Social Distortion explores music’s roots on new record

The band he plays in has penned its share of tunes about addiction — to dope, booze and women — its catalog frequently colored black by tough luck as grim as autopsy photos.

So the comparison is a suitable one, and Jonny Wickersham chuckles a bit as he gives voice to it.

“We’re like a gateway drug,” the guitarist says. “Social D leads to the Carter Family.”

Sure, Wickersham’s band, Social Distortion, has long been one of the defining acts of the vibrant Southern California punk-rock scene, having helped define the sound with their high-velocity hooks, beginning in the late ’70s.

But there has long been an underlying rootsiness and swagger to Social D’s bare-knuckle swing that’s as rooted in the honky-tonk and blues traditions as it is to harder edged rock ‘n’ roll.

Hence the Carter Family reference.

On the band’s new record, “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes,” due out Tuesday, they continue to excavate the true roots of rock ‘n’ roll, mapping its genomes, educating themselves and their audience at the same time.

For Wickersham, it all began when he was a kid and he got his first blues record, “Muddy and the Wolf,” a collaboration between Chicago blues greats Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, backed by Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and members of the Rolling Stones.

“I was blown away by the song ‘Killing Floor,’ ” Wickersham recalls. “As soon as I heard it, I heard ‘The Lemon Song’ by Led Zeppelin. I was like, ‘Wow, man.’ It all kind of came together for me.”

Still, as a young aspiring guitarist who had gotten into music tagging along with his musician dad at gigs with his bar band, Wickersham had a steep learning curve when it came to emulating his heroes.

At least at first.

“I was really into Led Zeppelin and Jimmy Page when I was in elementary school,” he says. “And it was hard for me, because I’m not one of these musicians who’s just loaded with natural talent. It was frustrating, because I wanted to learn how to play like Jimmy Page or Keith Richards, but it didn’t come so easy.”

Then the epiphany came in the form of the debut from a bunch of leering, sneering British punks.

“When I heard the Sex Pistols, I picked up the bass and I actually learned how to play three or four songs off of ‘Nevermind the Bollocks’ by ear, starting with ‘Submission,’ ” Wickersham remembers. “So it was like, ‘This is cool, man. I can do this.’ ”

From there, Wickersham became a punk lifer, playing in bands like The Cadillac Tramps and the U.S. Bombs before joining up with Social D in 2000.

The band is largely a reflection of its rock-hard frontman, Mike Ness, a former heroin addict who’s long written intense, autobiographical songs that give Social D’s repertoire an honest-feeling, real-life dimension.

“I’ve always felt that each record had a lot of what was really happening in his life,” Wickersham says. “He writes songs about his experiences in real life.”

This being said, there tends to be a fair amount of time between records for this bunch, so that they can actually go out and live the lives that Ness writes about in such unflinching fashion.

“It’s kind of worked out in a cool way for Social D in that there’s not records coming out on a regular basis, so when one does come out, it’s given the band time to evolve and mature together as musicians and just with life experiences,” Wickersham says. “It’s not like, ‘All right, it’s been a year and a half, let’s get in there and do another record, knock one out.’ The fact that we’re not the most prolific band in the world seems to be a cool thing in that regard.”

More importantly, it seems to have helped the band maintain its hunger, which is palpable on “Hard Times,” which is an invigorated, heart-pounding effort.

To hear Wickersham tell it, focusing on the past helps stoke the flames of the present.

“We’re still trying to emulate our heroes. Even now,” he says. “We still want to be as good as The Stones. And I think it shows on the records. I’m just glad that I’m not in a band with a bunch of people who don’t really give a crap anymore.”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like