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If you’ve seen Gutter Candy perform recently, you may have noticed a new yet familiar face behind the drums: Dani Diggler, also a member of Sticky Doll, and the guitarist and drummer for Van Vincent. That’s not all: Diggler is also a solo artist. Catch him in action with Gutter Candy this Friday, July 13, at The Hood Bar and Pizza; and Friday, Aug. 3, at Gadi’s, in Yucca Valley. See him with Van Vincent on Friday, Aug. 10, at the Joshua Tree Saloon, in Joshua Tree. Diggler was kind enough to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

Aerosmith, 1993, in Costa Mesa. Jackyl was the opening act. It was a great show, and I remember most of it.

What was the first album you owned?

Too far back to recall, but I believe it was a cassette tape given to me by my aunt: Draw the Line by Aerosmith. (Aerosmith was) also my first favorite band.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’m always listening to Tool, Primus and The Doors.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Rap. It’s just not music at all.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Without a doubt, it would be The Doors. I can’t think of a show that could be more legendary than that.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Tori Amos. She’s amazing. Most people can’t believe I’m into her. Why not? She’s amazing!

What’s your favorite music venue?

I’d have to say the Greek Theatre (in Los Angeles). Great place to see a show.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Death makes angels of us all, giving us wings where we had shoulders, smooth as ravens claws,” The Doors, “A Feast of Friends.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Again, The Doors.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Les Claypool: “How the hell do you do what you do on the bass so well?” Greatest bassist of all time. Period.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Two songs: From a band I was in years ago Chili Cow, “... And the Story Begins,” and an original I wrote, currently unreleased, "Death My Friend."

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Tool, Ænima.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Right in Two,” again by Tool. So accurate. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

The holiday season is approaching, as are cooler temperatures—and hotter events, now that season is back in swing.

