The timeless Insect Surfers help Time Warp Music celebrate a decade in Mar Vista
By Michael Aushenker
What better way to celebrate a decade of success in the Westside music business than with a free concert by the men who can call themselves “planet Earth’s longest-running modern surf band”?
On Saturday, the venerable Insect Surfers — still recording new songs and touring after more than three decades of making their own scene — ride into Mar Vista instrument shop Time Warp Music for a free in-store concert and party.
“They’re one of the longest running surf rock bands in the world. This was our 10th anniversary, and this year is their 35th,” Time Warp Music owner Shane Gudlow explained.
Gudlow opened the offshoot vintage vinyl shop Time Warp Records (just across Venice Boulevard) earlier this year, where Insect Surfers founding guitarist Dave Arnson works by day.
Arnson, who now lives in Culver City, formed Insect Surfers in Washington D.C. and shared East Coast stages with Bad Brains, Iggy and the Stooges, Joan Jett, the Stranglers and other influential punk bands. By 1985 he relocated to Los Angeles and rebooted the band with new members and an all-instrumental format.
“It was our strength; more true to the original surf sound of Dick Dale, The Ventures,” Arnson said.
These days, Arnson shares guitar duties with veteran touring musician Michael Abraham while Venice bass player Jonpaul Balak and Santa Monica-based drummer Jeff Utterback round out the rhythm section (Marty Tippens fills in for Abraham this weekend).
Despite sharing a sweet tooth for the genre, Insect Surfers vary from fellow Mar Vista-connected surf rockers Los Straitjackets.
“We’re less traditional-sounding,” Arnson said. “We like to think that we’re taking the genre kicking and screaming into the current century with more of a psychedelic and punk rock energy. We’re kind of like a surfin’ Allman Brothers.”
Surf music may have been born in Southern California, but we no longer have a monopoly on the genre.
“Right now, the Europeans are putting out some of the best [surf music],” Arnson said, citing Amsterdam’s Phantom Four, Denmark’s El Ray, and Serbia’s Threesome. “We’ve played with all of them.”
Around L.A., the Surfers — currently readying a vinyl EP for 2015 — usually prey on Eastside venues such as Café Nela, the Echo, the Redwood and the Buccaneer, but El Segundo’s Purple Orchid and Santa Monica’s TRiP have been big supporters.
For party host Gudlow, opening Time Warp Records across Venice Boulevard six months ago seemed like a logical step.
“We noticed a resurgence in turntables probably the last two years,” Gudlow said. “A lot of the bands who played in the store over the years have printed out their new records on vinyl.”
That includes psychedelic Westside fixtures Jeffertitti’s Nile, surf garage band Allah Las, Venice’s Chuck Dukowski Sextet and Insects vs. Robots (of no relation to Insect Surfers, but featuring the former Black Flag bassist’s stepson, Milo Gonzales).
Venice’s The Shrine also played its first gig at Time Warp, Gudlow said.
The recently born Time Warp Records occupies the storefront that once housed the beloved Record Rover some 20 years ago.
After a surf shop and a movie memorabilia store came and went, Gudlow seized the opportunity to re-install a vinyl record shop there, hiring former Record Rover manager Tommy Mitchell and even toying with the idea of calling it Record Rover.
Arnson and Gudlow insist such local spots as Record Surplus, Time Warp Music and now Time Warp Records — where Loyola Marymount University-based KXLU FM conducts live broadcasts of “Demolisten” from 6 to 8 p.m. on Fridays— are keeping the Westside’s live scene humming.
Now that former neighbor The Good Hurt has joined a growing list of live music venues that went under, “a lot of these bands don’t have a lot of places to play on the Westside,” Gudlow said.
Gudlow feels their pain. When not running his shops, he’s a musician in tribute group BlackR Sabbath, where Gudlow assumes bassist Geezer Butler’s role as “Geez’R Butthurts.”
“We’ve been with Time Warp from the beginning,” Arnson said. “They’re a real grassroots store, they really care about people. It’s not like going to a corporate chain.”
The anniversary party begins with a DJ and refreshments at 8 p.m. Saturday, followed by Masters of Mayhem (featuring Mar Vista-based frontman David Javelosa) at 9 p.m., blues rockers Karma Dealers at 10 p.m., Insect Surfers at
11 p.m. and X tribute band Rated X at midnight. Time Warp Music is at 12257 Venice Blvd., Mar Vista. Call (323) 600-5050 or visit timewarpmusic.com.