Punk Pioneer Geza X Digs Through the Garage for New Label: Having produced the likes of the Germs, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Redd Kross and the Bags, Geza X helped to define the first wave West Coast punk rock sound. As well as fronting his own massively underrated band (Geza X & the Mommymen), the man was waist-deep in the scene back in the day – helping to shine a light on some of the bands that we now consider legendary, helping them achieve their potential.
Somebody had to, because the industry did its very best to ignore what was happening right under its nose. Geza recalls an urban myth about a memo from former president Reagan sent to label heads to discourage them from signing the punk rock bands that would encourage the sort of anarchic sentiments seen in the UK at the time. Whether that’s true or not, the labels sure acted as though they’d received it.
“That’s when they started pushing dinosaur heavy metal bands,” Geza says. “The dice had been cast in the opposite direction. I had the opportunity to record the bands around me. I started off doing live sound, then spread the word that I was a producer. I ended up helping to define the West Coast sound which was more hard-edged than New York at the time, with Patti Smith, television and stuff. I knew that none of these bands would get signed, so I made it a mission to record as many bands as I could, whether or not I’d get paid for it. I loved it. That was my scene.”
Later in his career, Geza was asked to remaster the Posh Boy Records catalog, and he discovered a little-heard Nuns album, which he had produced many years earlier. Distressed about the fact that the album is great but went ignored, and knowing that the same fate befalls many other bands, Geza had the gem of an idea to start a label of his own – Geza X Records.
“I knew there’s no real money in indie labels, especially now,” he says. “I’m making $40 a month to split between 20 different artists. It’s sick. It’s an embarrassment actually, to our culture. Everybody can put out their own record yeah, but as far as monetizing it, it’s worse than the ‘70s. This has always been a labor of love for me anyway – why don’t I just start a label? I have the resources and the connections. I was able to get a really good distribution agent who works through The Orchard, which is basically Sony. I started finding acts I really wanted to put out. Things that I love. The record is set up, it’s stable and I’ve got a few records out. I love every single one of them.”
So that’s what happened. Geza X Records released EPs by Latin ska band Gabriela Penka and Americana group Stomp Box Holiday, and a single from They Call Us Scoundrels. And then Geza scored the fourth volume of Rodney Bingenheimer’s famed Rodney On the Rock compilations.
“That was hard to put together because Rodney didn’t want to do it at first,” Geza says. “Rodney and I have known each other over the years. He’s played records that I’ve produced on all his shows. When I approached him to do this record, at first he was very resistant because people have done shows about him that didn’t really turn out in his favor. Rodney is such a legend, and he should be treated like a legend. Posh Boy tapped me to try to put together a new Rodney on the Rock compilation for him. He didn’t think Rodney would go for it, but maybe I could take a crack at it under Posh Boy Records at the time because I didn’t have my label together yet. I said I’d try it out. I clearly explained to Rodney over a period of a few weeks all the reasons that it would be a viable project. It could work, and it could work nicely. He started to agree with me, and then I started listening to his show very regularly. By the way, Rodney’s show is as good as it’s ever been. He plays garage rock bands from all over the world.”
It remains important work. There are 18 songs on the new comp, displaying diversity of styles that fall with the garage rock banner, nine male and nine female bands. Geza says that it’s hard to pick favorites.
“We picked them all with love,” he says. “There’s a really good track by Dogs & Diamonds called ‘Mary Manfield.’ ‘All Night’ by Tidal Babes is a fantastic song. We’re really pushing that as Top 40 potential. Josie Cotton is there, and so am I. I’ve got a song called ‘Hot-Rod,’ which is kind of psychobilly, doo-wop but in the Frank Zappa vein of satire on the style. But a cool song. Having a label gives me opportunities. I’m about to release the Loteria compilation and I have a song on that, too.”
Speaking of Geza X’s own music, there’s going to be a double gatefold reissue of his classic You Goddam Kids! album though Munster Records.
“[It will have] the original record in one sleeve and then two live shows from the Mabuhay when the whole band was at the top of its game in San Francisco – that’s on the other record,” he says. “COVID fucked everybody up and the pressing plants were so badly backed up that it takes a year to get your vinyl back.”
Geza X has always made it his business to promote garage music, and LA punk, at every opportunity when nobody else will. That’s why his label is something to celebrate. The new Rodney on the Rock comp will be awesome, as are new releases from glam punk Robbie Quine. And he has a forthcoming Inside Punk documentary series currently in the editing stage. Geza is quick to shout out the impact of AirPlay Direct in getting independent music to radio stations, because he’s cool like that. But his own impact should never, ever be understated.
Punk Pioneer Geza X Digs Through the Garage for New Label: For more information, visit gezaxrecords.com.