Sonny Vincent Interview by Jack Partain

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Sonny Vincent Interview by Jack Partain



Perfect Sound Forever
Interview by Jack Partain
(August 2011)
When New York punk legend Sonny Vincent formed his first band Testors in 1976, i
t's unlikely that he thought that 30-plus years later he would still be working
in music, not to mention being known as a punk legend. But throughout a career t
hat can best be described as notoriously tumultuous, Vincent has developed a rep
utation as one of the more intense figures to emerge from the scene around CBGB'
s and Max's Kansas City. He is a steadfast punk rock idealist whose musical tale
nts are as strong as his will to keep his music pure. As a result, he has become
one of those figures you hear about more than you actually hear and you hear th
e stories about his exploits more than you hear the actual music. He's been jail
ed and institutionalized; he's been banned from a college campus, and ejected fr
om Canada; he's ingested more than his fair share of illicit materials, punched
Lenny Kaye during a radio broadcast, got drunk with Bob Stinson, wrecked cars in
to buildings, hidden in dumpsters, and was nearly killed by members of Minneapol
is' finest during a snowstorm.
But he's also written some really great songs and made some interesting films. H
e was one of Joey Ramone's favorite artists, and he's worked with artists like M
o Tucker, Ron and Scott Asheton, Wayne Kramer, Cheetah Chrome, Captain Sensible,
and Bob Stinson (to whom he was not only a drinking buddy but a close friend an
d artistic peer as well). And he has managed to have a career in music outside o
f it's mainstream for a long time now, despite all of the supposed changes the m
usic industry has experienced.
In 2011, Vincent returned to his roots and reunited Testors. He's also recorded
a new solo album Bizzaro Hymns, which was released by Still Unbeatable Records i
n April. What follows is an email interview with Mr Vincent from late March, 201

PSF: I know that you probably get asked this question in every interview, but I
love the story. Where did you get the name "Testors"?
Sonny Vincent: OK, you asked for it! 'Testors' was our favorite glue to sniff wh
en we were delinquent kids. That is until they added mustard gas elements to it
to curtail the sniffing/huffing of it. After they put in the additive, it really
smelled like some super strong onions, so we changed brands! The Testors glue c
ompany was really out to save the kids from getting high!! Anyway, it's a long s
tory filled with glue bags strewn all over the streets of New York, Black Panthe
rs in Oakland, White Panthers in Detroit, shit loads of protesting Hippies and f
our dead in Ohio (yeah, America kills its citizens for protesting also!!). Certa
inly during those days they (the Nixon administration, etc.) did not want the yo
ung kids going around getting high. They'd much rather have American kids spill
their blood and die in the process of killing other people in Southeast Asia! Pe
rhaps this was one reason we didn't give a fuck about our lives, since our lives
seemed so easily expendable anyway. Yeah, the administration was against drugs
but they were way into killing!
Anyway, Testors was our brand for a while till we discovered other pastimes and
delicacies. But then again, it was truly a combination of getting high and medic
ating ourselves. Anyway, like I said, it is a remnant from my early childhood. B
y the time, I had Testors together, I hadn't done 'glue' for ages! In fact Gene
(Sinigalliano) from Testors had never sniffed it, till one day just as a matter

of consistency (since that was the name of the group), him and I huffed bags ful
l of it down in the NYC Subway system back in 1976. It's quite strong stuff, if
you really go for it. It was very funny, Gene was jumping around the subway stat
ion, really off the hook! Later, the cops approached us and we were terrified si
nce we were so high and out of shape. Finally, the cops left but Gene was really
scared, man! Can you imagine? Thankfully, I didn't do glue too much. Although I
still do feel that I am the ultimate God of all insects, plant life and sea cre
PSF: I've heard that you formed Testors after moving from New York to Florida an
d then back to New York after hearing about the scene forming around CBGB's. I h
eard that you were in bands before that, which played around Max's Kansas City a
nd other such clubs. What can you tell me about those early bands? Were the Test
ors the first band you actually put together?
SV: In the early '70's, the scene in NYC was virtually dead. The Beatnik folksy
thing that had been so vibrant in the city had long ago run its course and the h
ippie '60's thing was over too. The city was sort of abandoned and all we could
find to play as far as venues were the husks left over from former times. Althou
gh this 'wasteland' landscape did sort of suit Alan (Vega) and Marty (Rev) from
Suicide. I remember they pushed their equipment around the city in a shopping ca
rt to play empty shows, one of them with an earlier band of mine, Liquid Diamond
s. I decided I could make more progress if I isolated myself and wrote some song
s. At one point, I packed up a tape recorder and my guitar and went down to Flor
ida. That's where I met Gene (Sinigalliano).
Anyway to answer you, I certainly had bands together before Testors. And we live
d in the urban leftover that was NYC, performing only occasionally. Some of the
names of my bands were The Trespassers, Distance, Fury, Liquid Diamonds, The Way
Outs. These bands didn't really fit into what was popular on the charts so that
's another reason we didn't play out much. I really want to say it again that th
ere simply were not many venues to play back then. In the '60's, there were tons
of places for bands to play, but in my starting time, the times where I was rea
lly looking to go on stages, the early '70's, there wasn't much around. In that
way, bands are lucky these days. Back then, there was virtually nothing till Max
's and CBGB's. So we would play anywhere we could find. As I mentioned we played
the Electric Circus, which was formerly 'The Dom' from the Andy Warhol/Velvet's
days. It was a show with my band Liquid Diamonds and Suicide. Twenty people in
the audience, as I recall. The Dogs from Detroit were also on the bill that nigh
t. Tough times.The Dogs were staying in some apartment in Harlem living on a gia
nt bag of potatoes.
We also played an underground gay/tranny club in the Village called 'Club 82.' B
ut like I say, before Max's and CBGB's, there were not a lot of venues for origi
nal music in NYC. The music from those earlier bands of mine is hard to describe
. Sort of Rock 'n' roll with a razor sharp, amphetamine edge, combined with a ps
ychedelic tribal groove. Although we did have some concise 'songs,' there were a
lot of jams and points of departure.The lyrics were similar themes as in the Te
stors music, although maybe a bit more naive and hippy-like.
PSF: I could ask you "who are your influences?" but I'd rather know how/why did
you decide to start a band. You seem to be a man of many talents so why start a
band? Also, do you remember writing your first song? What was it like? What was
your first time on stage at Max's Kansas City like?
SV:I started playing music because of the overwhelming feeling of excitement I h
ad listening to rock 'n' roll. So many songs spoke for what I was feeling inside
myself. Also it seemed very cool to be involved with guitars and noise. Mostly