The McCallum Theatre has a busy schedule in November, with a number of great events to consider. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2, you’ll be singing “Urgent,” because Foreigner will be performing. Foreigner is one of the world’s best well-known rock bands, with 16 Top 30 hits, 75 million records sold and great songs such as “Dirty White Boy,” “Feels Like the First Time” and many others to its credit. Tickets, if there are any left by the time you read this, are $47 to $97. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, bossa nova and jazz great Herb Alpert will take the stage alongside his wife, Lani Hall. Herb Alpert has made some great records in his long career, and many of them are now Latin and American music staples; Alpert is credited with bringing the Latin side to American jazz in a truly innovative way. Tickets are $37 to $77. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, be ready to say, “Oh myyyyy,” because George Takei will be appearing. Of course, Takei is known for his iconic role as Sulu on Star Trek, but he’s also a hilarious Internet celebrity, and on a serious note, he’s known for speaking emotionally about his family’s imprisonment in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Tickets are $37 to $97. But wait, there’s more: At 3 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 20, The Beach Boys will be performing. I admit that I’m not a fan of the current inception, which does not include creative genius Brian Wilson and Al Jardine. The current lineup is fronted by the Wilson brothers’ cousin, Mike Love, who has been scorned by many original Beach Boys fans. But if you’re feeling nostalgic, go ahead and check it out. Tickets are $67 to $97. Be sure to check out the McCallum’s online schedule for more events. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is rocking into November. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, white-boy soul-singer Robin Thicke will be stopping by. Remember him? He had that song called “Blurred Lines” that was all over the place a few years ago that so resembled Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” that Thicke wound up in court. Thicke bottomed out pretty hard in 2014 when his follow-up to the Blurred Lines album, Paula, only sold about 30,000 copies. Watch as Thicke tries to get a comeback going. Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, Culture Club (upper right) will finally be coming to the desert. The band announced a tour in 2014 that was slated to kick off at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa—but it was canceled before it began, because Boy George required surgery. You won’t want to miss this one. Tickets are $59 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa will host an evening with Sheena Easton at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 10. Did you know the Scotland native has sold more than 20 million records during her career? Tickets are $75 to $85. At 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, former Three Dog Night member Chuck Negron will take the stage. The former college basketball player has been performing for more than five decades now! Tickets are $40 to $75. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa is offering some laughs in November. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4, the star of BuzzFeed’s web series Whine About It, Matt Bellassai, will be stopping by. Bellassai had been getting 3.5 million weekly views, but in early 2016, he put his show on hiatus. If you’re looking for a funny Pride related-event, this is the one to pick. Bellassai is infamous for his comedic dialogue about being a single gay man living in the Big Apple. Tickets are $25 to $35. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 18, Mr. Fluffy himself, Gabriel Iglesias, will return to the Coachella Valley with his new show, #FluffyBreaksEven. After several appearances in movies, he’s still a stand-up comedy genius and continues to amuse sold-out audiences. Tickets are $65 to $85. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will most likely see a boost in attention from locals and tourists alike thanks to Paul McCartney’s performance there in between Desert Trip weekends. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, there will be a great lineup of desert rockers: Fatso Jetson, Mondo Generator, The Freeks and Glitter Wizard. Fatso Jetson performed at a show at Pappy’s back in April, and I can tell you that the band kicked ass. Tickets are $10. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 26, it’ll get weird when the Meat Puppets and Mike Watt and the Secondmen perform. The Meat Puppets are coming back to Pappy’s after a performance there in 2013; it’s a great band from punk-label SST’s glory days. Mike Watt performed in the Minutemen, who were also on SST in the early ’80s; he’s a phenomenal bass player. I’ve seen Watt play with the Secondmen, and they’re mind blowing. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has a show in November you won’t want to miss. At 9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 23, there will be a special Thanksgiving Eve bash with Mighty Jack, The Sweat Act and 5th Town. This should be a fantastic show. I’ve become a big fan of 5th Town, which includes Long Duk Dong vocalist Chelsea Sugarbritches, and Blasting Echo keyboardist Linda Lemke Heinz. One of my favorites is 5th Town’s song, “Pretty.” Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed has some nice events taking place this month. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 4, Metalachi will be coming back. Metalachi is on to something … performing metal songs in mariachi form? Brilliant! Opening the show will be Gutter Candy and Wyte Gye. Tickets are $10 to $15. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Purple Room is ramping up its schedule for the season. At 6:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 11, there will be a performance by Kal David and Lori Bono and the Real Deal. Kal David is a legend we’re lucky to have in our local scene. His blues credentials run deep: He’s performed with B.B. King and opened for Stevie Wonder. Tickets are $25. At 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, Branden and James (below) will be performing. Consisting of a cello (James) and a tenor voice (Branden), the duo will be perform everything from Bach to Justin Bieber. Tickets are $25 to $35. The Purple Room Supper Club, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

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.

Addiction is a crippling disease that afflicts people from all backgrounds, across every economic status

But creativity and substance abuse have always gone hand in hand. Many of history’s most prolific and talented artists have dealt with some form of addiction, and within the music community of the Coachella Valley and High Desert, issues with addition, past and present, are well-known and shockingly common.

When I decided to write a piece about musicians and addiction, I quickly learned that many musicians don’t want to talk publicly about addiction. More than a handful of local musicians who are now in recovery declined—understandably—to talk on the record about their pasts, fearing consequences at their current jobs, or perhaps wanting to avoid flat-out embarrassment.

However, three individuals, all of whom are now in recovery, were courageous enough to share their stories. (It should be noted that even they asked that certain parts of their stories not be shared.)

Why? They all said they decided to speak out in the hopes that they might inspire others who are dealing with addiction to get help.


In a rather short amount of time, The Flusters have become one of the Coachella Valley’s most popular bands. The group was voted “Best Local Band” by Coachella Valley Independent readers in late 2015—even though the band had not yet existed for a whole year. The group has played numerous local shows, and was picked as one of the two local bands to play at Coachella in April.

