I first heard Black Fork when they played with Kicker, another Oakland-based
punk band, last year in San Francisco. My first thought
was, “This takes me right back to the mid- to late- ‘90s.” And I wasn’t far off
with that impression. Black Fork is ‘90s punk that hasn’t changed at all since
then and haven’t produced any new songs, so it sounds like going back in a
time—a short time back—we aren’t that old yet. Sitting down with the band in a
West Oakland backyard, they shared their many, harried tour stories, how MC G.
came to be a part of their shows, and
other recollections of being a band together that broke up—or never broke
up—who still just loves to get together and play music after all these years.
Vocals: Robin (Tussin) Indar
Guitar and Vox: Josh Indar
Drums: Jim “Nastic” Anderson
Former Drummer: Ivy “Hellbaby”
Bass: Cyrus “T. Nails” Comiskey
Tracy: So, you guys played together from ’94
to ’98 and then took a long break.
Ivy: Yes, definitely.
Tracy: So, why come back together now?
Cyrus: I wouldn’t say that we are
Robin: Because we love each other.
Cyrus: It’s an excuse to hang out.
Jim: We’ve been doing it here and
Cyrus: But we haven’t been actively
writing new songs or anything.
Robin: I think when we first broke
up we were just totally fried. Just totally burnt out on the whole thing and I
think we didn’t realize how well and how easily we made music together. And how
getting along on tour for days on end—we took it for granted that it was so
easy to get along. We cracked each other up and kept each other going through
long, boring stretches of Texas
and whatever else—flat tires. We had some of the worst, ridiculous tour
tragedies. We had a dead battery that we were trying to trade back for money. We
kept it in the back. JJ slammed on the brakes and the battery flew from the backseat
and vibrated between Ed and…
Jim: It got on all our stuff and
melted everything we owned.
Robin: We had battery acid on
everything and then we showed up at the place and they were like, “Well, we
don’t have a show. The person who set you up for a show is not here. You can
play in our living room to nobody or…” . And then they set us up for an open mic
at a café. We played. Then we asked for water and they were like, “No.”
Josh: They really hated us.
Robin: That was just like one day of
Black Fork on tour.
Josh: We’re not really an open mic kind
of band, I don’t think.
Robin: No. [laughter]
Robin: But they can give us water.
You would give a stray cat water, wouldn’t you?
Cyrus: Yeah, we toured a lot. I also
think that was the tour where we were surviving by busting up soda
machines with salt water and getting the money and soda out of there. We
paid for gas with a pile of change.
Josh: And then we’d sell the sodas
at shows. [laughter]
Robin: “Don’t you want a warm soda?”
Cyrus: “You look like you want a
Jim: Remember we would throw them at
Cyrus: We built this launcher out of this giant rubber band. And
we’d just launch sodas at the signs.
Ivy: Black Fork cares about your
Tracy: How did you guys come up with the
Josh: It’s an anti-spoon statement.
Robin: Yeah, Josh got us on an anti—a
whole thing—a program, if you will.
Ivy: Talk about B.A.S.S.
Robin: So we started the Bay Area
Spoonless Society, which had a newsletter, The
B.A.S.S. Newsletter. So I did a lot of the graphics department, some
cartoons, some drunk poetry, and other important insights about the deadly
effects of spoon use.
Ivy: What was your name?
Robin: Oh, I had a lot of names.
Josh: I was
Dr. Elbar Barbarbarre.
Robin: I was Razlina Pretty, which was my rat’s
Josh: So we had the “Fork” thing,
and if you’re a punk band you have to have “Black” in your name, basically.
Cyrus: A not-so-subtle play on Black
Robin: Yes. There was probably
alcohol involved with the decision.
Josh: You think? I don’t know.
Robin: I’m pretty sure.
Josh: I don’t think so. We were
pretty much sober.
Robin: Yeah. All the time. And so
after the time when Black Fork broke up, I know Josh had been in another band
and I was shortly in another band. I realized it could be really difficult. That’s
when I realized Black Fork was so easy. The rhythm section and all the…
Robin: Chemistry. So we always
looked forward to seeing each other again and doing something else. Forever.
Forever and ever. We’re going to call it “The Until-We-Break-A-Hip Tour.”
That’s when you know you’ve got to slow it down a little.
Cyrus: I’m going to fall off the
stage tonight and break a hip.
Robin: Damn it, Cyrus.
Josh: Didn’t Wattie
just have a stroke on stage or something like that? That’s how I’m going
out. (Walter “Wattie” Buchan, singer of The Exploited, suffered a heart attack
on stage in Lisbon, Spain.)
Robin: The “Meet-Your-Maker Tour.”
Jim: Well, and the guy from Twisted
Sister died the other night.