the attraction was about expression and a 'voice.' Whether the expression was re
bellion or sadness, it all seemed so 'in the moment' and riveting. There was no
other way for me. I wrote my first song the day I got my first guitar, a used 'S
tella' guitar that I got hold of. The song was written on one string and shortly
after, I wrote the song, I showed it to the kids in the neighborhood. Eventuall
y all the kids on my block could play it. I was a bit surprised when I saw them
playing it. Cranking down on that one string, with lots of raw fervor!
My first show at Max's was when Testors was a three piece. Two guitars and drums
. It was 1976 and Gregory (R) was the drummer, Gene and I on guitars. I remember
the soundman and the people at the sound check, "Hey man- where's you-ziz guy-z
ez bass player?" We told them "We don't use a bass player." It was like saying "
I can turn into a big fat blue elephant on command." They just looked at us and
scowled in disbelief. "No bass player? Dat's fuckin' weird!" I supposed they rea
lly had the John, Paul, George and Ringo thing firmly stamped into their heads.
But we sounded just fine, cool in my opinion. We played our first years as a thr
ee piece, no bass player.
Max's was very cool. When you were there, you felt like you were in the center o
f the universe. Same feeling at CBGB's. Something was going down and it was exci
ting. Something I remember fondly about Max's was that there was a curtain acros
s the stage. The curtain was closed and the audience only saw this black velvet
curtain drawn across the stage. Behind the curtain you would set up your equipme
nt and get yourself hyped and psyched. Suddenly they would announce you while qu
ickly opening the curtain. Very dramatic. In some ways, Max's was the center of
the universe. Trust me.
PSF: From what I understand, you were already making music before punk rock, for
lack of a better term, exploded. So what were your earliest influences? And how
much did punk rock eventually inform your own musical evolution?
SV: Yes, you are right about that. I was already writing and sometimes performin
g music before the 'punk explosion' as you call it. My influences were coming at
me in two ways. One was the music I was connecting to on a personal level and t
he other was the music that was around me peripherally. If you grew up as I did
in a lower income neighborhood, you could hear music of the other families throu
gh the walls. A lot if this stuff I heard before you could actually find it by t
urning the knob, searching on the radio.
Let me explain. A family down on their luck from the Appalachian mountains decid
es to put together their pennies and drive up to New York in hopes of finding wo
rk and a future. Of course they have to find a cheap apartment. Well, I was the
kid lying in bed in the next apartment hearing all the music they brought with t
hem from back home! I'm talking some roots, bluegrass and country. It sounded li
ke music from Venus to me- I never heard anything at all like it. It was amazing
. Then the apartment above was a black family and they were blasting their turnt
able, cranking out The Four Tops and James Brown, night and day! The folks to th
e left were playing salsa and everywhere else was The Four Seasons or some '50's
greaser rock 'n' roll.
The first live music I ever heard in my life was when I was 5 years old and goin
g down the steps to the subway in Manhattan. Some guys were singing 'doo-wop' do
wn there- accapella in the tiled subway station on 42nd St. Also there was a lot
of Puerto Rican music all around, blasting from homes. Puerto Rican people were
getting together with Cubans on summer days on the street corners in groups of
15-20, with congas, bongos, shakers and all these rhythm instruments, jamming li
ke mother fuckers! Again, amazing! Soon, the Beatles were out and that was a sor
t of ephiney. After that the Kinks, the Yardbirds, later Hendrix, Doors, Blue Ch
eer. Everything all mixed in with '60's soul and garage, '50's girl groups, '50'