However, it wasn’t long ago that frontman Douglas Van Sant was dealing with severe drug addiction. He’s been sober since Sept. 11, 2013.

“Back in my early 20s, painkillers and pill mills were on the rise,” Van Sant said at his home in Palm Desert. “You could go to four pain doctors in a day and get Oxycontin—and I’m talking the real deal, the higher doses of Oxycontin. This was in South New Jersey, which was 45 minutes from Camden, N.J., which is notorious for heroin. It was like the movie American Gangster, with the stamps on the bags and the ‘blue magic.’ Where I grew up, it was like an episode of The Wire. There were white neighborhoods, Mexican neighborhoods, African-American neighborhoods, Puerto Rican neighborhoods—and they all had their hands in it. It was easy to score.”

Van Sant said he used drugs for years.

“I had been addicted to substances mentally and physically for 10 years,” he said. “It was one thing, onto another thing, back on another thing, and being addicted to a few things at once. I was in alleys in the rain with toothless hookers doing drugs. I wandered around a campground in Ohio in leather pants and eyeliner, out of my mind. I was wandering the streets of South Philadelphia and Seattle all strung out. It was tough times—very tough times. In Seattle, I didn’t have parents to manipulate, and I was disconnected. I was in Seattle straight out of rehab, living with my cousin, and I started getting in trouble there and living in a drug house.”

Van Sant showed me a scar on his hand. He said it was created when he shielded himself from a board with a nail sticking out of it during drug deal gone wrong.

“It’s real; it’s not sensationalized.” Van Sant said about the nasty side of addiction. “Anything in the media, they don’t sensationalize it enough. It’s bad; it’s dirty; it’s grimy; and it’s dangerous. People in that world don’t fuck around at all. They get what they need to get one way or another. You always think about the next high, and you don’t really ponder your mortality.

“I was in my parents’ basement on a diet of chicken broth and oranges, trying to kick drugs, and banging my head on the door, trying to knock myself out to go to sleep. I’ve been so sick, I couldn’t move. The last time, I was really suicidal and deeply depressed. … It was bad, and in the end, I got to a really deep place and had to stop.”


Herb Lienau is known today as the spooky organist Herbert, but he has been part of the local music scene since the early ’80s. He’s played in bands with Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson, Scott Reeder of Kyuss, Sean Wheeler of Throw Rag, and many others. Lienau was interviewed in the recently released documentary Desert Age; one of the subjects discussed was drug use in the early desert-rock scene.

Lienau talked to me at his Cathedral City home about his addiction to crystal methamphetamine.

“I was always kind of a mellow person and needed more energy. When I smoked pot, I’d just want to eat and go to sleep—and that’s it,” Lienau said with a laugh. “With speed, I enjoyed being awake and having energy to do stuff. Physically, for me, I didn’t have any teeth fall out, or anything like that. But you do lose a lot of weight.

“It all started with speed around 1984. When I was in high school, there wasn’t any crystal meth. You could get speed in pill forms. Crystal was a whole different thing. The first time I did it was with Mario Lalli. Mario was playing music with some bikers at one point, and I think that’s how he got exposed to it. I came down and visited, and we were hanging out at Mario’s parents’ house, and that’s when I first tried it. I was in love with it instantly. With cocaine, it’s over in 20 minutes, and you feel like killing yourself afterward or getting more. With crystal meth, you felt like you got your money’s worth: It lasted for hours and hours.

Lienau said drug use was simply part of the scene back then.

“We all partied really hard, and it wasn’t considered addiction,” Lienau said. “It doesn’t become addiction until it’s an issue. It was an issue for me around 1985. We all did everything and anything as much as we possibly could—and unashamedly so. That’s right when speed started happening, and no one knew anything about speed and the long-term effects. They didn’t even know you could get addicted to it.”

Lienau said the drugs were fun at first—but he started noticing the negative side effects fairly quickly.