Jim: After he played a show.
Cyrus: Wait—who? Not Dee Snider.
Jim: The drummer.
Josh: “No! Not Dee
Robin: No, you’re going to ruin my
Tracy: Do you feel like the crowd has
changed from when you played back then as opposed to now?
Josh: Not looking at last night! [laughter]
Last night’s show was like the same people! And if it’s not in the Bay Area,
it’s a smaller crowd.
Cyrus: We played to nobody most of
the time on tour.
Josh: We played a kid’s living room because his parents were
Cyrus: We drove all night—drove from
Nashville to North Carolina—or
Memphis to North Carolina, and we show up at seven in
the morning thinking, “Okay, cool the promoter is going to help us out.” We get
there and knock on the door and this mom answers.
Robin: Wasn’t it a Historic Mansion?
Everyone: Yeah, it was so weird.
Cyrus: I’m like, “Is this the right
Josh: And this sixteen-year-old kid
was thinking he was just going to have this show in his basement.
Cyrus: And the kid comes out and says, “Oh, the show’s off
because I got grounded.” [laughter]
Jim: Wait, didn’t we play in the
room, though? He tried to pay us with Canadian money!
Josh: It wasn’t Canadian money…
Cyrus: It was Korean money.
Josh: It was at his friend’s house.
He was like, “Well, my friend’s mom is shopping. Maybe we can play there.” And
so we played in this kid’s bedroom for like three or four kids.
Cyrus: Who could really care less
Robin: They were sitting on a bed.
Josh: They were scared watching us
Jim: Remember when we finished
playing—they were like, “The tape recorder wasn’t working. Can we do it again?”
Josh: And then they gave us some
Cyrus: Like seventeen dollars.
Josh: It was left over money from
one of their parent’s trips. And then we left and tried to go to all these
banks to try to exchange the money. It was the East Coast, so no one would
touch it. So we had to get all the way to Seattle
before a bank would exchange it for us. It was like thirty dollars. It was a
pretty good score. [laughter]
Cyrus: Yeah, for a fifteen-hour
Ivy: Black Fork will play for
Josh: Pretty much. I don’t know what we were doing.
Jim: By the end, the shows got a
little bit better.
Josh: Yeah, for some years it was
pretty bad… well, it was.
Cyrus: Every tour we did after that
Robin: I started stockpiling Ramen
Josh: There were always one or two
good shows between all the bad shows.
Cyrus: New York
Cyrus: Yes, TJ was great.
Robin: For some reason, they loved
us in Oklahoma City.
Cyrus: Oh, yeah. That was weird.
Robin: Which made no sense. The
first time we played there, all the skinheads showed up and they were beating
up a kid with glasses. It made no sense.
Ivy: Norman, Oklahoma.
It was at a Christian Rec Center.
Jim: Remember the security guard?
Everyone was just jumping off his back.
Tracy: Did you tour up into the Northwest?
Cyrus: Yeah, we did Seattle
Back in the ‘90s we played up there probably about seven or eight times.
Tracy: You played in Oly, too?
Robin: Yes, the Lucky 7 house.
Josh: And we played at the Capitol.
Jim: We were walking around and
Kathleen Hanna leaned out the window, “Where’s the girl?”
Josh: Umm, she’s back at the house.
“Are you from the East Bay?”
Josh: It was always weird.
Josh: Olympia was weird, too. There would be like
either no one at the show or they would all come and see their friend’s band
and then leave.
Jim: I feel like Olympia was just like hanging out—at that bar
behind the diner.
Josh: Yeah, King Solomon’s Reef.
Jim: That place was awesome.
Josh: I think that place closed down
Tracy: They had another fire and then
Jim: That place has had so many
Tracy: Yes, it has.
Ivy: Let’s talk about “U.S. Hugs.”
This is when Black Fork had the rivalry with Rancid.
Josh: It wasn’t really a rivalry.
Robin: We just tried to practice in
their wrestling room—weight lifting room.
Josh: Wrestling room? [laughter]
Cyrus: Their rumpus room.
Josh: This was all engineered
because JJ was the one who wrote all that shit on the walls.
Robin: JJ was our roadie and he also
had ongoing battle against Eric Yee who was—was he a roadie for Rancid? Or just
hung out with them?
Ivy: He was in U.S. Thugs with
Robin: So, I think he may have, in their weight lifting room changed it
to “U.S. Hugs.” And, they didn’t like that.
Cyrus: They didn’t like that.
Robin: That’s not very tough. And
some other things like that, graffiti-related. We got kicked out of the
Cyrus: They kicked us off a show.
