Kids These Days

It's time again for a rare Feast Upon Cactus Thorns

Though punk rock may not exclusively be the domain of the young--as legendary bands such as the Sex Pistols and X have proven in recent years--it helps to have a youthful attitude.

And when Feast Upon Cactus Thorns, a semi-retired Tucson punk act, plays a gig, doing so makes its members feel young again.

"When I play with these guys, I get as giddy as ... well, I don't want to say a schoolgirl, but I feel like I'm a kid again," says bassist Mel Ting.

"You definitely tap into that 14-year-old energy. You feel much younger than you are," drummer Bryn Zadrine agrees. "The only thing is now, when it's the next morning, you feel it. It's like: I don't remember getting this pain in my arm after playing when I was young."

Also known by the acronym FUCT, the band will play one of its rare gigs on Sunday night, Aug. 3, at downtown's Vaudeville Cabaret.

Feast Upon Cactus Thorns will be part of a concert celebrating the 20th anniversary of Toxic Ranch Records. (See Nine Questions on Page 47 for more information.) Fellow Tucson acts Limbless Torso and Swing Ding Amigos will perform, as will the much-revered Italian hard-core punk group Raw Power.

Once upon a time, in the mid-1990s, a younger version of FUCT toured as Raw Power's opening act, back in the days when the Italian band was signed to Westworld Records, the in-house label at Toxic Ranch.

Most old-timers familiar with the local punk scene know how the members of FUCT were middle school kids when they first started playing together in 1985. Over the course of 15 years, they became one of the premier hard-core acts in Tucson, releasing several 7-inch singles and one amazing album. The band became adept at performing what singer Obie Serious calls "nihilistic, angry fucking nursery rhymes."

These days, the band members are all in their mid-30s. Each has kids, holds down a steady job and has been (or still is) married.

Zadrine, by the way, is the only FUCT member who still plays music regularly, having held down the drum position for the garage-surf-psychobilly band the Mission Creeps for the last couple of years.

FUCT stopped gigging regularly around the turn of the century, but they get together every year or so to play birthday parties for pals or memorial gigs for friends who have died.

"Out of the last eight years, we have probably played maybe six times," says Serious, who until recently also was the drummer for Cancer Brides. "No one's really made any money from it in that time, either."

Says Ting, "We've donated whatever we've made in the shows these last several years to whatever cause we were playing for."

"Didn't we get, like, 100 bucks from that last one we played?" interjects Zadrine. "That was $25 each." (The FUCT lineup also includes guitarist John Dis, who was not present for the interview.)

Obviously, the band simply plays for the joy of it.

"Oh yeah," Serious enthuses. "The practices for each show are maybe even more fun than the show."

Today's world of punk and metal music has become increasingly segmented, a fact that these guys haven't ignored.

"Now, you have to be part of a category. It's the new categorized culture," Serious says. "Kids these days--I can't believe I just said that--it seems like they pick the category they are going to play before they even start playing."

FUCT has always been a diehard punk act, but one with broad tastes. The band's members worship everything from Zappa to Coltrane, from Black Sabbath and Judas Priest to Yes, Rush and King Crimson. And they've never been afraid to integrate prog-rock and metal into their hardcore.

"We've never been the kind of straight-up punk band that people expected," Serious says.

Ting waxes a little nostalgic when remembering how FUCT used to throw together all sorts of music, sometimes simply to piss off the listeners: "We fused 'Stairway to Heaven' with "Freebird' and then threw in 'Go Get Fucked.' That was great fun."

And they didn't shy from challenging the two-chord punk paradigm with complex arrangements. "I remember writing songs when we were young that we wouldn't even be able to play until a couple of years later," laughs Zadrine.

"Even back in the early days, musicians in other bands would tell us, 'You play too many notes,'" Serious says.

"Yeah," Zadrine says. "You find out later that it's not 'cool' to be 'good.'"

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