SoCal heavy-hitters Rotting Out are on the road right now with pop punk youngsters The Story So Far. Taking cues from their idols the Suicidal Tendencies, Rotting Out are carrying on the tradition of aggressive West Coast punk and hardcore. idobi writer Alex Rudisill spoke to frontman Walter Delgado after their set at the Philadelphia date of the tour and discussed the band’s history, his permanent love for Tegan and Sara, the next great merch idea, and much more.
How did Rotting Out get started?
This is not the original lineup. We started in about ’08. We used to be in another band with the same lineup. Our singer left, so we started a new band, which was Rotting Out. He rejoined the band, we wrote two 7″‘s with him, then he quit again. Our drummer had the idea of me singing. I was on guitar – I’d always been on guitar. We gave it a shot and we actually did pretty well. We’re pretty stoked and trying to drag it on as much as we can. I’ve known Carlos, our guitar player and our bass player, from our hometown in San Pedro. Our drummer was from just the town over and we met him from shows. Our other guitarist is from Compton and we met him from shows, too.
What separates East Coast hardcore from West Coast hardcore?
Emphasis on the faster parts, faster riffs. West Coast is home of the circle pit. We’d listen to Suicidal Tendencies, Pennywise, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Descendants, and all their fast parts were just on point. For some reason, it was always the hook of the song instead of the actual hook. We always really focused on the fast parts and making things sound like we were from the West Coast. Everything about us was determined to be strictly West Coast. We came out a time where the New York hardcore scene was big. We started touring with Backtrack, who were strictly NY. A bunch of other bands were mimicking the New York style. I love that, but I don’t want to sound like that. I want to sound like the bands I grew up on, which was Black Flag and Suicidal. We do add a little of the New York sound, but it’s only the other bands that people aren’t trying to mimic. We try to sound like the Cro Mags, Side By Side, or Youth of Today. At the same time, I’ll want this song to sound like the Nerve Agents, or that riff to sound like Pennywise, or this to be a Suicidal worship song. Even with labels, we were always part of a West Coast label. We used to be on 6131, now we’re on Pure Noise Records out of Northern California.
Is there any other hardcore city scenes that you can compare to your hometown scene where you’ll get a solid turn out?
Lately, it’s been Richmond. We played Richmond last night and it was crazy. It was with this package, so obviously you have 12-13 year old girls that heard about The Story So Far from Warped Tour. They see a band like us on the package and aren’t too sure, then they see kids who strictly came out for us just losing it and going off. It’s cool that the kids still support us even though we’re on an odd-ball tour. Salt Lake City is awesome right now. There was a weird thing going on in Salt Lake, but there’s a lot of young blood who’s doing it really good and really strong. Colorado is good to us. Atlanta is just popping off. Texas treats us really good. I think it’s a Latino thing in Texas. Either way, it makes me feel like home.
Why do you think the mix of hardcore and pop punk bands works for this tour?
I honestly don’t think they fit together at all. I think that’s the best part. These aren’t bands you’d expect to see tour with each other. Souvenirs sound nothing like us. It’s almost like a good set up. You have a band that gives an idea of elements that are in the show, and then here’s the complete polar opposite of another element, which is us. Such Gold are still that melodic, poppy tone that’s mellow but builds its way up. Then, Stick To Your Guns are really heavy and really strong. The Story So Far are just the nail the coffin and set everything up. I think diversity is what makes this tour so cool. I’ve been on a lot of tours, but this one takes the cake. A lot of the kids on the tour are hardcore kids, even the guys in The Story So Far. They’ve gone to our shows that are strictly hardcore tours. They grew up supporting us and Stick To Your Guns, and I thought that was the coolest part. These kids are younger than me and grew up listening to my band and saying to me, “Hey, my band’s doing really good and we wanna take you guys out.” It’s flattering and awesome. I’d be stoked to do that for my favorite bands. The mixture is what brings everybody in, gets kids focusing on other elements that they’ve never been introduced to.
As you guys grow, do you find it hard to maintain a DIY perspective?
We did a tour a while back where we were introduced to contracts and radius clauses. At the same time, I was trying to figure out, if the show sold out, we could maybe play an after show right after our set at a house. We did that on the last tour with the Ghost Inside – we’d play a sold out show to a bunch of new kids who had never seen us. There would be the hardcore kids locally, who don’t want to pay $20 to see a bunch of bands they’re not really fond of except for us. If you got a garage, we’ll play. We’d go there and play a set, so we’d be doing two sets a night. It does get harder, especially when drives are longer. This tour is very long – six weeks. At the same time, I’m always encouraging kids to do their own thing. Don’t wait for some label, some bigger band, or Warped Tour to tell you what you feel like you should be listening to. Take things into your own hands. Even if kids don’t like us, I hope that inspires them to start something that they want to do. “Oh that band sucked, I want a band that sounds like ‘this.’ Why am I going to wait around for it?” Do it. I try to preserve that as much as I can.
Would you say that the band and what you stand for is a product of the environment you all grew up in?
100%. I’ve never told anybody how to live their life. I grew up in a home where religion was very stressed on. When you’re a kid, you want to be involved. You love your parents, you love family. You think that’s what family is, religion and faith. You get to an age where you start questioning certain morals and motives that certain books have and you don’t get the right answers. At the same time, along with religion, I grew up in the same family where drugs and spousal and child abuse were just as relevant and just as severe. I’d pray to God, but those things still happened to me. I’d think, “If this is karma, what the hell did I do? Where am I in all of this?” You become bitter and very numb. Everything I’ve written are just stories of what I’ve been through, never telling people what’s wrong or right but this is the truth. I’m a realist and I know that can ruin a lot of my relationships with people because people are so emotionally involved with everything they do that they refuse to be rational because of it. Unfortunately, I’ve ruined relationships where I was strictly rational because I was too stubborn to be emotional because that’s not right. Emotions just ruin people in the wrong direction, drag things out and make things worse. My mom was so in love that she dealt with abuse for ages. She knew what she should have done, but emotion and religion kicked in. Along with our product as a band as a whole, we grew up listening to punk rock bands. I hit high school and started going to hardcore shows and it made perfect sense with everything I was doing. Bands sounded different – a little more metallic here, a little more thrash there, dirtier here, poppy there. The essence and the sound were the same. It was angry music for angry kids that felt like even though things were hopeless, they still had a reason to scream. It still gives you hope, no matter how negative the bands are or how I’ve been in some songs, that you can still relate to this.