“People started changing,” he said. “They were doing bad stuff; scandalous things started to happen; and bad relationship stuff happened. Being up for days at a time isn’t the best thing, either. It gets its hooks in you, and it’s hard to quit. It really changes you, and you get weird, and you start hallucinating.”

During the ’80s, there were not yet any regulations or restrictions on the ingredients used to make crystal methamphetamine.

“There were a handful of people locally who were selling it back then, and it was easy to get. It just happened, and it was the new thing,” he said.

Lienau went to rehab for the first time in the mid-1980s.

“I don’t know if I decided or someone decided for me,” Lienau said. “… I think I was the first one out of all of us back then who went to rehab. I went to either The Ranch or the Betty Ford Center. … I have been to The Ranch a couple of times, the Betty Ford Center once, the ABC (Recovery Center), Cedar House in Bloomington, and a couple of detox centers. But that’s nothing compared to a lot of people.”

Lienau said he’s been sober for five years now.

“My M.O. has been get a year, get a couple of years, and then go back, and go off for a year or two, and go on and off. Right now, I have five years clean—so I have to really be careful, because right around this time, I have to be aware what’s going on.

“I’m hopefully done for good. Every time is worse than the time before. I’m older now, too, so I don’t really have a desire to do it anymore.”


Rick Chaffee (right; photo by Guillermo Prieto), who plays in the band Gutter Candy, is one of the best guitarists in the valley. Gutter Candy takes all the things about late-’70s punk and ’80s glam metal—and makes them funny and entertaining.

However, there was a time when there was little that was funny about Rick Chaffee’s life.

“I started drinking and smoking weed at 15 or 16,” Chaffee said during a recent phone interview. “But then when I was 25, I ended up getting hooked on heroin. From 25 to 35, I was a heroin addict.”

He said heroin back then was simply part the Orange County musician’s lifestyle.

“I can’t really say if I hadn’t been hanging out with those people that I wouldn’t have tried it somewhere else and at another time,” he said. “… It was that and cocaine. I didn’t do it every day.”

Chaffee said he’s always been an addict.

“I was always smoking weed and drinking all the time before heroin,” he said. “I had an addictive personality. I can’t say my upbringing was a root, but my parents drank, and I grew up with divorced parents. I was unsupervised as a kid growing up, and that may have had something to do with it, too. I was roaming the streets at 14 and 15 and always seemed to fall into the wrong crowd. I was playing music when I was 16 and hanging out with other guitar-players and harmonica-players doing Neil Young and Crosby, Stills and Nash.”

Chaffee’s life was imperiled by his drug use.

“I hit bottom when I was in and out of jail,” he said. “My relationships always seemed to fail. I also didn’t have a steady place to live. I wasn’t really on the street, but I did a lot of couch-surfing during those years. The last relationship I was in back then—she’s the mother of my son, and she’s been through it with me on and off.

“My family turned their back on me, and everyone else turned their back on me and said, ‘We’re not helping you anymore, and we’re done with you.’”


Van Sant, Lienau and Chaffee are currently clean—although they all know that could change if they aren’t careful.

One motivation to stay clean is the rehabilitation process, which Van Sant said is simply awful.

“They medicate you. You have to go through a medical detox, and you’re not just going in there to get your life together,” Van Sant said. “The 24-hour suicide-watch detox … you are in psychosis at that point. You sleep a lot, or you sleep not at all. You can’t eat, and you can’t do anything. You get to the point where you can’t function. For drug addicts, it’s like Chinese water torture—it’s slow; it’s long; and it’s annoying. You can’t get any rest, either. In rehab, they keep you busy. I knew I was done, and I needed to be done. I needed to stop and couldn’t do it anymore. It was so exhausting mentally, physically and spiritually.”

Lienau explained that crystal methamphetamine addicts often go through rehab many, many times.

