The Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs
Live on KXLU (Triple X)
An interview with Frank Meyer and Dino Everett
by Jon Sarre
No, their hearts probably aren’t really fulla napalm, but the Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs‘ tickers sure as hell are in the right place with their gritty’n’grimy mix of MotorCity punk (like ya didn’t suss that from the name), ugly glamour (a double shot of Johnny Thunders straight up), and no bullshit tit-twistin’ rock’n’roll music. Livewise, they’ve been known to turn every jaded asshole in the house into a blathering fan (even the likes of Rolling Stone sophisto-crit David Fricke!). On record, the Cheetahs’ve collaborated with heavy hitters like Wayne Kramer, Deniz Tek (y’know, Radio Birdman!), and Cherie Currie (y’knowwwww, the Runaways!!!), not to mention givin’ the people the rock they want by their goddamned selves (see their new Triple X slab, Live on KXLU for questions).
Needless to say, their thoughts on the burning issues of the day and the tattered image of rock music circa right fuckin’ now had to be recorded for nothing more than time capsule posterity, so after a coupla technical snafus, uh, well, me copying down their phone number wrong, for starters, I got to hog the line with Cheetahs Frank Meyer and Dino Everett….
When you guys go around from city to city, do people think you’re from Detroit, with the name…
Frank: I don’t think people think we’re from Detroit, we kinda originally got a lot of flack for it, like when we started, we started out as kind’ve a cover band, not like a tribute band, but we’d all been in bands…
That [cover band] sounds like fun…
Frank: That was the whole thing… but when we all hooked up we were at the point of pretty much giving up… the whole band evolved from just being like “we’ll just not worry about it, let’s not form a career of it, let’s just play songs that we like…” We had such a blast doing it that we actually became a band. And when we were a cover band, which was for about three or four gigs, everyone thought it was a great name. When we became an original band we kept the name cuz…
It’s a great name…
Frank: Yeah, then we started getting all this flack from these people, these Stooges purists, like “how can you take the sacred name of the Stooges…” and we were just like “Relax, it’s just a name, y’know?” First of all, and second of all, like the Rolling Stones invented that name? No, they stole it from Muddy Waters, it’s not sacred.
Dino: There you go.
Frank: They even got it wrong! They got it wrong cuz they heard the line [in the Stooges’ “1970”] as “Radio birdman up above.” Even in the book, there’s a Radio Birdman book, and they’re like “Yeah, we got it wrong, but it’s still a great name.” At least we got ours right.
Have you guys met Iggy? Do you know if he’s heard you?
Frank: I have no idea… I’ve done some liner notes for some Iggy records on Bomp…
That’s where I’ve heard your name!
Frank: Yeah, I did all the liner notes for The Iguana Chronicles, but, uh… I’ve talked to Ron Asheton a few times and met just about every other rock hero I’ve ever wanted to meet, but somehow we’ve remained way far away from meeting Iggy.
Dino: Maybe cuz he lives in Miami now…
Frank: One time, Art [Jackson], our guitar player, and I went to go see him and he calls the audience up on stage during “The Passenger” so we jumped up and had both our arms around him and we were like “la la la la la la la”… so in a sense, we jammed with him, but I don’t think he knows it, but I think at some point someone must’ve told him.
Dino: When you interview him, you can ask him for us.
Uh, yeah, okay…
Frank: …But at this point, this band has exceeded our expectations by such a great… I mean, we just wanted to drink beer, y’know what I mean? But being able to play with Wayne and Sylvain [Sylvain, New York Dolls rhythm guitarist, kids, SWC’s backing him on a West Coast tour], Kid Rock, Fishbone, get props from our heroes, if the whole thing blows up tomorrow, I’ll be satisfied. Who’da ever thought that a crappy little band like us would end up in Rolling Stone? When I open up that shit, I just go “what?” I still can’t believe it. Somehow we became this legitimate band.
I guess you just have to do that, all those years of trying…
Dino: And then just stop and worry about entertaining yourself.
Frank: As soon as we threw in the towel, it’s like all of a sudden we started succeeding. I don’t quite get it, maybe I’ll just start abandoning all my life’s goals.
You oughtta market that: “Just give up.”
Frank: That’s our advice to young bands, “Give up, take all your dreams and flush ’em down the toilet. See where that takes ya!”
There’re so many people who could run with that!
Frank: Oh, believe me, there’re so many people that I just wanna say, “Ya know what, just pack it in.” I mean, bottom line, if there’s anything that’s crossed my mind [about quitting], it was over when Wayne Kramer told us when we played with him that we sounded better than the MC5, if he or another one of our heroes threw in a nice compliment or compared us to their old band… we’d be like, “Okay!”
Hell, you’re probably better on a bad night than the Runaways ever were on a good night.
Frank: I don’t wanna toot our own horn… A lot of these bands we didn’t even see back in the day, but if we can be thrown in the same ballpark as those bands, that’s good enough.
[talk shifts to other bands, good, bad and the Offspring, “MTV punk,” as Frank calls it]
Frank: Pretty much every Rancid song you can trace back to the Clash and in every Green Day song you can pick out the Buzzcocks.
Even the Offspring, in the name, it’s a pun on the Descendents.
Dino: [laughing] Yeah.
Frank: There’s nothing wrong… we always talk about how much we’ve been influenced by certain bands, but in a weird way. I don’t think we’re obvious about it. I don’t think any of our songs are rip-offs of other songs. Not like we’re redefining songwriting, but if ya listen to our stuff you’re not immediately like “that’s a Johnny Thunders riff.” Nah, we’re not intensely original, but we’re the Cheetahs… It’s not Rancid…
Dino: Yeah, they’re basically banking on the fact that there’s a whole group of kids who don’t know that side of the Clash.
Frank: They know “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go.”
Yeah, they don’t know the reggae stuff…
Frank: We’ve got nothing against that stuff, but if yer gonna go for that sound, ya gotta interject some of your own personality…
Dino: Maybe the 13 year olds won’t notice…
Frank: But us old guys, us late 20-somethings, we will, we grew up on that shit, so you ain’t fooling us!
Even with the name, Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, it’s not as obvious as you’d think… I mean it’s not a total rip-off. The only plagiarism you guys really pull is on the flipside of the “Cherry Bomb” single.
Frank: “None of Your Business.”
Yeah, it’s a re-write of “Busy Man” by DMZ.
Frank: Nice! You got it! That’s funny, you’re actually one of two people who’ve pegged that one. We wrote that song, and then we were like “Oh, it’s DMZ.” I mean, it’s basically Bo Diddley on speed, DMZ ripped it off from Bo Diddley, and we ripped it off from DMZ. You’re right, it’s one of our only songs that’s really obvious, y’know, and what’s the worst thing that can happen? People go out and buy a DMZ record?
You wouldn’t want that!
Frank: Exactly. I’m not really worried if we borrow a melody from a really obscure band, cuz that’s the worst that can happen – someone figures it out and buys one of their records. And then we’ve accomplished something, we’ve turned someone onto a great band that not many people have heard of. I guess our real message is, if you can rip someone off, just don’t be real obvious about it! Do what you want, just spend more time on your songs and less time on your hair. That’s my message. If your goal is to get to a major label, they’ve got people, they’ve got stylists, publicists, and quite frankly, that’s their job. I’d love to be good-looking, I just can’t do it on my own, and I can’t do anything with Dino. If someone wants to buy us matching suits, that’s fine, but they’d have to buy us new ones every show, cuz they’d get wrecked.
That could be your look, the ruined suit.
Frank: Yeah, bring back the Richard Hell look!
(PO Box 862529 Los Angeles, CA 90086)