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Last updateSun, 30 Aug 2015 2pm

Music News and Features

Cover bands can be boring and repetitive.

Then there’s Gutter Candy

The band that used to be known as Shawn Mafia and the 10 Cent Thrills renamed itself Gutter Candy in 2014 and is as hilarious and fun to watch as ever.

During a recent phone interview, high desert singer-songwriter Shawn Mafia, aka Jersey Dagger (aka Shawn O’Connor), talked about the name change.

“Basically, I went by that moniker of Shawn Mafia for a decade,” O’Connor said. “I decided to go in a different direction. I lost a few members of the band, and I wanted to give it a new identity. I have a schizophrenic nature, anyway, when it comes to art and creativity, and I thought I’d just become a totally different dude and go by Jersey Dagger.”

When O’Connor was performing as Shawn Mafia, his material was completely different than that of today’s Gutter Candy. However, he isn’t afraid to revisit his old material from time to time.

“I played a Shawn Mafia show a few weeks ago in the high desert and brought it back to me, with the acoustic guitar—(keeping it) singer-songwriter oriented, and doing all that material,” he said. “It’s night or day now, and I keep the personas separate.”

Gutter Candy performs some originals, including “God Doesn’t Like Me Very Much” and “Adult Movies on DVD,” along with a slew of glam-metal and punk-rock covers.

“Growing up through the late ’80s and early ’90s, in junior high and high school, we listened to all the punk-rock stuff, all the underground stuff, and because of the MTV generation, you were basically exposed to all the Sunset Strip glam metal,” O’Connor said. “Just to be cool, we professed to like the punk-rock stuff, but we secretly liked Motley Crue, Poison and Guns N Roses. … (I knew) some of the members of Gutter Candy back then, and we always wanted to have a band that sort of crossed the lines between Sunset Strip hard rock and punk rock, stealing from both. That was sort of the genesis for Gutter Candy.”

O’Connor explained where he got the new name. “I added the words ‘Gutter’ and ‘Candy’ and put them together, and it sort of solidified what we were: ‘Candy’ being that glam rock and Sunset Strip rock element, and ‘Gutter’ being the more punk-rock vibe. I thought it fit and sounded good. Music is so segmented and rigid, and actors can play different roles in different movies, so why can’t musicians have different personas and do different genres? I figured, ‘What the hell? I’ll just go out and do it and see what happens.’”

O’Connor explained that the band members don’t always agree on the covers they perform.

“I want to do Rancid. We haven’t had a Rancid song in our setlist yet—maybe ‘Time Bomb’ or ‘Ruby Soho,’” he said. Lixxx Candy, our guitar player, wants to do Van Halen’s ‘Panama,’ but Sin Balls, our drummer, doesn’t want to. There’s all this conflict over what to cover and what not to cover.

“We do have one Van Halen song we do, and Lixxx has a real hard-on for Van Halen, so there might be another.”

Late last year, Gutter Candy released a five-song EP, Come Guzzling.

“We’ve actually got a couple of new originals that haven’t been recorded,” O’Connor said. “We definitely want to get those recorded and add to what we did for our last EP, Come Guzzling, and we want to do an official full LP. Whether or not that happens, we’ll see. It all comes down to money.”

Gutter Candy plays every second Saturday of the month as part of a residency at Tryst in Palm Springs.

“Those live shows at Tryst are a lot of fun. At the last one we did, there were a lot of people who showed up throughout the whole night. The later it goes, the more drunk people and homeless people stumble in,” O’Connor said. “(We have in our audience a range from) homeless guys to hot younger girls who dig the ’80s and ’90s covers we do. There was this new wave guy who came with this girl. I don’t want to say she’s a midget, but she’s definitely a small girl, and they stayed through the whole three hours and were totally digging it.

“We’re all about those shows at CBGBs and Max’s Kansas City back in the ’70s and then the Sunset Strip in the late ’80s. It’s all about that vibe, living in that moment—and nothing is out of bounds at a Gutter Candy show.”

Gutter Candy not too long ago played a memorable show in Banning.

“We did some shows at a place called Boondocks, and the owner there is a crazy motherfucker named Diego, who is actually a pretty cool dude,” O’Connor said. “We were playing there last February outside, and he had these outside heaters, and the crowd was really digging it. It got so amped up during our song ‘God Don’t Like Me Very Much’ that people started smashing the heaters on the ground and jumping up and down on them. Our bass player almost got hit by one.”

Of course, Gutter Candy continues to evolve. After bassist Big Dave Johnson left the band, O’Conner recruited an old friend who goes by the name D.D. Gunz. The band also recently added a surprising new element—a second guitarist, Shawn Smash.

“I’ve known D.D. since high school, and we go way back, and back when there wasn’t any Internet in the pre-cell phone days, we’d hitchhike to L.A. to go see shows,” O’Connor said. “We finally had a chance to get together on this project. We added our second guitar player, Shawn Smash, and he’s the lead guitar player of Total Chaos.

“A long time ago, D.D. and I moved to Texas. We packed up my Ford Fiesta with a P.A. system and went to Houston, and that’s where we met Shawn Smash. Shawn moved to Palm Desert awhile back, and we recruited him for Gutter Candy.”

For more information on Gutter Candy, visit www.guttercandyrules.com.

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