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Social D disrupts Fall Ball

photo courtesy of christine marie
Thoroughly tattooed Social Distortion singer/songwriter/guitarist Mike Ness in the middle of a characteristically incendiary set. The band will play KFMA's Fall Ball Saturday.
By Celeste Meiffren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 30, 2004
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The punk scene is changing. The underlying rebellion and anti-commercialism has been lost in the sea of machine-produced pop punk bands of the MTV Generation. Luckily, there is one true American punk band that is still making music. Even more luckily, they are coming to Tucson.

Mike Ness and Dennis Danell started Social Distortion in the late '70s in Orange County, Calif. Social D was one of the major pioneers in the American punk scene. They brought punk to the west coast and remain one of the most celebrated bands of that era.

In 2000, Social D suffered a tragedy when guitarist Dennis Danell passed away. In an effort to maintain the band, Ness hired Jonny "2 Bags" Wickersham (formerly of the Cadillac Sounds and the U.S. Bombs) to replace Danell. Now, four years later, Social Distortion is out with a new album, Sex, Love, and Rock 'n' Roll, and are having their first national tour since Danell's passing.

"We all kind of grew up together in the same part of Orange County. I was from Costa Mesa and Mike and Dennis were from Fullerton," said Wickersham. "The punk scene back in those days was a lot smaller. Everyone knew everyone. The reason I was asked to join the band is because I had actually filled in for Dennis in Europe when he came home off the tour early in '97. I'd actually played with them for about two weeks."

If you go...

What: Social Distortion at KFMA's Fall Ball
Where: Tucson Electric Park, 2500 E. Ajo Way
When: Saturday

"It wasn't difficult to enter the band, except due to the nature of the circumstances of Dennis passing away. He was a friend of mine. I just wanted to come into it with utmost respect for Dennis. You know, this is still his band. Social D is Dennis and Mike's band. Even now, after four years, I still feel like I'm doing Dennis' job, filling his shoes. Just carrying the torch for Dennis," said Wickersham.

Carrying the torch includes touring in Hollywood, recording new songs and collaborating with Mike Ness on a few songs for the new album.

"We have been sort of working on (the new album) for the last four years, just writing songs and doing demos. One of the songs, 'Don't Take Me for Granted,' was written like four and a half years ago. Mike wrote that right after Dennis passed away. It was the first new song of the set.

"I co-wrote three songs with Mike on the new album - 'Nickels and Dimes,' 'Faithless' and 'Angel's Wings.' We just basically work on the music together. Mike writes all the lyrics," Wickersham said.

When someone new enters a band that has a long history, there is the fear the band will change, either in its purpose, or its sound. But because of Social D's history and respect for Danell, they have not changed too much.

"I think the band's intentions have stayed the same. The ultimate intention of Social D has always been to just play music and make records and get out there and work. As far as the sound is concerned, some of the songs are a little different than the Social D sounds in the past. But, I think that no matter what kind of changes stylistically we would make, Mike's singing vocal style and his delivery and his guitar sound, which is really signature, will always sound consistently like Social Distortion," said Wickersham.

After making music for more than 20 years, Social Distortion still refuses to make music for the hungry-for-nonsense masses. The authentic intent and sound of Social Distortion has not changed with popularity.

"Social Distortion got popular, but it was through a different way than the music industry machine - it was through touring and making records. That's why Social D has notoriety around the country. They're just a good band with strong word of mouth, and it took a long time. I think that has a lot to do with why the band has been around for as long as it has and worked at the level that it has," said Wickersham.

"I think because of the organic beginnings of Social D, you know Mike and Dennis started it back in '79, at the beginning of the punk scene, there was absolutely no anticipation for these guys. They didn't expect their music to be accepted or heard by the masses. They started the band purely on the premise of doing it because that's what they wanted to do. Over the years, that genuine honesty has been there throughout," said Wickersham.

Social Distortion will be playing at Tucson Electric Park Saturday. Don't miss your chance to see one of the last American punk legends.

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