. It’s not a major complaint, but it does make certain lines seem a little forced. Otherwise, we’re talking about a fun record that sounds awesome and contains the only distorted autoharp I think I’ve ever heard anywhere.
So why haven’t we heard more from Gregg Turner before now? The man was part of one of the most beloved punk rock bands of all time and plays music that is equal parts accessible, fun and—gasp!—original, but he says finding shows has proven difficult.
“I love Santa Fe, but I don’t love how the tourist culture has made a sort of zombie out of the music scene,” he says.
“I’d love to open for something at Sol Santa Fe, or at least play more frequently, but if and when I do something, it’s not going to be at Cowgirl or El Farol.” With that in mind, the official release show for Gregg Turner Plays the Hits is at 317 Aztec next month. Kudos to Aztec for supporting rock or punk or really any genre that isn’t Americana when they can (I once saw post-punkers Venus Bogardus destroy over there). In the meantime, check out Turner’s tunes online and thank your lucky stars that some local musicians are trying to add a little variety.
“I don’t want to play snob music that comes off as elitist,” Turner says. “This album is about doing something I think is funny and clever, and I really hope people catch on.”
Consider me caught.