“Studies have shown that it doesn’t stick. There’s a very low success rate,” Lienau said. “To get to that point where you’re not using—it takes what it takes. Some people can do it the first try, no problem, but others like me, I was a serial-relapse case. I was the earliest of our group to get sober the first time, or even to start, and I just wasn’t ready.

“Having a kid and being a parent helped me try to not be a fuck-up, but even that didn’t stop me, and there were even a few relapses after that.”

Through all of his relapses over the years, Lienau said he’s survived because he sticks to the mantra of “one day at a time.”

“You’re full of remorse, self-loathing and all that stuff—especially after it’s a repeated thing. But it’s one day at a time, and I hope I don’t do it again,” he said. “I’ve been through this whole thing long enough to know nothing is for sure. You have to take it one day at a time. I know better than to say ‘no more’ forever. It’s one day at a time. I hope I never do it again, but I’ve done this long enough to know that nothing is for sure.”

Unlike Van Sant and Lienau, Chaffee has been clean and sober for decades.

“At 35, I got clean and sober. I’ve been clean and sober ever since—and this September will be 25 years,” Chaffee said. “I ended up getting clean because my life was just getting more difficult, and I was in and out of jail. I needed some help and tried to quit for the last three years of my using on my own, and then I started going to 12-step meetings. That’s what’s helped.”

Chaffee said being in jail while addicted is hard—and can be deadly.

“I’ve kicked heroin in jail before. They don’t give you any special treatment, and they don’t send you into the infirmary or any medical environment to help you deal with it,” he said. “You have to kick it on your own. That’s scary.”

Chaffee has put the lessons he learned to good use: While Chaffee rocks out in Gutter Candy at night, he’s a certified drug-counselor by day.

“In 1996, I had five years clean. A friend of mine said there was an opening at a treatment center in Palm Springs, and I ended up going there and was the night tech guy,” he said. “I went to school to get certified, and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s been almost 20 years of working in the field.”

Chaffee said as a drug counselor, he knows all about the frequent trips to rehab some people, like Lienau, have endured.

“Does it miss the mark? I believe if you’re ready for treatment and you go into treatment, it’ll help,” Chaffee said. “A lot of people are so full of denial and blame others, and they’re not accountable for themselves or taking the responsibilities of it being their problem. If people are done and want to be done with it, it’ll help. I only had to go once, and it worked for me because I was done. I was 35, and I was young, but a lot of people think when they’re young that they can handle it, manage it—and, ‘If it wasn’t for Mom or Dad or this and that, then I wouldn’t be addicted, and it’s their fault.’ If you have people enabling you, that keeps people stuck in the addiction lifestyle as well.”


While some artists claim they’re at their best when using drugs, Van Sant said it’s downright liberating for him to play music as a sober person.

“It felt incredible to know I could actually do it,” Van Sant said. “I thought that you had to be a Joplin, a Cobain or a Hendrix to be an artist—a certifiable wacko, and live in that insanity all the time. I thought that’s what truth meant. What I found is that it doesn’t need to be your story; your story is your own story. Find your own truth. To know I could write and create without drugs or alcohol is such a big part of my sobriety, and it still is. I’m actually a more vibrant artist when I’m sober. It was one of the most freeing experiences I ever felt in my life.

“Lately, I’ve become industrious about music to where I think I might be too industrious. I’m there to work and get my thing done; my social experiences aren’t at gigs. I’m there to think about my music and play. That’s such a weird concept to me, because it used to be the opposite. It was always, ‘FUCK YEAH! WE’RE GOING TO GO PLAY A GIG! IT’S PARTY TIME! IT’S NOT GIG TIME; IT’S JUST A PART OF PARTY TIME!’ Now it’s, ‘It’s gig time, and nothing else is a part of it.’ I’m there to talk to the people who came to see us, talk about music, make future plans, make future connections, and do whatever I can for the music.