s ballads and full-on blues like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.
This was all around me. All the time. This was all my influence.
Now fast forward to Testors and a whole set of original songs I wrote before I e
ven heard of CBGB and Max's. Now don't get me wrong- my discovery of these two c
lubs for me was something like a 'Columbus' discovery or like I had landed on th
e fuckin' moon and found treasure, because now I found that there was someplace
I could maybe play my music!!!
Getting the shows there was an adventure in itself. I can tell you a bit. The gr
oup I had before Testors (Liquid Diamonds) had made a demo tape in a basement on
a 4-track machine. After all our practicing and the recording, I think we playe
d a grand total of two shows. But we did manage to make a tape with five of my s
ongs recorded on it. When Testors got together we wanted to play CBGB's but Char
lie Martin (soundman and booker of CB's) wanted a tape from us. Since Testors di
dn't have anything down on tape at the time, we just submitted the Liquid Diamon
ds tape with Testors scrawled across the front of the box. But I don't think Cha
rlie even listened (to) the tapes people submitted to him. Eventually we just en
dlessly bugged him and Hilly until they realized that we would be playing CBGB's
or die trying!
About influences prior to meeting up and seeing all the other groups I can tell
you it probably wasn't as some people might think. I sort of grew up on the stre
ets so certainly I was not introduced to the whole Andy Warhol/Velvet Undergroun
d thing in some art class. I did see some of Andy's films and wandered into the
Factory but at that time I was really quite young. My influences were like I sai
d before. But right away, I was floored with the realization that there were peo
ple and bands all around who were sort of kindred spirits. The Cramps, The Ramon
es, Patti Smith, Television,The Dead Boys, Richard Hell, Teenage Jesus and the J
erks, Steel Tips, Suicide and lots more. As time went by there definitely was so
me exchange and influence happening. But it is true that each band had its own i
dentity and sound. Otherwise, what's the point? There were some influence transf
erring around here and there but 'individuality' was super important as well as
originality. In most cases, this came natively.
PSF: The Testors have a reputation as one of the most uncompromising bands of th
e early punk rock groups in New York. Obviously, in the short term, it didn't he
lp the band to refuse to sell out or compromise, but in the long run, has it hel
ped your career to have that reputation?
SV: I don't know. I know the legacy lives on. We were very rigid with ourselves
in a way. For us, it wasn't really about having fun. It was more like a sort of
life or death struggle to keep our integrity and make a music that in itself has
an integrity upon the listening to it without explanation. It wasn't such an id
ea or concept. We didn't really have discussions about it. It was simply the onl
y way for us. We were aware of all the traps and pitfalls that could detour us.
We stayed true for a long time and thankfully, we recorded and documented our so
ngs ourselves. We never sent tapes or solicitations to record companies. We visi
ted one once and they already at the first meeting were telling us to simmer dow
n and play smoother! For some reason, we didn't give a shit about their opinions
or anyone else's. We made our music and figured one day the world might come ar
ound. When I saw some of the resolve weakening in the group, I broke it up.
PSF: You left New York for Minneapolis in 1981, right? Why did Testors break up?
Why did you leave New York instead of starting another band there? And why did
you choose Minneapolis?
SV: Testors broke up because of many reasons, one is the point you brought up in

the last question. It is difficult to keep something going that has no substant
ial support. Without some semblance of success, members will be pressed to revie
w their lives and wonder if the path of 'no compromise' is a viable path for the
m. For me as the songwriter, it was easier to find my way through and besides, I
sometimes have a strange romantic way of seeing things. So for me, the passion
was quite fierce. After a very vibrant and alive few years, the scene in NYC was
generally softening and people were getting more interested in parties and such
. I was still involved with feelings of changing the world or at least shakin' i
t up. So standing around fucked up at a party didn't do it for me. I had a group
together briefly after Testors called The Primadonnas. It was me and the bass p
layer from Testors Kenny and Luigi (he played with Johnny Thunders and Bo Diddle
y) and the drummer Joey Alexander. We had some songs but the whole thing train w
recked, mainly because like I said it was more of a drug party than a band! Anyw
ay, I was living on Bleeker and 2nd Ave at the time and the girl I was living wi
th was from Minnesota. Since things in New York had changed I felt that maybe it
was a good idea for me to go somewhere else. She talked me into going to Minnea
PSF: What was Minneapolis like in the early '80's? Did it take long to hook up w
ith local bands and artists? Also, is that where your interest in film started o
r was it a long running thing?
SV: Arriving in Minnesota for me was very, umm, strange! Mostly only a few bands
had heard of punk and the general population thought that Abba was a super fuck
in' wild assed band!! Eventually I sort of fell in love with Minnesota but it de
finitely was not a match made in heaven. I arrived in tight black pants, Beatle
boots and a switchblade. This was not the way people walked down the street in M
innesota, not in 1980!!! So after Testors broke up and a short time with the ill
-fated Primadonnas line-up, I moved. Man, for me to move from the downtown area
of New York City to Minneapolis was a real shock! Very different, these people w
ere inviting me to go ice fishing for gods sake. AND I was wearing Beatle Boots!
!! In shopping malls, kids pointed at me and said "Devo." I guess that's the onl
y 'punk' thing they knew back then at the time, because I think Devo was one of
the first to get any airplay nationally and they had a video out. The Minnesota
people were incredibly friendly even though a bit strange in my eyes. Quite open
and different from the snotty New York attitude. After I got used to the slow d
riving and slow talking natives, being there became a little bit easier on me.
When I arrived, I right away went to the cooler small clubs to see what was happ
ening on the local scene. The first band I saw was Husker Du and I was impressed
. Husker Du right away reminded me of my former band Testors, the spirit of it.
I told them that and they seemed to like it. I was relived because right after I
said it, I thought to myself "Hmm, that might sound condescending', but they to
ok it the way I meant it. I was happy to see this all was happening in Minnesota
. Later, I became friends with the guys in Husker Du, and eventually the bass pl
ayer (Greg Norton) was touring in my band for a while. To me, it was amazing tha
t they even knew of the bands in New York because everything was so underground
then, style and news traveled slower. The media did not have this 'global' machi
ne like we have these days. Anyway, I was pleased to see bands in Minnesota that
had a similar spirit and energy that we had earlier in New York. It was great b
ecause that's exactly where my head was at. I wound up staying there in Minneapo
lis with my girlfriend and I eventually found guys to form a band with. We calle
d it Sonny Vincent and The Extreme. We did tours of the U.S. and recorded some s
ongs in recording studios (a few of these songs much later saw the light of day)
Putting a band together was fast though and we had a good run. Sonny Vincent And
The Extreme with Mike Phillips, Mort Baumann and Jeff Rogers. We never made an
album but we did tour a lot and like I said, we recorded some. It was a really g

