The first time I heard BL'AST was probably around 86 on a community access radio station in a small mountain town in Colorado. They'd guest DJ's occasionally and you'd never know what my be surfing the radio wave whenever you tuned in. There were these two guys that did a show now and then and I think they did a metal show one week. One of the guys was from LA so was supposed to be like an expert on the LA metal scene. Even at the age of 14 I could tell this guy was a knob. The next week they were playing punk rock. I think by then I was fairly familiar with the staples (CJ's, Black Flag, DK's, Pistols) but there was one band that they played a few tracks from on their show that night. BL'AST blew me away. They were so heavy and dark, much different than any hardcore I had heard up to that point. Although I never got to see them live I have also admired the band and the 'It's In My Blood' album is truly a classic. It reminds me of the of that innocent time when discovering new music was so exciting. To this day the album still seems very magical to me.
Over the last couple of months I had the honor of catching up with Clifford Dinsmore, the legendary vocalist of the hardcore powerhouse.
ThrashHead: Where and when did BL'AST form?
Dinsmore: We started out as M.A.D. in about 81/82. We all got to know each other through Keith Meek, and eventually Bill, Steve, and Dave moved to Santa Cruz. I heard the music they played and started putting words to it. Our 1st song was called ‘Holocaust’ and appeared on the "Not So Quiet On the Western Front" comp. A couple of years later Mike Neider joined the band, and the name was changed to BL'AST!
ThrashHead: Where did Mike come from? Was he a local? How did he get into the band?
Dinsmore: Mike lived in Grass Valley, where the rest of the guys were from. There was always talk of him moving to SC and joining M.A.D. when he did the band kind of dispersed for awhile , and then we re-appeared as BL"AST!
ThrashHead: Did everyone in the band skate or surf?
Dinsmore: I was the only one who surfed, but the other guys were all skaters who had been into punk since the early days.
ThrashHead: Who were your early influences and how did you get into punk/hardcore?
Dinsmore: Before punk, I loved bands like Sabbath, and U.F.O. and was always into the heaviest, rawest, most riff-oriented shit I could find.....and then one day in 1977 I heard the Ramones for the 1st time and it was all over
ThrashHead: I think the Sabbath influence in BLAST's music is fairly obvious with how heavy and dark most of your material was. How did you make the jump from Ramones to that style of dark heavy hardcore?
Dinsmore: The Ramones were an early influence for every punk band. By the time we started jamming together, we were going to every show we could and were listening to Discharge, Germs, Black Flag, Minor Threat, MDC......and a ton of Iron Maiden and Motorhead.
ThrashHead:What was the scene like in Santa Cruz in the 80's? Was like what we saw in Lost Boys with punks hanging out on the boardwalk?
Dinsmore: The scene was great, but there was nowhere to play, until Club Culture , and then every band you can think of played there. It was great until the cops and the city made it impossible for the place to exist, and it was forced to shut down.
ThrashHead: What measure did the police take that threatened the existence of Club Culture?
Dinsmore: I don't have any specific memories....it was just another venue that came and went, but it was an exceptional venue for sure
ThrashHead: How did the video for 'Surf and Destroy' come about? I saw that video on the USA network in the late 80's. They did like a punk night or something and showed that video amongst a few others and then aired 'Another State of Mind'. I think I have it on VHS somewhere.
Dinsmore: My friend, Tony Roberts, came over to my house one day and said let's go make a video. He just followed us around and filmed us in super-8 while we did a bunch of zany, stupid-ass shit. It was really fun! TR fused a bunch of existing footage from his surf/skate movies, and there you have it. We all got together, watched it, and had a good laugh. It sat in my closet for a year or so until SST got a hold of it and put it on one of their video compilations. I can remember being on the "It's In My Blood" tour when SST told me it was going to be on "120 minutes", and I was like;......."what's 120 minutes?" When they told me it was MTV, I thought they were bullshitting. It is also interesting to note that Kip, who was playing guitar at that time, and was in that video, now sings for Alice In Chains!
ThrashHead: Whose house was it filmed in? It was so punk with the news clips and you chugging the 40 oz!
Dinsmore: That was this ghetto little shit-box apartment that Kip and I lived at, a block from the water at Pleasure Point.
ThrashHead: How did you guys get hooked up with SST?
Dinsmore: Chuck Dukowski started showing up at a lot of Bl'ast! shows and wanted to put out our next record. He hooked us up with Greg Ginn and we played him a ghetto-blaster tape we had of the song "It's In My Blood' in our van outside of a show we were playing with Bad Brains and Gone in Santa Barbara.
