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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Blackboard Jungle:
Oingo Boingo's Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez delivers a lesson in rock & roll history at Mission College

GOOD THING the superintendent wasn't around to see a 40-year-old guy with a Mohawk tell a rapt classroom about performing a song called "Violent Love" as the lead singer was whipped by four topless dancers. Oingo Boingo drummer Johnny "Vatos" Hernandez was the special guest of Mission College music teacher Christy Coobatis for a "History of Rock & Roll" summer course last Tuesday. Hernandez talked about the dirty side of the music business and reminisced over funny road stories.

Not too many people know that Hernandez's drumming background goes beyond Boingo--gigging with Bob Hope and the Lennon Sisters, doing sessions with the Midnight Special orchestra, and playing mambo and jazz. Whenever he enters a venue, whatever size, he does two things: he claps, to check the intonation of the room, and spends 10 minutes meticulously tuning his drums to fit it.

Hernandez also spilled some dirt about the music business. If there were one decision that he could reverse, what would it be? Hernandez said that when Boingo was brought into the MCA office in 1988 to be told the band had been dropped, he had a portable, hand-held talking box in his pocket that blurted out obscenities like "eat shit" and "piss off." "Danny Elfman kept telling me, 'Hit the button, hit the button,' but I chickened out," Hernandez recalled. "If I could change one thing, I would have pushed the button."

And like all good rockers, he indulged a few of his favorite road stories. Like the time the band rented a motor home to take it from New Jersey to Manhattan. The motor home broke down en route, so the band members got out and pushed the vehicle to Manhattan, while simultaneously plugging their gig to startled drivers. The topless story mentioned at the top ended with all the band members chasing their wives backstage, attempting to make amends after the incident. Hernandez is currently recording tunes with the Doors' Robby Krieger and performing in three bands: a "progressive ocean underground" group, a "blues thrash alternative" and a jazz trio.

Turn It Up

Not all parents are telling their kids to turn it down. One proud parent of a fledgling middle-school rocker is John Henry Franklin, who has co-organized a benefit concert for the Redwood City Health Center on July 25 at the Edge with a lineup consisting largely of local bands from Palo Alto, Mountain View and Redwood City high schools. Bands include Whisper, Nobody's Favorite, Happy Hour and Pirates of Funk. Clubberlang will headline the event.

To give high school bands experience in dealing with the music business and to help find them a place to play, Franklin has organized Private Party Productions, which also promotes bands. Call it the minor leagues for musicians. "This is getting the musicians a place to play, a place for people to see them," Franklin says. "We want to get the bands some experience performing in front of people. We guide them, then give them a boost to a bigger promoter."

Franklin started it as a concerned citizen, frustrated because there weren't enough venues for underage rockers to convene. "There's a battle of the bands at school. You have a once-a-year event and might lose. We didn't care for that. We'll have a party and have your band play for all your friends." Franklin used to play in bands, and his wife used to run nightclubs, so they can relate. "I've always been a kid," Franklin adds. "We work well with them." Their membership is now up to 45 bands and counting. You can contact PPP at 415/324-9254.

Local News Roundup

San Jose hard-rock outfit and crowd favorite Audio Fungus played its final show last Monday after a year of changing lineups and dwindling interest. Afterward, Rich Ramirez and John Swick said that they were going to work together. ... No Use for a Name, Sloe, Concerning Eye and Soda have volunteered their services for a benefit show for La Isla Pacifica Battered Women's Shelter at the Cactus Club on Friday (July 19). By the way, Sloe releases a long-awaited seven-incher on Cargo Records this month.

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From the July 18-24, 1996 issue of Metro

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