reat line-up and we had good communication. One of these days, I would like to r
elease more of that material. In Minnesota, my interest in film and visual arts
grew. I did some major installations that involved projections, tape loops, and
sculptural elements. Environments using motion detectors and timers. And I did m
y first film there, a 16-mm celluloid project called 'Mannequin World.' Anyway,
yes, Minnesota, tales of the police always bugging me, to the point that one nig
ht they very nearly killed me. Speeding around in my 1959 Caddy with no drivers
license and a file on me a mile long. Big love and broken hearts. And an elevato
r telephone, the phone that you pick up in the elevator and a voice comes on and
says "Otis elevator emergency line, can I help you?" We rigged that phone to ma
ke free national calls to book our tours!! Dear lord, I am so damn guilty!! Lord
I done rigged that telephone in that elevator to somehow make free long distanc
e calls, and Lord I do admit that we would 'emergency stop' the elevator in the
basement of that building to quickly call nite clubs across America to book our
tours. Forgive me O Lord!
PSF: Again, i know you've probably told this story a hundred times, but what hap
pened at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design that resulted in your being b
SV: There were a few incidents that eventually led to me being banned from the g
rounds of MCAD. One was not such a big deal. I used to enjoy impressing Bobby St
inson with crazy actions. One was by driving my car in a wild unorthodox manner.
He really would laugh like a child and it was so endearing that I would often d
o it just to get that reaction. Although I would do stuff like that without that
inspiration as well! I guess I shouldn't try to blame it on Bobby- I enjoyed it
myself as well. So, on one of the days me and Bobby were hangin out, I was driv
ing my car on the grounds of MCAD, but I was driving in all the places where you
really shouldn't drive, like on the grass. They nabbed me but had to call in th
e police to do the actual nabbing. Then the police had to arrest me and cuff me
and all that. And when the tow company came and began to jack up my car (the 195
9 Caddy) with the winch, some students from the photography department came out
and started doing photo essays of the scene. Then Bobby took off his pants for t
hem and he also got arrested. So a creative springtime drive turned into a polic
e matter.
Also earlier that year, I had caused a disturbance there at a film showing of In
dependent Filmmakers. Not really anything violent but I was mocking the audience
. The films were quite good though! And the final straw came when they discovere
d that I was taking various classes without being registered. So I got banned. I
can understand their point of view. I didn't have a problem with the decision.
But I did miss all the classes. I even woke up early for some of them. I'm a fir
m believer in education, even if you can't afford it. They didn't agree with my
logic. Anyway, I did learn how to edit film on a Steenbeck flatbed editor and I
also did a lot of work in the photo developing darkroom making artwork and promo
pictures for my band. But anyway, my favorite media as far as visual arts is co
PSF: During the '80's you put together bands like Shotgun Rationale, Model Mriso
ner, Sonny Vincent and his Rat Race Choir, bands that by today's standards would
be considered "all-star" bands or "punk rock supergroups" (or something like th
at) with people like Bob Stinson, Cheetah Chrome, Captain Sensible, etc. Was it
difficult working with such personalities or did everything work smoothly?
SV: Man! Sometimes, it was hell and sometimes, umm, it was hell! Nothing ran smo
othly! Actually there really is a lot of heaven in there too. Cheetah was a comb
ination of being a full on loose cannon and a well read intellectual. People don
't know about that side of him, the sort of academic side of him. But he is real

ly quite knowledgeable and well-read. That being said there were some insane eve
nts and actions going down during the times we played together. Everything from
ripping a pool table into shreds at a fancy night spot, to flinging a bowl of so
up at my entire record collection. In his defense, it was meant to merely hit th
e wall. We also had some fights on stage, a particular one in Milwaukee sort of
shocked the audience. Afterwards, we made up and sat at the bar drinking and sin
ging like two stupid sailors and a girl came up to us and accused us of staging
the fight. We really laughed.
Also I had Cheetah and Bob Stinson in my band at the same time and that was very
cool in terms of music but very incendiary in terms of insanity. If people read
ing this know anything about those two, then they must try to imagine the incred
ible force of mayhem the two of them created, exponentially. Here is how it all
started. I called Cheetah Chrome, who was still in New York and I told him about
the band I had with Stinson in Minnesota and I invited Cheetah to come out and
join us. I knew it would be a short lived line-up, because both of those guys we
re on a kind of short fuse at the time, but I also knew it would be a real uniqu
e "once in a lifetime" event getting those two playing in the same band for a wh
So Cheetah came out to Minnesota from New York. He brought a strange white guita
r. I don't remember but I think it was maybe a modified Strat. Cheetah in Minnea
polis, what a crazy mixture that was. In personal matters, Cheetah was always a
sweetheart but when he went out, he would get completely off the hook and cause
all kinds of trouble, I stopped letting him borrow my clothes after a while beca
use he would come home to my place after a night of debauchery with my fine 'thr
eads' all chewed up and destroyed!
Anyway, the rotating line-up of Shotgun Rational did rotate it's way into includ
ing both Cheetah from the Dead Boys and Bob Stinson from The Replacements. You c
an only imagine the mayhem. I remember way before Cheetah arrived in Minneapolis
, Bobby was constantly calling me and asking me shop questions. Bob, "Oh! What k
ind of guitar will he bring? "Oh, what gauge strings does he use? Oh, what kind
of plectrums does he use?" Finally, Cheetah arrived in Minnesota at the rehearsa
l studio and he stood in front of Bob for the first time. I said "Bobby Stinson
here is Cheetah Chrome." The first thing Bobby said to Cheetah was "Bend over!"
There was a awkward pause and then Cheetah laughed out loud! Cheetah really like
d that kind of humor and they got along famously. At shows, they would reach ove
r each others guitars and play on each others guitars. What I mean is that they
would reach over and would be fingering the chords on the others guitar -while k
issing each other on the lips! No lie! Very funny stuff and quite a sight to beh
Cheetah lived with me in my apartment for a while during that time in St. Paul a
nd that was fun but at times, we were way too messed up! I don't know how to ter
m it. Our behavior... Let's just say we were drinking, drugging, carousing and v
ery often tearing places up. Bobby Stinson was also a good specimen for a case s
tudy in erratic, illogical, and interesting behavior. I loved him dearly but a l
ot of times I wondered if I had a psycho magnet in my pocket. Not that he was a
clinical psycho but sometimes he seemed like the next best thing to one! There w
as also a lot of super endearing qualities to Bobby.
You mention Captain Sensible and again somewhat of a nutter but very soulful and
smart. He saved my ass a few times from deep depression. Captain is a good one
indeed. Anyway I'm glad you didn't mention too many names. Next question!
PSF: How close were you and Bob Stinson? Were you surprised by his death? Also,
I suppose, when it comes down to it, which place holds stronger place in your he
art, New York or Minneapolis?

