News of bands reuniting for a show, a tour or an album is almost always met with anticipation and jubilation from the music-loving public. Bands like Kustom Kar Kommandos are the reason for the “almost.”
“We annoyed as many people as we could back then,” said vocalist John Manson. “There were probably a few people that like us, but I think they are all dead.”
During the Oklahoma City band’s heyday in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Kustom Kar Kommandos wore adjectives like “distasteful,” “vile,” “repulsive,” “sleazy” and “depraved” as badges of honor. With a screechy, harsh sound meshing punk with hip-hop — and Manson shouting lines in a style somewhere between Beastie Boys and Flava Flav — the guys didn’t necessarily win over legions of fans with their decidedly obnoxious and polarizing take on rap rock, and the crowds often let them know that they weren’t having it.
We were roundly hated, as I remember.
“We were roundly hated, as I remember,” Manson said. “We were supposed to get on with the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Riviera at one point. Some other band got it, but we got to play with Naked Raygun, a really great hard-core band from up there. We were excited, and took the stage only to be pelted with ice, change and cigarette butts for 45 solid minutes. There was a howl of disapproval after our first song and I said, ‘The more you bitch, the longer we are going to play.’” Added guitarist Charles Turci, “We started spitting back on them, and the tides actually started to turn. I think they started to like us a little more after that.”
Despite all indications, the Kommandos were relatively successful, playing a number of sets at the then fledgling South by Southwest festival, and were on the cusp of a deal with Mercury Records.
The deal fell through. And so did the band.
“It’s probably a good thing we broke up. We’d probably be playing the Juggalo Family Gathering, getting sprayed by Faygo right about now,” Manson said. “We count our blessings.”
Two decades have passed since their last show. About a year ago, the guys began to think about reuniting. An offer to play a gig in support of St. Baldrick’s Foundation — which aids in fundraising benefiting research and treatment of juvenile cancer — led to Saturday’s reunion show at VZD’s.
While the group isn’t sure if it will remain active, the Kommandos haven’t lost their sleazy touch.
“For anyone interested in hearing a reunion, it sounds true to that,” Manson said. “Just like always, it’ll be late, it’ll be loud, it’ll be naughty.”