“That’s my addiction now. I love it. It’s really exhilarating and fun. I manage the band well, and I manage it well because I’m focused.”

Lienau pondered the link between addiction and music.

“Maybe it’s the creativity—wanting to try new things and experiment,” he said. “A lot of artists are fucked-up to begin with, and that’s why they’re making art; it’s their outlet. They might think it helps expand their horizons or whatever. All I know is when I used to do speed, I would want to play guitar forever—but it didn’t take long to where if I was on it, I couldn’t touch a guitar. I didn’t want anything to do with it. It’s weird, but the whole thing sort of changed over time for me.”

Chaffee said he does not know why music and addiction often go hand in hand.

“I think maybe the artist or musician is a little bit more sensitive using the creative part of the brain and are more in tune to feelings, moods and emotions,” he said. “For me, the lifestyle of a musician being there in the ’80s and ’90s—it was all about partying, sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll.


Van Sant and Lienau both admit they aren’t certain what the future holds.

“One of the smartest things I ever heard is, ‘There are things that we know, and things we’re aware we don’t know,’” Van Sant said. “There’s also this whole other category of things we don’t know we don’t know. My sobriety has been a constant exploration. … I’m living life differently and attracting a different person than I was before.”

Lienau said he’s learned honesty with oneself is the best way to address addiction.

“When you’re in denial, nothing is going to happen,” he said. “When you’re honest with yourself and accept that you have a problem, you can start addressing it. Until that happens, it won’t happen. I would say (to an addict who wants help): Go to a meeting. Find someone to talk to, and take direction from people who have done it, have been around for a while and have put in some years clean and sober. Someone who has done it before proves it can work, and that’s where you have to take instruction from. It’s too hard to do it alone, especially flying blind.”

Chaffee agreed that addicts almost never get clean without assistance.

“Seek help. You can’t live in both worlds,” he said. “Once you cross that line of moderation, you can’t go back. If you feel your life is out of control, seek some help.”

Below: Herb Lienau (top right) started doing speed back in 1984. “When I was in high school, there wasn’t any crystal meth. You could get speed in pill forms. Crystal was a whole different thing.” Today, Lienau (pictured in the second photo with Brant Bjork) has been sober for five years. “I’m hopefully done for good,” he said. “Every time is worse than the time before. I’m older now, too, so I don’t really have a desire to do it anymore.” Photos by Jordan Schwartz.

The holiday season is upon us, which means things hectic, and you may feel the need to escape—or find something to that doesn’t involve shopping. Fortunately, there are plenty of great events going on in December (especially in the first two-thirds of the month) for people looking to escape, as well as people looking to celebrate the holidays.