SV: Bobby? Again? O.K. Now you will get the story of us two! Bobby Stinson, the
only band member I ever went to a psycho therapy session with! There is a lot to
tell, my words here are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! A
s you know Bob was the lead guitarist from the group The Replacements and after
they booted him out, he joined my band. Along with being a genius guitarist, Bob
was also one of the strangest, sweetest and nuttiest characters I have ever met
. I could write a whole book about him! Here are a few notable elements of an in
tense, highly charged and funny story.
Like I said earlier, I had a group together in Minnesota called Sonny Vincent An
d The Extreme. Every few months we would play a show in Minnesota either in Minn
eapolis or St. Paul. At one of these shows, it was at a club called the Upper De
ck, I met Bob Stinson. It was a double bill with my band and The Replacements. A
fter the show, Bob came up to me and said "I want to join your band." He said he
would leave his band. He drunkenly explained to me that him and I could make a
band together. Bob seemed sincere but I had to consider a few things. Bob was in
a band that had done a lot of work, they had a very cool album out and just tha
t week they had a fantastic review in the Village Voice. I figured Bob was proba
bly pretty drunk and I told him "Hey Bob, at this point I'm pretty much screwing
around business-wise and to me, it looks like something is ready to break for y
ou guys, why the hell would you want to quit now?" Bob said, "Because I want to
play your music." I'm not trying to say anything here about myself or my music,
this is just how it went. Well of course I didn't go for it and I didn't encoura
ge Bob to quit his band. I thought the Replacements were really talented and the
y deserved everything they were working for. Of course I didn't take Bobby's off
er and just said "You're nuts!!" That was the start of our long friendship...
Later, The Replacements kicked Bob out of the band and at that point, me and Bob
started talking seriously about putting something together. Bob was in various
band formations with me. In all the formations we put together, the dynamic betw
een our playing was usually the same. I was the singer and also played guitar, B
ob was the lead guitarist. I would play the basic root chords while Bob would pl
ay most of the leads and fills as well as cranking on the chords. His playing wa
s amazing, often genius.
But there is a whole story to his playing. To say it in a short form, when he wa
s on it was unbelievable. Stuff you never heard before. But when he was off he w
ould often not even hit the notes in the right key! This being said, I have to m
ake it clear again that Bob was a guitar genius and a major shredder. Although s
ometimes inconsistent, he played in a way that was magical and transcendental. B
ig words, but true. The main thing was his feeling and realness within the song.
He also played with a ferocious amount of concentrated energy, that would more
often than not send a song right over the top. And another thing that set him ap
art was his natural kind of 'symphonic' approach when structuring his parts. Thi
s set him apart from most players, although his other side of chaos and unpredic
tability probably alienated people who wanted a more classic conservative approa
ch in their guitar heroes.
Playing with Bob was a kind of 'schizoid' experience because sometimes it would
really be great and other times it could be pretty awful. A lot of this had to d
o with alcohol and some of it was just "classic Bobby." This legacy of "Savant-n
ess" as we called it, the behavior existed when he was in The Replacements as we
ll. Anyway, my adventure with Bob was about to begin! Challenging to say the lea
We formed the group Model Prisoners that went through two lineups. The first thi
ng I noticed was that when Bob was way drunk, he often played guitar like he was
a beginner so I convinced and even forbid him from drinking before a show. Bob
was kinda looking up to me like a sort of big brother figure and he liked it whe
n I laid out rules for him. The problem with Bob not drinking was that when he w