Josh: Yeah, but we kicked ourselves
right back on. And Bikini Kill let us use their stuff. That’s how we got back
on. Bikini Kill set up and we just jumped on their shit. And Rancid were so
pissed. They were so mad, but they couldn’t do anything though.
Ivy: This is when I was playing
drums and I had a personal problem with Lars. When Bikini Kill set up their
equipment to play, Lars had tried to kick us off to have Swingin’ Utters play.
Jim: And they did play.
Ivy: Right before we started, Lars
yelled, “Hey, I didn’t say you could!” and I clicked off 1-2-3-4. He was so
mad. He threw an adult temper tantrum and his face was so red.
Jim: I just remember when they were
playing—he was like, “I want to send this one out to Kathleen, because I think
she’s really cute.” [laughter]
Josh: He(Tim “Lint” Armstrong) gave me a big hug after
that. Everything was fine. But we don’t need to be talking about Rancid.
Cyrus: They probably don’t remember
who we are.
Robin: Our sister band Los Canadians—who
she (Ivy) left being our drummer to go play for—we did a split 7” with them,
which we just re-released on Shut Up Records.
Ivy: Two tours.
Jim: Yeah, ’96 and ’97, right?
Robin: And we kept getting injuries
that were twinsies.
Jim: And you guys stole like crazy.
You guys were trying to outdo each other. “I got two cartons of cigarettes, you only got one?”
Robin: Cigarettes and beer and
Josh: By the time we got to the East
Coast, you guys were limping, black eyes, you were on crutches.
Cyrus: What did you do?
Ivy: Moshed, man! I was rocking and
went down. That was at Chattanooga Instant
Beer Pleasure Lounge, which was the bar that was run by Chinese immigrants that
were pretty redneck. It was a pretty amazing punk venue for a while. Pretty special
Tracy: Do all of you still live in Oakland?
Robin: Jim and Cyrus do. And Josh
and I moved to Chico
about ten years ago.
Josh: And Ivy lives in the city.
Tracy: And what made you decide to leave Oakland?
Robin: A number of things.
Josh: The cost of living.
Robin: The cost of living and we got
pregnant with our first child. Our
next door neighbors were some heavy duty criminals who later ended up murdering
a dad at a taco stand and ended up going to prison. And just—I would walk to BART
(Bay Area Rapid Transit) from my house to go to my job at the Berkeley library. Walking that pregnant was a
real drag because I’d see wild dogs eating garbage and growling at me. There
would be pimps saying “Hey, I can get you a job.” And I’d say, “I’m on my way
to work right now—and I’m pregnant.”
They’d yell back, “Hey, I got people for that!” And I just would say to myself,
“I need to get the frick out of here.”
And then when we tried to buy a house in the Bay. We couldn’t even afford the
house we were living in. That’s when there was a huge real estate bubble and we
were bidding on a house—it had no foundation, the plumbing was cracked and
exploding, the house was sliding down the hill, they were saying we can’t even
enter from the front, we have to go around the back, and there were clogged
toilets that were overflowing—and there were twenty people checking out the
house, “Oh, this is really good.” Then we’d get outbid by $100,000. All the
houses were like that.
Tracy: And now it’s worse.
Robin: Yeah. It’s quite affordable
where we live now. We’re waiting for the giant earthquake to come back.
Jim: Something needs to happen.
Robin: Also, moving to Chico, it’s a small town
and quite a bit more opportunities.
Jim: It seems like Berkeley in the ‘90s.
Robin: Yeah. We just had some
friends move to Chico
from the Bay Area and that’s what they are saying. And I have to agree.
Cyrus: Chico is coming up.
Josh: Do you remember when I’d come
back and you would tease me about it? You were calling me “Chico” and I was so pissed off about it?
Well, I’m from Oakland,
Cyrus: Okay, Chico.
Josh: Yeah, Robin makes awesome mosaics. She’s world famous. Locally.
Ivy: She makes amazing, larger-than-life
Tracy: That’s awesome. Are you guys planning
on making more music?
Cyrus: I don’t think so.
Robin: Fuck you, Cyrus.
Cyrus: Well, it would be news to me.
Robin: Yeah, we’re kind of
Jim: We have some songs we never
recorded, but I don’t know.
Robin: Yeah, our official first last
show—we had two songs that were brand new and never recorded. I thought that
was quite humorous that—well, that says it all—that we did not plan to break
up—it was just boom.
Jim: I remember the time when you
were like, “Yeah, I think it’s time we break up,” or whatever and then you were
like, “But we are so good at practice.” [laughter]
Josh: Well, I was expecting you guys
to talk me out of it. I was really just burnt. We could have just taken six
months off or whatever, but…
Jim: Yeah, we just started playing
Josh: But you guys got into good
bands after that.
Tracy: What bands are you all playing in now
outside of Black Fork?
