When 16-year-old guitarist Ted Friedman founded the Gravedigger V in his parents' garage in the early '80s, little did he know it would become one of San Diego's most influential bands.
"We didn't feel too legendary at the time," he says, recalling one ignoble gig in particular. "We played in the basement of Greenwich Village West, on Fifth in the Gaslamp. The rescue mission was right across the street at the time. The basement was brick with dirt floors. Sounded great down there, but the dirt got all over everything. Everyone had brown snot coming out their noses by the time they came up for air."
Friedman's later band, the Morlocks (with Gravedigger singer Leighton Koizumi, who once faked his own death), is nearly as revered, though he says, "All the respect didn't kick in until after we split. When we got interviewed by BAM magazine, our pics were taken with the guys from Jefferson Airplane, and we played to thousands of people that day, but I still had to take the bus home. When we played a festival at the polo grounds in Golden Gate Park, our drummer Mark [Mullen] would kick his drums over at the end of every set. The sound guys freaked out and grabbed him by his hair and pulled him offstage. Bizarre, having your drummer bounced from his own band's show.
"Once, at the Swedish-American Hall, there were a bunch of skins that tried to start some shit. We had a bunch of older biker dudes that had taken over being security. These old guys kicked the snot out of the skins. Some of them wore chains as belts, so they just whipped them off and were totally thrashing the skinheads."
Ted Friedman has been performing on the local open-mike circuit, often found playing at Lestat's on Mondays.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC?
"I don't know, sometimes it's just poetry in motion. I'm pretty new at the acoustic singer/songwriter gig, so I'm not willing to pin it down into genres."
WHAT'S IN YOUR MUSIC PLAYER?
1. Van Morrison, Astral Weeks ("Favorite lyric: 'With your folded arms and history books, you glance into the eyes of Madame George.' ")
2. The Best of Three Dog Night ("Favorite lyric: 'I can tell my brother about the flowers in his eyes, on the road to Shambala.' ")
3. T. Rex, The Slider ("Favorite lyric: 'I'm just a man, I understand the wind, and all the things that make the children cry.' ")
4. The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street ("Favorite lyric: 'There's a fever in the funk house now.' ")
5. Tim Mudd, When You've Got Nothing Else ("Who'd have thunk a man so pale could be so soulful? One of the best local artists out there.")
DESERT ISLAND DVDs?
1. Andy Warhol's Trash ("Because sometimes people just treat you like trash. Plus, it's timeless, it speaks so much about our culture, like all of Warhol's work.")
2. The Tenant ("By Roman Polanski. Just spooky, chilling, and disturbing, which is why I like it.")
3. Performance ("Mick Jagger is great in this film.")
4. Quadrophenia ("'I know how it feels, son, because it runs in the family.' ")
5. Valley Girl ("Mostly for that scene with the Plimsouls doing 'A Million Miles Away.' ")
BAND YOU'D MOST LIKE TO SEE REUNITE?
"Thirteenth Floor Elevators."
LETTERMAN OR LENO?
"Letterman, because he had that character Brother Theodore on the show a lot."
WORST COVER SONGS?
1. "Woodstock," Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young ("It just can't touch Joni Mitchell's version, and [this] gets so much more airplay. Why? It blows, and you can't make out the words.")
2. "Big Yellow Taxi," Counting Crows ("Covering Joni Mitchell is always lame. Just play the original, please.")
3. "Sweet Jane," Cowboy Junkies ("Why take a Lou Reed classic and turn it into a dirge of a loser like this? Do they call that art? 'Maybe, if we play it really slow and sing really monotone, someone will think we are really cool junkies.' ")
4. "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," Power Station ("Would it kill you to just give Marc Bolan some airplay and his proper place in rock and roll history? Why bludgeon our finer sensibilities with this cheap knockoff?")
5. "Wild Night," John Cougar Mellencamp ("A Van Morrison song...good thing I wasn't armed at the time, or I may have ended it all.")
FAVORITE TV SHOW?
"The Banana Splits makes me want to jump up and down on the bed."
DID JIM MORRISON AND ELVIS FAKE THEIR DEATHS LIKE LEIGHTON KOIZUMI?
"I wish Morrison's liberation and his legacy weren't so tied up in dope. I guess the same could be said about the King, who died on the throne. I am a huge conspiracy nut, but I have to say I think both of them are dead."
FINISH THIS SENTENCE: "HEY, OZZY..."
"...stop blowing up my voice mail, man. Please, give it a rest."