as completely sober and straight, he played even worse! I soon found out that Bo
b was one of these special types of geniuses that could unlock his immense talen
t only when he had the right amount of alcohol lubrication. If he drank too much
, it was terrible. If he didn't drink at all, it was worse. But with the right a
mount of drinks under his belt, he was doing brilliant stuff on the guitar that
was never heard before. Like as if he was wandering around in the cosmos and bum
ping into new planets.
The second formation of Model Prisoners was myself, Eric Magistad and Jeff Roger
s, who had also been in Sonny Vincent and The Extreme with me. Eric was a kid fr
om Minnesota who was totally thrilled to be playing in the band. He was a huge R
eplacements fan and even carved up his desk in high school with a knife writing
'The Replacements.' So you can imagine he was on cloud nine when we asked him to
play bass! But soon he was becoming very disillusioned. Bob, like I said, was b
rilliant and bringing a special element to my music but at the same time, he was
also showing up drunk to rehearsals. We usually had to drive to his place and w
ake him up to get him to the rehearsal room. The routine would go like this. I w
ould drive and pick up Eric first, then Jeff and we would drive to Bob's place.
Then we would send Eric up to Bob's apartment. Bob was usually sleeping off a ha
ng over or watching TV and at first he would tell Eric to 'Fuck Off!!' He knew i
f he didn't come downstairs Eric would have to get me and I would go up there an
d motivate Bob by either giving him cold coffee or making some action that would
irritate him so much that he would figure its easier to get up than be tortured
. So usually rather then let Eric get me, Bob would yell at Eric for a few minut
es, even sometimes punch him, but he would finally come downstairs. This was alw
ays the best scenario because when Bob showed up on his own, he was usually pret
ty tanked.
We played a number of shows together, mostly in the Midwest areas like Minnesota
, Wisconsin and places like Chicago. Normally after a show, Bob would stay for h
ours in the girls' bathroom. At first I would say "Hey, where's Bob?" Then I wou
ld see him later and say "Hey man, where were you all night?" and he would reply
"In the girls bathroom, that's where they all go." That was one of Bobs cracked
methods of meeting a girl. Unusual for mankind, but perfect for Bob. Hanging ar
ound in the girl's room, saying whacky things! And if he met a girl in the main
social area of the club, more often that not he would say as a first sentence of
introduction "Could you lift up your shirt?" Although this never really got muc
h response from women other than disbelief or disgust, sometimes Bob would hit t
he jackpot and I would observe him from across the room with a wild girl in fron
t of him lifting up her shirt and showing him her tits! Amazing!
Something I want to make clear at this point is that I am telling you stories ab
out my friend Bob and being forthright and accurate in order to give you a littl
e glimpse of this man. But in no way am I trying to put him in a bad light or tr
y to make him seem unattractive to his fans or people reading this. I loved Bob
dearly and I miss him. And if I am honest here, you will get a better view of hi
m, for real.You also have to know that he was like so many other damaged people
in the world, but for all his mistakes and screw up's, I can tell you he had a h
eart of gold. That being said, Bob also had many juvenile tricks. In the beginni
ng, directly after shows he would go to the promoters of the show and collect ou
r money without our knowledge ("Yeah, Sonny told me to get the cash"), before an
y of us knew what he was doing. He would run off with our gig money and we would
n't be able to find him for a week or more! Soon everyone wanted to kick Bob out
of the band. Not me, mostly Eric! I finally had to call Bob and tell him the sa
d news that the other guys wanted to kick him out. Bob started crying on the tel
ephone saying that we can't kick him out. He said he loved playing with us and h
e was sorry for everything, "But please don't kick me out". I got off the phone
and decided I would be a fool to kick out a brother who was crying tears because
he loved music so much. I called everyone in the band and I made a plan for us
all to go to a therapist together to try to get Bob more healthy and easier to w

ork with. People thought that was pretty funny, a band going to therapy together
! But we tried it. It kept us together for a while but still the crazy shit didn
't stop, from all of us! Soon, he was influencing even Eric and the whole band w
Eventually, we simply stopped rehearsing as it was becoming more and more diffic
ult to get Bob out of bed and Eric had become a shattered person. Instead of pra
cticing, me and Eric just started hangin' around as pals for a few months, going
out to clubs and stuff. Then I put together a new line up called 'Shotgun Ratio
nale' as well as joining Moe Tucker's band as her guitarist. Shotgun Rationale w
as doing a lot of tours in the U.S., Canada and Europe and at that point, I had
given up on the "band" concept and we had a rotating lineup (Bob, Cheetah, Greg
Norton, Mort and many others). I liked it this way because I could invite people
into it without any long-term expectations. Later, I moved to Europe but still
recruited various musicians from New York and Minnesota to join me on European t
ours with Shotgun Rationale. At the time, I also did U.S. tours and sometimes vi
sited Minnesota, from time to time. Whenever I went to Minnesota I would contact
Bob and we would hang out together. He always said "Hey Sonny, you bring all th
ese guys with you to tour Europe but you never ask me!! Come on, I wanna tour wi
th 'ya!". Finally I invited Bob. We did a tour of Europe together somewhere in t
he mid-'90's and sure enough, it was totally insane. To Bob's credit, he really
practiced the music hard before the tour, he wanted it to be great. And it was,
but it came complete with every sort of crazy madness imaginable!
I have memories of Bob copping drugs from an audience member while on stage duri
ng our show, him going into a whore house to drink because he would be out of ou
r reach and control in there. Police, puking, broken guitars, blood, nakedness,
tears and insane shows. I often get together with friends from those times and I
even have to double check with them to see if I am imagining some of the prepos
terous things.
A mutual friend of mine and Bob's was Jamie Garner. Jamie actually at one time l
ived in the same apartment with Bob and years later, I found myself asking Jamie
questions like "Hey Jamie do you remember Bob always ate his meals with two cha
irs, one chair to sit on and one to put his plate on?" Jamie said "Yeah, he did
that all the time". You see I often have to recheck these memories because somet
imes they seem too bizarre. Bobby never ate his meals at a table, it was ALWAYS
two chairs! Bob also had the ability to pull many beers out of his pockets at th
e best moments. In fact, the first day I went out drinking with Bob he even pull
ed a fried chicken leg out of his pocket and ate it. That's not so strange but i
n Bob's case, there was always a twist. He pulled an UNWRAPPED fried chicken leg
out of his trouser pocket. It was just in there next to his keys and stuff. I g
uess he was saving it for the perfect moment. There he sat at the bar with me, c
homping on that chicken leg. It had pocket fuzz and old tissue on it! Bob was a
strange motherfucker and I guess to an extent so am I, so we got along fine. He
was a rare person and I miss him. Sometimes I'm doing something fun and I often
think of him and wish he could be there with me. We did many things together, we
had side jobs painting houses, we were constantly being pulled over for speedin
g in my '59 Cadillac and we were ALWAYS in trouble with the police, but througho
ut all of this, Bob would crack jokes that were very funny dry jokes.
I knew he loved music and he always expressed that. He once asked me "Sonny, wou
ld you die for music?" I didn't know exactly what he meant but from my point of
view I said "No." Bob then looked at me with a very deep, soulful, yet sarcastic
look and said "Yeah, well I would". And in some universe where that would be re
quired, I knew that Bobby would have died for music. Bob was really unique and s
pecial. I hate it that he is gone. I'll always miss him.
PSF: You've worked with a ton of important musicians like Moe Tucker, the Asheto

