By NATHAN SOLIS
As a child Alice Bag, born Alicia Armendariz, was shy and spoke very little English. In kindergarten, she sometimes would cry due to her frustrations with English
, Spanish being her first language. As an East Los Angeles teenager Bag fronted the band The Bags in the early days of the Los Angeles punk scene. She eventually got down the whole English part just fine. Though the Hollywood punk scene would fizzle out in the 1980s and give rise to hardcore punk, The Bags’ influence was long standing. In time Alice would be considered an archivist of the feminist movement in L.A.’s punk scene.
This month, Bag will be releasing a new book exploring her diaries from her time in Nicaragua in 1986. The book, Pipe Bomb for the Soul, will be released one chapter at a time on her blog. “It’s a post-punk look at life in a post-revolutionary socialist society,” she said.
A mother and wife Alice, now 56, does not get to attend many gigs as in her teen years, though she still considers herself a social person frequenting art openings and book readings. Her current job is to write, paint, play music and run a household.
What was the most memorable gig or concert in Los Angeles that encapsulates the punk era for you?
The show that made me realize that punk had arrived was a show at the Orpheum Theater in Hollywood. I had gone to watch my boyfriend play drums with his new band, The Weirdos. I had no idea what to expect and they blew me away with their wild clothes, crazy antics and frenetic melodies. The opening band that night was the Germs and next on the bill was a band from Chula Vista called The Zeros. It was an exhilarating experience from start to finish. Each band was very different from the next, each had a unique sound and look. They were inventing west coast punk and I wanted to be a part of it.
Your Women in L.A. Punk series really shined a light on those that may have been overlooked in the larger conversation about the scene. Do you have plans to collect those interviews in a book?
I’ve really enjoyed doing those interviews. I would love to compile and expand the interviews, add a bunch more photos and put them in a book, but I can’t allow myself to think about that right now. I’m still working on the layout for Pipe Bomb For The Soul and my goal is to have it printed and available in time for summer reading.
I read in a previous interview where you mentioned you received “empowerment from the community,” that community being the punk scene. Do you personally have any type of empowering community that you can turn to now?
Yes, I have many groups that I feel connected to, we share a sense of community based on mutual interests. I have strong support from the feminist, LGBTQ and Xican@ communities, but that’s only the beginning. I think ideas of inclusion and equality appeal to fair-minded people from all backgrounds and all walks of life. People who want change are my community. We are big and growing stronger all the time.
I also connect to and am inspired by people who are creative and can imagine themselves and their surroundings in unusual or surprising configurations. I once gave a five year-old student in my class an assignment to draw a picture of the solar system because we had been reading and singing about it. He turned in a beautiful drawing of a huge yellow sun and what looked like giant lollipops encircling it. “What’s this?” I asked. “Why do your planets have sticks on them?” He said I’d told the class that there were nine paletas around the sun. He had heard the word paletas (lollipops) instead of planetas (planets) during our lesson and so he created a solar system that alien life around the universe would be rushing to visit! Kids are the most creative people. I think that’s why I was a teacher for so long.
Were there any critical comments on Violence Girl and your recollection of the punk scene?
Nobody made any to my face. I understand that everyone is going to have their own point of view. I don’t write for consensus, I write to tell my story from my perspective. If someone else wants to tell it from their [own perspective], they should.
The thing is there is no such thing as an unbiased history. The best we can hope for is enough information from a variety of sources to make up our own minds about any event. That’s why it’s so important to teach American history from different and varied perspectives, but I digress.
Would the Alice of today have any advice for the teenage Alice on stage? For the girl in elementary school who spoke very little English?
To teenage Alice, I’d say, “Buy your own mic, instead of singing into some dive bar’s phlegm-encrusted one.” To my English-learning self, I’d say, “Don’t let the bigots get you down. You’ll have the last laugh. You’ll know twice as much as monolinguals.”
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis’ stories, reviews and photos at Avenue Meander.
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