The McCallum Theatre has an awesome December schedule. If you missed Merle Haggard at Stagecoach back in April, you’ll be happy to know the Okie from Muskogee will be coming back at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 2. Haggard, one of the creators of the Bakersfield sound, has written an astonishing number of great country songs throughout his long career. Tickets are $77 to $97. At 7 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 15, there will be a performance of The Nutcracker performed by the Los Angeles Ballet. Tickets are $27 to $87. At 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 20, country star LeAnn Rimes perform a Christmas-themed concert. Back in the ’90s, Rimes captured the admiration and support of people everywhere as a star at the age of 13. She’s since carved out a fine career, with two Grammy Awards, a Country Music Association Award, 12 Billboard music awards and an American Music Award to her credit. Tickets are $37 to $87. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some great holiday events on the schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5, you’ll know it’s time for Christmas when Mannheim Steamroller returns. This is the 31st year that Mannheim Steamroller has taken its rock and electric-synth style Christmas show on the road; the concert includes dazzling multimedia effects, too. The group has sold 28 million copies of Christmas albums! Tickets are $39 to $69. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19, it will be time to boogie for the holidays when The Brian Setzer Orchestra takes the stage. Setzer’s swing/rockabilly holiday shows have become a Christmas tradition; if you haven’t had the pleasure, check it out. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a light schedule, but there are two great events you should to know about. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4, Mama, the star of Mama’s Family, and comedienne Vicki Lawrence will be performing her “Two Woman Show.” Tickets are $20 to $40. If you don’t have plans for New Year’s Eve, you’ll be happy to know that at 10:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 31, former Runaways member Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (right) will be rocking into 2016. Forget attending those expensive parties where you stand in line all night to buy expensive drinks, and create fond New Year’s Eve memories with a legend! Tickets are $60 to $80. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a great list of December shows. At 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 17, Brant Bjork and the Low-Desert Punk Band will take the stage. Bjork, a founder and former drummer of desert rock gods Kyuss, performed at Coachella back in April. If you call yourself a fan of desert rock, you need to get your ass to this show—because Bjork delivers live. Tickets are $15. At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 26, you can celebrate the day after Christmas with The Evangenitals. If you had a good Christmas, the Evangenitals will make it even better! If you had a bad Christmas, the Evangenitals will have you laughing, therefore lifting you out of your holiday blues. It’s become a tradition at Pappy’s to have the Evangenitals perform after Christmas, so go partake! Admission is free. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed has some nice things happening in December. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4, things are going to get festive thanks to EeVaan Tre and the “Holiday Show.” EeVaan and the boys have quite an impressive R&B act, so you know their holiday show is going to be something you don’t want to miss. Admission is free. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5, the vibe will be quite different, because rapper Paul Wall will be performing. The Houston-based rapper has been going since 1998 and has had songs on the charts. Tickets are $20 to $23. If you were concerned the Date Shed’s schedule was initially missing some performers who come back year after year … relax: Ghostface Killah is indeed returning to the venue, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19. Ghostface, a member of the Wu-Tang Clan, performed a hop, skip and a jump from the Date Shed at Coachella back in April with fellow Wu-Tang member Raekwon. Tickets are $28 to $38. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has released a list of nice events for the month. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 4 rock/reggae band Fayuca will be stopping by; Machin’ and DJ Alf Alpha will also perform. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 10, you’ll be happy to know that Chicano Batman (below) will be coming back to perform at The Hood—and, of course, their compadres Slipping Into Darkness are also on the bill. Yay! Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Tryst Bar and Lounge continues to diversify downtown Palm Springs’ music offerings, with free shows at 10 p.m. virtually every Tuesday and Saturday. The month’s highlights include Derek Jordan Gregg on Tuesday, Dec. 1; and local metal-punk favorites Gutter Candy on Tuesday, Dec. 22. Tryst Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-832-6046; www.facebook.com/trystpalmsprings.

Published in Previews

Remember Shawn Mafia and the 10 Cent Thrills? That band is now known as Gutter Candy. Fronted by Jersey Dagger (aka Shawn Mafia) on vocals, and featuring Lixx Candy on guitar, Sin Balls on drums, and newest-member D.D. Gunz on bass, Gutter Candy plays regularly at the Joshua Tree Saloon and recently performed at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert. Gutter Candy performs a blend of heavy metal and punk with a lot of comedy thrown in. D.D. Gunz was kind enough to answer The Lucky 13 to introduce himself to all five of the Gutter Candy fans who recently downloaded the band’s new single on iTunes.

What was the first concert you attended?

That is really difficult to recall, as I am 40 and have been going to see shows since I was about 13. The first few were just some local punk-rock bands in the L.A. area. My first memorable show was the Ramones in 1989. It was a great show from an iconic band that will never be duplicated by anyone.

What was the first album you owned?

Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized” was the first record in my possession that was not borrowed or a sixth-generation home-recorded cassette tape.  

What bands are you listening to right now?

Gutter Candy, The Ramones (always in the rotation), Social Distortion (regularly), Faster Pussycat, The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Hank Williams, Sham 69, and a little Guns N’ Roses for good measure.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

All this electronic garbage, I don’t get. It’s so popular, and there are no instruments. I said the same thing about hip-hop back in the day, but this new age of electronica boggles my mind. Pick up a guitar, for God sakes!