n's, Jad Fair, Stinson, etc. What makes you so versatile? Also, I know you've an
swered this a hundred times as well, but how was it working with Ms Tucker?
SV: I'm gonna just skip this question. My head is spinning from the Bobby story.
Now you ask me about Moe? All I will say is Moe's influence on me has definitel
y made me a better person than the one I would be if I had never met her. If you
ask about "What makes you so versatile?" All I can say is that although there i
s a lot of ego involved in the whole scenario, for me the most important thing i
s the music. Perhaps people can feel this when we are together.
PSF: How many releases have you been involved with either as a band leader or a
collaborator? Since there are so many, i wouldn't hold a rough estimate against
you! Of all of your projects, which do you consider the most fully realized?
SV: I'm not sure, something like seventeen albums and some singles. Turns out th
at the ones I like are the ones that were recorded the crappiest. For some reaso
n, I can hear what they could have been like had there been more money for a bet
ter studio! And the Testors stuff, mainly because we recorded all the Testors st
uff ourselves without any outside influence at all.
PSF: Have you ever recorded and released a song that you later regretted?
SV: There was one song that made me feel shy when I listened to it. One in parti
cular was from the Testors times called "Purpose." Then I had a dream that Jimi
Hendrix said he liked it, so ever since then I felt differently about the song.
I know that sounds maybe weird and I'm not a very esoteric person but now I list
en to the song from a different perspective.
PSF: I read somewhere that you're pretty much sober now. Has that made you a bet
ter artist?
SV: No, but I suppose suffering has. Certainly the way it looks on the surface i
s there are tons of fun and wild times, but there is also the dark side of all t
PSF: You're a pretty legendary figure with some wild stories. Have you ever hear
d any stories from fans or journalists about yourself that were not true?
SV: Yes, sometimes I get worried that I am not social enough and I try once in a
while to reach out. After one of my shows in Hanover, Germany, I was walking ar
ound the club amongst the people who had just watched me play and I saw a guy wi
th a leather jacket and on the back it said 'Ramones.' I thought "Ahh cool a Ram
ones fan, I can relate to that." So I guess I went up to the guy and said someth
ing like "Hey man I have a CD over there in the merch that has a ghost track wit
h Joey and Dee Dee talking, I want to give you one of those CD's." I was simply
just trying to connect in a way and be friendly. I remember I consciously sort o
f put my hand on his shoulder as I spoke with him, you know like pals. I always
saw Mick Jagger and Keith Richards doing that, you know the "pals" thing. So I t
ried it. Then I gave the guy the CD and he said "thanks". Well a few weeks later
I discovered that he wrote about it in a blog and he said he was wondering why
I had come up to him and he was also wondering if I was gay!! So that's my luck,
I try to mingle a little bit, so as to not appear like the arrogant guy and sud
denly I'm friggin gay!
PSF: How many days a year do you spend on tour these days? What has been your wo