ThrashHead: You mentioned that Kip, strangely enough, went on to ALICE IN CHAINS. What other bands did any of the members of BLAST end up in?
Dinsmore: Lab, Time , Fire sermon, Unida, Che, Gusto,and I was in Spaceboy, Gargantula, and now Dusted Angel.
ThrashHead: Who were some your local peers that played with regularly?
Dinsmore: There was a really rad band called Mock that we shared numerous practice spaces with, and would play shows with whenever we could drag them along for the ride.
ThrashHead: At what point did BLAST start touring nationally? Who were some of your first tours with? What can you tell me about some of the more memorable shows?
Dinsmore: Right after the Power of Expression came out we toured a good part of the mid-west with JFA and then hooked up with COC, and DRI for a bunch of east coast shows. Back then every show was pretty action-packed, and we played with just about every rad band you can think of. Some of the more memorable shows were all of the Fenders shows, and playing with Slayer at the Olympic. They had just released ‘Reign In Blood’ and SST had just put out ‘Its In My Blood’. I don't mean to sound old, but I've just gotta say it.....those were the days!!
ThrashHead: How did SLAYERs crowd react to you guys? SLAYERS crowds, back then especially, were known for not treating the opening bands very good.
Dinsmore: That show went off! It was during that cross-over era. BL'AST! and DRI were the token punk bands on the bill.--People were really into it.
ThrashHead: I used to have the Santa Cruz poster with you guys on it. I was just up at my friends house and he had it hanging in his jam room, said I gave it to him ~20 years ago. That poster was sick! How did you get hooked up with Santa Cruz skateboards?
Dinsmore: Mike worked at NHS, and Mike, Dave, and Bill lived with Rob Roskopp, and John Gibson. BL'AST! was sponsored by Santa Cruz and we used to bring decks out on tour, and throw them out at shows. We threw one out in Boston as we were starting "Time to think/Surf and Destroy" and at the end o the 2 songs there was still a dog-pile of people fighting over this "Slasher" board---- these giant, meat-head bouncers wanted to kick our asses! Dave threw one out at the Slayer show and accidentally nailed some "Suicidal gang dude in the head, and that didn't really pan out that well either! Once again......those were the days!
ThrashHead: After 'The Manic Ride' BL'AST! called it quits. What were the events that led to the demise of the band?
Dinsmore: Dave quit the band after Manic ride, and we went on for a few years , with other bass players that included; Ron Isa,John Shuler, and Dave Dinsmore. It seemed like we had been at it for to long, and kind of lost our musical direction. We didn't agree on a lot of issues, and I eventually left the band and joined Spaceboy, and those guys played as a 3-piece as BL'AST! for a while, before changing the name to LAB.
ThrashHead: Have you read Dharma Punx? Noah Levine is from Santa Cruz and speaks a lot of the old Santa Cruz scene and BL'AST in particular in his book?
Dinsmore: I have read it!
ThrashHead: Having read Dharma Punx I assume then too that you are aware of DP logo being a modified version of the 'It's In Your Blood' album cover? Yes
ThrashHead: Have you met Noah Levine? Do you know him?
Dinsmore: Yeah, we've known him for years. I don't see it as any kind of rip off, and people know he's from SC, so they instantly get the BL'AST! reference when they see it. ThrashHead: What lasting impact did hardcore have on your life? What impact do you think BL'AST had on hardcore?
Dinsmore: It's a kind of musical projection that carries over into everything I have done, and everything I'm currently doing,,,,,it definitely has it's place in Dusted Angel! Most of the best bands, of all variations, are made up of people who have evolved out of hardcore, or have had some experience with it at some point in their lives. Despite the underground nature of BL'AST!, I think we had a huge impact on hardcore, especially the super-technical metal/hardcore. I don't think a lot of current bands could have existed without the "Take the Manic Ride" record. A few years back I had a conversation with Greg Ginn and he mentioned the fact that when that record came out it was very weird and misunderstood , but went on to be a really influential, and important record that helped mold the current model of hardcore as it appears today.
ThrashHead: What are some of your favorite bands that are around today?
Dinsmore: Black Cobra, Crom, Blasting Concept, High on Fire, Vincent's Ear, Om, Serpent Crown, etc.
ThrashHead: I believe BL'AST has done some local reunion shows in recent years. Any plans for something bigger?
Dinsmore: I doubt it.
ThrashHead: What are you doing these days? Any family?
Dinsmore: Surfing, Playing in DUSTED ANGEL and bartending at The Med.
ThrashHead: Closing words of wisdom for the punx of 2011?
Dinsmore: Live your life every day , or time will make it disappear in a cloud of smoke!!
Surf and Destroy!
A musical documentary