Cyrus: Me and Jim are playing
Robin: In A.B.C.
Cyrus: Amish Boner Control. [laughter]
Jim: We don’t have a band name.
Robin: Work in progress.
Josh: And we are in Severance
Package together (Josh and Robin).
Ivy: And I’m in
Black Rainbow. Robin:
What was it that time that
fell off? Was it the transmission? The whole transmission died and we had to
rent a U-Haul. We broke down in Cottage
Grove, Oregon, after
we paid to have the car repaired like seven hundred dollars. Josh:
We made it about fifty miles
We rented the U-Haul, but we
could only get the U-Haul with no windows. You’re only supposed to put your
house stuff in there—furniture. And we had to put half the band in the back of
the U-haul. It was really hot and then we had to cross the border. And so we
kept doing tests where we’d go inside and it’d get so hot that you would just
instantly pass out. And we had to cover ourselves with sleeping bags to hide
from the border patrol.Josh:
We wrote a song about it—“Leisure Town”—how it’s kind of impossible to DIY
unless you have money and know what you are doing. Robin:
I was always envious of
people who were like “Just Do It Yourself.” “Just start a record label.” Well,
you need money to do that.Jim:
Yeah, it’s good if you are
We didn’t have any business
sense at all.Ivy:
A lot of spoons were missing
when they were a band.Jim:
I still have people come up to
me, when I’ve been touring with other people in other bands…Robin:
“Check the toilet tank.”Jim:
“Oh, you were in Black Fork?
You know, all our spoons went missing”, or “We had to dig them all back up from
the back yard.” Josh:
Well, I mean, we were saving
people’s lives. Robin:
It’s kind of like the good luck. Speaking of the good luck, MC G.
played last night. Josh:
Did you see him?Tracy:
I saw him when you guys played
together with Kicker, too. How did you guys meet him?Robin:
He was our neighbor when we
lived in Ghost Town, which is the 30th and West area. Yeah, we were having a
house warming party when we first moved. He just came over and started rapping
to people. We were like, “Whoa you’ve got a lot of raps, we should record you.”
So we had a four track and a crappy keyboard that made some beats. Cyrus did
some bass. Timmy from Los Canadians did some bass. Ivy and I did backups on a
few songs. Josh:
The first demo doesn’t even
sound like rap. Robin:
Yeah, one got sped up a
little weird. It’s like experimental rap. Josh:
It’s kind of got that
Casio—tic-oh, tic-oh, tic-oh-kind of like beat.Robin:
Well, you even sampled Blatz in
one of his songs.Josh:
That one turned out kind of
good, but I was just playing the record and we didn’t have sampler. We just
played a record into four track, and turned it on and off. Robin:
It turned out amazing,
We got lucky.Jim:
Even Peanut Butter Wolf was
popular for a while. (Peanut
Butter Wolf helped produce one of MC G.’s demos. PBW is now pretty
well-known as a hip-hop producer and the founder of Stone’s Throw Records).Tracy:
Yeah, I met him before you guys
played. He came up super close to me and asked me to step on his feet. And I
turned and said, “Excuse me?” He says, “No, I have steel toes. Step on my
toes.” So I did. Robin:
In his raps he will say,
“Step on them hard, but not vicious, put them there until I say when, now
that’s chocolicious.” Josh:
Did you have black shoes on?Tracy:
No, I had these on. [Points to Doc
Oh, really? Well, they are
patent leather. He likes those. Robin:
He’s very specific. Josh:
Black socks and black shoes.Cyrus:
I think he’s expanded his
horizon a little bit. Robin:
I’m his awkward wingman. I’m
really just trying to put out fires, really. It’s awkward to watch people get
freaked out by him and sometimes angry. And I have to step over, “No, no, he’s
He was at Laney, too. (Laney Community College in Oakland, CA) I remember hearing about this guy who would ask girls
to step on his feet. And then Josh and Robin were like, “You should come meet
MC G. He’s got a foot fetish.” I’m like, “That’s the dude!” [laughter]Tracy:
I know! I had the same experience!
After I stepped on his boots and tried to hide in the crowd, he got up on stage,
and I’m like, “Oh, my God, it’s that guy!” and now it’s time for me to head to
my car. Josh:
He used to be called the Foot
Stranger and now he’s calling himself the Foot Playa. Robin:
He’s still keeping it real.
People would tell me about MC G. sightings on BART. Ivy:
He does big art shows: Creative
And I was recently looking up
his art online and came across MC G. handbags and they were put out by Marc
Jacobs. The fashionista was putting Creative Growth’s art on handbags. I
thought that was pretty wild. I was pretty bummed I missed that. I would love
an MC G. handbag. His art is amazing.