rst experience on tour? Is there are gig or show that you would rank as your fav
orite/most memorable?
SV: I'm on tour a lot. Most of the time, I suppose. My favorite show was when I
did a full performance of Testors songs in Chicago with the Rocket From the Cryp
t guys and I realized the people in the audience knew the words to the songs. My
worst experience is when the transportation breaks down and you do super human
efforts to make it to the show and people think you are arriving either fashiona
bly late or that you don't give a fuck! One time in Rennes, France, we arrived v
ery late after our tour van broke down 500 miles away. Just to get there to Renn
es was a monumental effort where we were all behaving like generals and lieutena
nts, trouble shooting and improvising. We finally made it to the show by renting
three cars. Later, I read a review of the show and although the person who wrot
e the review liked the performance, you really wouldn't believe their perception
of our arrival. They reported something like this "Yes they arrived criminally
late and as they sauntered into the venue we could hear them complaining about t
he hotel." We didn't even have time go to the hotel! Sometimes I think I must ju
st look like I am up to no good in some people's eyes. Although I never missed o
ne show in my life... well actually, I did miss one, but only one. The time I me
t a girl before the show and she put a MoJo on me and we drove off. But she was
some strange Voodoo lady and I was not totally responsible. That is another stor
y that is really too complicated but I would say that people should not always d
ismiss Voodoo as something regulated only to tales and superstitions.
PSF: You seem to be an enemy of major record labels. What is your opinion of "il
legally" sharing music over the internet?
SV: I have no real set opinion about that. My opinion changes from day to day. I
like it that people can hear the music. I think it sucks that I'm broke unless
I'm playing live.
PSF: In a recent interview you mentioned a strange incident involving your MySpa
ce page and some objections by a major label, some battle over who owned the rig
hts to what song? Care to retell that story?
SV: It was very fucked. I got a notice from MySpace that I was posting content t
hat was owned by UMG (or was it WMG?). Anyway some mega giant publishing concern
had made a mistake. Or the myspace filter had made an error and they insisted t
hat I take my song down or face legal proceedings. They said if I wanted to cont
est the determination, I was to send my name, home address, social security numb
er etc. I wrote them and said that WMG were the ones illegally using reference t
o my title and that the president should send me his name, home address and soci
al security number. It went on for months. In the end, there was no way to fight
them, I either had to do as they asked or not be able to use my song. So I fill
ed out the dispute form and they did some research. After 6 months of hell, tryi
ng to explain to them that WMG was wrong and 6 months of working at it and being
pissed off, they finally admitted their mistake and wrote to me with "Sorry for
the inconvenience." It was very inconvenient since I owned all the rights and t
hey were sending me mails that said I was committing a crime!
Anyway, there are other things like that still going on. One giant publishing co
mpany is claiming the rights to around 60 of my songs. They claim they were sold
those rights. But they don't know (or seem to even care) that someone tricked t
hem and sold them the rights without my permission by forging a contract. But ag
ain they say I would first have to sue the scammer and then they would release t
heir claim. It's a Buttle/Tuttle system! (ED NOTE: reference to the film Brazil)
Anyway, its all too much for me, I can't let it bog me down. I'm a musician not

a litigator. Maybe someday I will get some whiz kid lawyer interested in trackin
g this stuff and I can have some justice with it all. It seems that at the momen
t, only giant companies can sue other giant companies!
PSF: Why is punk rock important nowadays and do you see any of that original spi
rit in any music you hear nowadays?
SV: After all, it is a suitable word (unless in jail of course). I don't know ho
w or if it's at all important these days, I suppose it is because some things ar
e really intolerable and some of the punk rock bands still give a voice to those
concerns. People are controlled more and more by fear and with that you can get
them to kowtow and agree to any conditions. Probably a time will come when they
can clearly see that they have been roped in by the media and see that they hav
e been reduced to being only consumers. Void of any influence of integrity or sp
irituality of any kind. It's obvious that all the talented minds are not present
ly in government, all the young talent has been recruited into the industry of c
onsumerism. Many hours spent trying to figure out how to market products to the
right people. But I believe people need more than products, gizmo's and sports v
iewing. I guess the original spirit is there in music and art but the desperate
edge seems a bit blurred. Complacency is easy. For me, I still can't navigate my
way through society. I'm always seeing the cracks in things and I never seem to
fit in.
PSF: You've reformed the Testors for a few shows. Any chance of any new recordin
SV: That might be something to do, but I haven't played with the guys in years.
Haven't done much of anything with them in a long time. It certainly wil be grea
t to play Testors songs with them. But as for recording, there would have to be
something there to document. I know this will maybe sound romantic or perhaps so
very deep or that maybe I am trying to be too concerned with all this stuff abo
ut integrity and all that, but I am serious. If we get together and I feel some
edge, some passion or desperateness, then maybe I would like to record. I'm not
going to make an album just because we can play our intstruments. If I make a Te
stors album, it will have the same criteria as our early recording. So I don't k
now at this point.
PSF: Something I've always wondered about punk rock is how the music, which was
ostensibly destructive and in a lot of ways self destructive and possessed with
a desire to tear down the identity of the "rock star" and even the artist, event
ually came to be about individual personalities in many ways. I mean, today peop
le remember individuals like Stiv Bators, Johnny Rotten, Johnny Thunders, hell,
even Sonny Vincent, more than they remember the bands that they were in. Why do
you think this has happened?
SV:That sure can be complicated and there is a tendency for people to idealize a
rtists or worse, turn them into figures easy to digest. "Oh this one is a junkie
, yeah and those guys said bad words on TV and puked on a carpet." But for me, f
rom the beginning to the end, it's all about the music and the soul. For example
, you bring up Johnny (Thunders), but no matter how many stories go around about
his junkie behaviors and all the characterizations that go with it, he had so m
any levels, some of it very deep and personal. He covered a lot of ground in his
music emotionally. And no matter if people think that punk rock was just a snot
ty bunch of people flipping off society. For me, the music will always be there
to tell the true story. And the legacy of the music will always be there. It's n
ot gonna be in the solos and the stories, but in the whole music itself. People
will always be floored when they discover Johnny's album So Alone, or hear the D

ead Boys/Peter Laughner song "Ain't it Fun" or the Sex Pistols stuff. There is a
lot more in there besides just smashing some glass and being angry. Although th
at is appropriate as well.
PSF: What's going on this month, this year?
SV: Well, the Testors reunion shows and I am doing lots of shows in Europe this
year with my European line-up. Also I have a new album out this month called Biz
arro Hymns. All new songs. Scott Asheton plays on one of the songs. It's on a co
ol label. A small label run by one cool guy. A label run by passion and not by g
reed. Just perfect, in my view of things. It's called Still Unbeatable Records.
First label that actually is going to present a record release party for me. Haa
a! I'm stoked!

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