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Pennywise's man mountain guitarist Fletcher Dragge talks bad cops, hot sauce and the fine art of taking hostages. Interview by Steve Tauschke with Fletcher Dragge.

The first cut off your most recent album Land of The Free is Fuck Authority, a typically succinct title from you guys!

Fletcher Dragge:
"It's plain English and right to the point. I mean 'fuck authority', you're told your whole life what to do by people, you're told how to act by people. I guess you can pick the authority figure you don't like, you know it could be your mum and dad, it could be your teacher, your local police department, your boss or your government. For me the song was written about the Los Angeles Police Department because I've had so many run-ins with them in my life and I know how corrupt these fuckers can be. Of course, there's a couple of good cops out there doing the right thing and doing their job properly but there's a lot of them there who aren't.

Fletcher Dragge:
"Right now in Los Angeles there's a big scandal going on where a cop came forward and they've already released like 12 people who were serving life sentences who were framed by the police. They're drug dealers but the cops stole their drugs, shot them, put them in prison and then sold their drugs! The LAPD actually has this gang called the Rampart Division and they work on the streets, just like a gang. I mean why make 50,000 a year when you can go raid a drug dealers house, take 200,000 in cash and 500,000 worth of heroin and then sell it? So that whole song is kind of directed towards them and their misconduct and mistreatment of all kinds of people."

So what sort of 'run-ins' have you had with the police?

Fletcher Dragge:
"Well, the most recent one was a total unprovoked attack by three cops who knew me. Of course I've got a reputation around here and I've done my share of bad things when I was a kid and what not. But these guys just wanted a piece of me. I told them I was totally peaceful, totally calm and they just maced me in the eyes and beat the shit out of me. One of the cops had earlier threatened me at a party and started calling me white trash and told me he was going to beat my ass. I said take the gun and badge of and I'll beat the shit out of you. He didn't like that. The other cops just said 'go home Fletcher, call it a night'.

Fletcher Dragge:
"A month later he and his buddies got me down a dark alley and beat the shit out of me. They were kicking me in the head when I was face down, handcuffed and blinded by mace. They charged me with one felony assault of a police officer. I never raised a hand. The internal affairs got involved and I had to get a lawyer and there was a big investigation. Eventually they dropped the charges and the cop was actually fired a few months later.

Fletcher Dragge:
"But you know it's scary to know that this same guy could have pulled me over and planted a pound of cocaine in my car and I would have gone to prison for like 20 years. Their word is what the judge listens to, not yours! It's so easy for them to pull you over and make up a story 'oh, he took a swing at me'. You've got to be careful with these sorts of people because they have the power to pretty much ruin your life in a heartbeat. The cops who beat me up, it's pretty much common knowledge that these guys are dealing steroids out of a bar in Hermosa Beach. Everyone knows it!"

What sort of drugs?

Fletcher Dragge:
"It's GBH, it's like a drug that intensifies whatever drug you're on - it triples it! And this guy gets caught coming across the border from Mexico with a load of this stuff that's an illegal narcotic and all he gets is a slap on the wrists and he's still on duty. And here he is with his buddies beating me up while he's all pumped up on steroids. It's frustrating for me because all I want to do is take him out to the desert and bury him."

Did these guys ever turn up at your shows?

Fletcher Dragge:
"Oh, well I was at a punk rock show once and The Exploited came over from England and played this place in LA for the first time. Everyone sat down on the floor to show the police they were calm and well-behaved but the cops came in swinging billy clubs and spraying mace and beating the shit out of people. For once the media reported that it was police brutality. Actually I got my arm broken in that one! A cop tried to beat me in the head with a club and I put my forearm up.

Fletcher Dragge:
"America is such a violent place and the society is so violent and it's no wonder the cops are so violent. I mean we've got criminal gang members who are 14, 15 years old who place absolutely no value on life. I mean they will kill you $10, they'll kill you for looking at them wrong."

Tell us about your infamous chunder on KROQ's Love Line a few years ago?

"Initially KROQ didn't play our material and then they decided they wanted to have us on their Love Line segment. I didn't understand that so I got back at them a little bit by, you know, vomiting on them. They got pretty upset but decided to play a tiny bit of our stuff over the next year or two and then they invited us back on Love Line again!"

Fletcher Dragge:

Fletcher Dragge:
"That is! And that one was really bad because I didn't really want to go. There was a lot of pressure on me to top myself, you know, 'how am I going to do that after throwing up on the DJ?'. So I wound up getting really drunk and kind of taking them hostage and barricading the door. I wouldn't let them leave or turn the radio show off. I had a beer in my pocket but of course knowing my sense of humour I told them I had a live grenade and was going to blow the building up! They thought I was serious so they called the cops and about seven sheriffs came in and were going to take me to jail. But our singer Jimmy talked them out of it.

Fletcher Dragge:
"The station at that point had just started playing our new record Straight Ahead and it was getting good rotation but after that they said 'you're fucked!' and so they and all their affiliate stations around the country pulled it off the air. Two weeks later they moved us onto the main stage of their big radio gig and then started playing our new record again. And now they're playing our new songs Fuck Authority which is pretty amazing for a station here to be playing that song.

Fletcher Dragge:
"So it's a big win for us because we've been doing this for 12 years and it's like we've finally conquered the beast. But at the same time, if they play us then that's cool and if they don't then that's cool too. We don't live or die by radio but it's nice to have them playing a song that has a lot of meaning behind it. And guess what, they just called us up and said they want us to do Love Line again! So go figure!"

Outside of music, how's your Mexican restaurant doing?

Fletcher Dragge:
"It's good. It was originally called Los Olas, The Waves but apparently another guy has a Mexican restaurant in San Diego with the same name and when he found out he threatened to sue us and all kinds of stuff. So we changed the name to Los Muchachos, The Boys. But it's going great, it's just a sit-down greasy little spot right in the heart of Hermosa Beach and everybody seems to be loving it. We got voted Best New Restaurant in the South Bay in a reader's poll so I guess we're doin' alright!"

Are you involved in the cooking, or just the eating?

Fletcher Dragge:
"I'm doing a lot of the eating these days but in the beginning I was in charge of helping out with the recipes and selecting the meats and cheeses and spicing everything up. But our cook Manuel is a good cook, very experienced."

Are you into the hot stuff?

Fletcher Dragge:
"Oh yeah! The hotter the better! One of the hottest sauces I've ever had was this stuff called Sambal Bad Jack, an Indonesian pepper paste and this stuff was so hot. If we were bored we'd make a bowl of tomato soup and put like five tablespoons of it in there. You'd eat it and just start pouring sweat. Or you'd get a friend to dip a chip in what they thought was salsa. I mean they're under the fawcet for 20 minutes. They'll be needing the lotion tissues the next day. Ha!"



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