What are you guys currently listening to?
The past year, I’ve been big on this band called Take Offense from Chula Vista. Suicidal Tendencies had this spectrum that was so wide. They went from real skate punk, the Freedumb and self-titled records, to thrash metal, like Join the Army and How Will I Laugh. I almost want to say Take Offense is our cousin to that. They do the other part of Suicidal Tendencies that we don’t really do, the metal and thrash. I think it’s perfect and it’s well done, really really good. I pushed hard on that. I’m also a massive Tegan and Sara fan. I just got a Tegan and Sara tattoo yesterday, from the song “I Know I Know I Know.” I don’t really just get tattoos. Me, being a heterosexual male at a hardcore show, obviously I have this dominance already, but I was raised by women. I used to live in shelters my whole life. Three years of my life, I lived in three different shelters because they were for battered women and me and my mom and my brother were trying to get away from my stepdad. All the strongest people I grew up admiring were women. I think it’s cool that not only these girls do what they do and can progress with the sound they have into different genres, they’re also queer and they promote it. I think that’s the coolest thing ever because when I was a kid, you grew to accept “gay” being an insult, especially in ghettos. I lived in the projects. You get older and you wonder where that fits in, realizing how wrong it is. It just doesn’t feel right. These terms are so insulting to people that have done nothing, no harm in what they do. Why is their love life any of my business? Why do I have some say in what they want to do with their lives, where they’re going, who they want to marry, who they care about? Who am I to demean them because the generation above me did it or because the generation above them did it even worse? To me, the whole essence of punk rock is to accept no matter how different, whatever cloth you’re cut out of. Even if you’re black, white, hispanic, asian, lesbian, gay, straight, queer, trans, it doesn’t matter. This is a place people can go to. There’s still issues within the scene that haven’t been covered because you can’t move mountains overnight – you have to start with stones.
Any stories from this tour that you’re willing to share?
The addiction to gambling. Stick To Your Guns and Rotting Out toured early this year. We’d never really met those dudes, but I had seen Jesse at some of our shows prior so he had been a fan. Dude’s a total hardcore kid. Going to shows for so long, I obviously know these people. He’s onstage rocking a New Brigade shirt, which is a band that’s never left California that plays the same venue all the time. They’re sick and they only have a demo out. These are people that support hardcore with every ounce in their body. We hung out with them and got really close, then the addiction to gambling between both bands got way out of hand. I just asked my drummer to go get cheesesteaks and he already lost his money! We literally just finished our set and he lost his buyout and pay for the day. People are losing hundreds of dollars. At the end of the tour, everyone’s going to throw in on a big $100 game, so whoever leaves will leave with a grand or more. It’s this game called Thirty One. I love watching people’s emotion with this addiction they have. You see them spaz out on something so trivial, so simple.
We fought a security guard during one of our sets. That could have been handled better. We’re playing our set and we thank the security guards for doing their job and watching out for the kids stage diving. I don’t know where it went wrong. One of the kids, smaller than me, a really tiny kid, got on stage, ready to dive and got manhandled by this dude twice his size. This dude was easily 6’4”, 300 lbs. He’s borderline choking him out, yanking his hair, and dragging him to the side of the stage. I put my hands in between him and asked him to let him go – he gets it, no need to be so rough. I don’t know if he didn’t know who I was or wasn’t paying attention that I was the one singing, so he throws an elbow at me and I catch it to the mouth. Instinct kicks in, but before I could swing on him, my guitarist is already blasting him in the face. I hit him, rage kicks in, and we’re just blasting the dude. It literally looked like my whole band was beating up this one security guard, so that already makes us look terrible. We’re smashing this dude, cut and bruise him up a bit, everything gets broken up real quick. I go outside to calm down. I come up to the dude and I told him to realize why we treated him like that and had a civil conversation with him. Obviously I was in the wrong for getting violent, but at the same time, he definitely provoked and pushed me to a level where me and my bandmates were not having it. One thing I hate is bullies. Growing up in a house where you’re abused and getting hit by a 30 year old man when you’re 13, I expressed that in middle school on kids that were helpless. I was a bully. There’s parts of me I wish I could undo and regret. Now, I’ve gotten rid of all of that and I do what I can for kids who can’t defend themselves. If there’s something I can do, I’ll do it. If I need to take it to a physical point, then so be it. I’m not going to have this ogre push around kids the size of his leg. You have a mouth – use it to talk things out. We talked it out for like 10 minutes and we both knew we were in the wrong.
Where did the idea for the leggings come from?
I’ve always been one to push boundaries for merch. We did snow hats, condoms, socks, flannels – we’ve done it all. I was watching my girlfriend get ready and she complained that there was another hole in her leggings and that she needed a better pair. Then I thought, “Why haven’t we made leggings?” Financially, it makes perfect sense. 75% of girls now wear leggings. We pulled it off and a ton of people dug it. Some people are hating on it, but we’ve done more obscure stuff. It’s not sexist; our bass player was wearing them. Not once did we say they were strictly for chicks. Spandex is spandex. I wear them to bed!