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

The Ramones again! Guns N’ Roses in 1988 with all the original members and before Axl started wearing those tight white bicycle shorts.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I am a sucker for country music. I can put it on and kill a 30-pack, no problem.

What’s your favorite music venue?

When it was open, The Back Room in Austin, Texas. Texas knows music, and they also know how to put a good venue together. All of my favorite venues are in some part of Texas. There’s nothing like loud music and a little down-home Southern alcoholism to set you free.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. Man, I hate that fucking song!

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The first and second waves of British punk rock changed my life. Bands like The Clash, The Exploited and The Partisans just gripped me and still have a hold on me today. Those bands really made me look at music differently and changed my whole outlook on life. They also contributed to me dropping out of high school and various other nonprofitable decisions.  

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I already asked him. When I auditioned for the bass-player position in Gutter Candy, I couldn’t help but notice the killer pair of pants that Jersey Dagger was wearing. I had to know where he got them. I asked; he told me; I bought a pair; and all is well in rock ’n’ roll.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Country Boy Can Survive” by Hank Williams Jr. But more importantly, what song would I like to have Angelina Jolie strip to? “Sweet Little Sister” from Skid Row.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

That’s a tough question. I have many favorites. I will go with White Light, White Heat, White Trash from Social Distortion, only because I like every fucking song on that record.  

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Put it Right Here” from Gutter Candy. Grab a 12 pack, and pop it on; when you get to beer No. 9, turn it up to 10, and enjoy. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Published in The Lucky 13

Shawn Mafia is a well-known figure in the Joshua Tree music scene. He recorded an album at Rancho de la Luna, has played many shows at Pappy and Harriet’s, and recently changed his band’s name from Shawn Mafia and the 10-Cent Thrills to Gutter Candy. There’s a long-standing rumor about his day job—that he’s a funeral director in Yucca Valley. Get more info at www.shawnmafia.com. Shawn was excited to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

My parents took me to see the Beach Boys when I was a kid. The only thing I really remember about the concert is people carrying around lawn chairs. Perhaps that is where my phobia of lawn chairs developed.

What was the first album you owned?

Jim Croce, Greatest Hits; the Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire” 7-inch; and the Elton John “Crocodile Rock” 7-inch were the first actual records I owned. I was 5 or 6 years old. From there, it was all Weird Al Yankovic and skate rock.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Mighty Jack, Steel Panther, Gogol Bordello, Public Image Ltd., Suicidal Tendencies, Angry Samoans, DER, X, Rocket From the Crypt and Gojiro Island—all of these bands, I’ve listened to this week. However, that doesn’t mean that I endorse them for public office.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Turning on guitar amplifiers at live gigs. It’s super cliché and overdone. It takes a real man to play without sound!

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

The Clash, only because it can never happen. RIP, Joe Strummer.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Lifting weights at the gym while listening to Bob Seger performing “Shakedown.” (Insert your favorite pre-workout supplement here.)

What’s your favorite music venue?

I performed at the Wherehouse in Palm Springs years ago. That was an awesome venue. They set you up right in the middle of the store and let you go at it while unsuspecting CD buyers flipped through the racks. It was super uncomfortable … but that is why I got into show business. 

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup” (from “Don’t Dream It’s Over,” Crowded House).

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Tom Waits taught me that it can lyrically mean something. You can tell stories—sordid tales that can be wild and exotic, violently beautiful and horrifically sweet. It can have weight and integrity and not just be a silly pop song, even when it is.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

2 Chainz: Why just two? Why not six or seven chains? Or better yet, 2,000 chains, so your neck snaps!

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” on kazoo.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

The Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Stephen Lynch’s “Down to the Old Pub Instead.” (Scroll down to hear it!)

Published in The Lucky 13